Dear Building Inspector

Building Inspection Division
City of Madison
Department of Planning and Economic Development

Dear Ms. Lester

Am in receipt of your most recent notice of the 3rd which, while taking no note of the considerable effort it must have taken for a man with 2 confirmed degenerative discs and lumbago to dismantle and remove the non-compliant fence along my driveway as well as cutting back the annually cited vegetation barely protruding over the sidewalk. Hats off, by the way, for catching even this minor intrusion over 12 cubic feet of city airspace even while missing the massive intrusion from the new condo development filling most of the next block, which, having been built right up to the sidewalk, pretty much insures that every plant on every balcony will, technically, be in violation of the overhanging vegetation over sidewalks ordinance, if an ordinance is what it is. May simply be a mindset, but, as the kids say, whatever.

At any rate, I was shocked to learn on the 3rd, that the couple of (admittedly overgrown) prickler bushes (not sure of the scientific name, but you know, with little red berries kids aren’t supposed to eat) which hurt like heck should one attempt to trim them, are in non-compliance. I think it may not be the bushes per se, but a belief on the part of building inspection that a vehicle leaving my driveway, that would be my vehicle, would have any and all views of pedestrians already wending their way through the adjacent jungle canopy obscured by said bushes. Ironically, said bushes were previously hidden by the aforementioned fence and, therefore, not a known hazard until the fence itself came down. I don’t know if you’re anything like me, Ms. Lester, but I’m a sucker for irony. I know in citation 2 you proclaimed (if that’s not too strong a word) that both fence and anything behind adjacent or near to it must be reduced to 24 inches in height, but, even if a guy had the right saw (Milwaukee reciprocating?) to do it, a two foot fence is going to look pretty silly, probably adversely impacting property values and economic development for all of us on the block, even if one of us, we suspect, keeps turning us in on all this. Believe me, being fined for two consecutive winters of not shoveling good enough when I pay a guy to do it is irretrievably lodged in my craw.

I have not actually measured said bushes since I can’t get close enough without lacerating, but, eyeballing, I would say 3 maybe 3 1/2 feet, with several spiky feelers reaching a couple of feet closer to the source of all life. That is just the nature of living things, I’m sure you will agree. I have never seen a 2 foot version of one of these prickly bushes in nature; there may be a bonsai version in Japan–if so, they are not popular around here. I remain willing and even anxious to don my big old cowskin gloves from Menards and hack them (say, that’s what they are, hackberries!) with my sling blade salvaged from an old mower, to the requisite 24 inches, but I fear not so much personal injury as the end of said bushes as we know them, and wonder if you might reassure me as to viability once slashed to code. I don’t mean to reduce this to viability vs. visibility but there you are. You know, I inherited the damn things, don’t even like them, but I do feel a sense of responsibility re their survival, perhaps because, at the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat.

Thank you so much,

Anxious to comply,

Michael Feldman

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