Communication breakdown = janky fence?

I have said for many years that two-sided communication is the key to success in any relationship - open, honest communication, that is. I have had my little theory proven right over and over in various instances; the last couple of weeks are no exception.

My husband and I own a semi-detached (a.k.a. duplex; one wall shared) home on a corner lot, so our land is pie-shaped: narrow in the front, wide in the back. Our property line borders our attached neighbors to one side, a semi-detached on the other side and 2-3 townhomes in the back (not sure how much of the third townhome borders our property). In general, the neighbors that surround us all keep to themselves. They don't seek us out and vice versa. I also don't see them socializing with each other. In fact, the first neighbor who moved into the townhomes behind us was by himself all last year and was outside all the time - I think I've seen him twice this year. We seem to be a very reserved bunch. (The picture to the left was taken in September 2007, just after we got our first round of sod. There were no houses in the back or on our left side - they weren't started until later that fall.)

As is common in the 2nd or 3rd year of home ownership, we have been thinking about putting up a fence, as have the neighbors. A couple of months ago Matt - a very detail-oriented planner - put together some specs and distributed it to all of the neighbors we share the property line with. When I got laid off of work, we determined that we weren't likely going to push forward with building a fence this year. The neighbors attached to us let us know a couple of weeks ago that they wanted to put up about three panels on the property line between our homes so that they could build a deck that they've designed to attach to the panels.

Work commenced the weekend following Canada Day and the neighbors in the rear seemed to instantly come out to start discussing the fence going up. They had questions upon questions - even though this fence is not on their property line at all. However, I do understand their concerns. The specs that Matt gave out to everyone were for a fence height of six feet. The fence that was built between our homes last weekend is seven feet - a big difference visually and monetarily.

Today, the townhomes in the rear started to put up a fence - one that is six feet high, which leaves Matt and I in a quandry. We'd really kinda like our fence to be the same height all the way around.

This whole fence business broke down when our neighbor decided to move ahead without informing any of the neighbors who share his property line about the materials he planned to use or get their opinion. We weren't asked what we wanted either and the fence is actually on our side of the property line! We have no idea whether they want a taller divider between our two homes and a shorter fence around the remaining perimeter of their property - a strange concept in my opinion, but to each his own. Perhaps they intend to build a seven foot fence along the perimeter of their property regardless of what the neighbors do - a rather wasteful and alienating plan. Perhaps it never occurred to them that the piece of fence between our properties was part of a much bigger plan that really wasn't ever finalized and agreed upon by all of the bordering neighbors.

I'm annoyed with all of them, to be honest. The folks attached to us should have talked to everyone behind them to let them know what was going on, though I can see why they didn't necessarily feel the need, since it's not yet affecting their property. The folks behind us who are now building their fence should be talking to us and the people we're attached to so that we're all on board with what's going to happen with the fence that goes along the shared line behind our homes.

Apart from the abysmal communication that's happening, I'm very worried about the quality of the fence going up after seeing the way other people are working on it. It makes me wish that we could take the lead back and somehow get these people together. Matt knows so much about building fences there are already some unfortunate mistakes happening that - while not necessarily immediately noticeable - could lead to problems later on that could have been avoided.

So, it turns out that shutting out the neighbors with a fence is certainly appealing, but it is not in the least straightforward.