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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2011

Mich. couple told to move holiday fence or face fine


MARQUETTE, Mich. -- An Upper Peninsula city has given one couple an order to move a lighted, front-yard fence by Monday or face fines.

Tom and Mary Beard installed a wood fence to enhance their award-winning decorations. But officials said it needs to be removed or set back by 5 feet to fit a city ordinance.

The fence, which has lights, was erected to add more decorations and prevent Grinches from entering the yard and knocking down reindeer.

"We're not trying to ruin his Christmas, but when someone reports a code violation to us, we can't … discriminate because Christmas is coming and you're claiming it's a Christmas decoration," city planner Dave Stensaas said.

The Beards won first place last year in the novice division of the Marquette Board of Light and Power's Christmas decorations contest. They've been entrants for 10 years.

Mr. Beard said he intended to remove the fence after the holidays. But the fine is $50 a day if he doesn't follow the city's order by Monday.

"Marquette is called the most-friendly city in the country ... but you put up Christmas decorations and then they want you to take them down," Mr. Beard said.

Mr. Stensaas said Mr. Beard's pledge to remove the fence after Jan. 1 isn't enough: "Often, when people put something up, claiming it to be temporary, it ends up permanent."

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