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Vincent Gray's fence will be rebuilt

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 8:02 PM

This time, there were no hearings, no lawyers and no votes.

After months of controversy - and thousands of dollars in legal fees - the same obscure D.C government panel whose decision pushed Vincent C. Gray to tear down a section of his fence last summer simply approved a request to make the black aluminum fence whole again.

The police department had asked the panel, the Public Space Committee, to sign off on a security fence and guard station at Gray's Hillcrest home to protect the District's new mayor.

A hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning. But the chairman of the committee called off the meeting, because the request had been approved administratively late last month.

John Lisle, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said the committee's chairman, Karina Ricks, had the latitude to act independently because of the security needs of the mayor.

Gray learned of the clearance for the fence Wednesday night.

"I think justice was served. It was clear that the quote-unquote rules only applied to me. It's hard to understand why I was treated the way I was treated," Gray said in an interview.

A review of public records showed that Gray was the lone resident during Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's tenure to be fined by DDOT for violating the city's height limit on fences.

The quiet decision, which officially took effect Wednesday, was far different from the public hearing last spring. Then, Gray's attorney, former attorney general Robert Spagnoletti, faced a series of skeptical questions from the panel before receiving an unfavorable vote.

The committee ordered Gray to lower or move a portion of the fence surrounding his Branch Avenue home in Southeast because it found that the then-council chairman could not justify exceeding the District's 3 ½-foot height limit on fences built in public space.

For months, Gray wrangled with city regulators about his $12,600 fence, which had stood without proper permits for two years. Gray said at the time that he was unaware that his contractor had not filed the necessary paperwork.

The transportation department issued Gray a series of $300-a-day citations as his representatives tried to fulfill the application requirements.

The original fence was 5 feet 7 inches tall. The new section of fence will be 5 feet 4 inches, according to the police department's application.

Gray said the fence could be completed quickly. The missing pieces are still in his garage.

"I hope they can be re-erected," Gray said.

Staff writer Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

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