A retention pond fence behind a commercial location in Pace could become a problem if county officials determine owners did not adequately repair weakness.

Two months ago, about a week before the Santa Rosa County Board of CountyCommissioners moved to enhance the fines for county code compliance, the Pendleton’s, neighbors of a retention pond, had a problem. The fence separating their and their neighbors’ properties from Pace Station, the Office Depot and Rent-A-Center locations, had a gaping hole in it, as well as access to the pond. As of Thursday, the county’s heftier code is in place but the magistrate has yet to be established. However, the fence has been repaired and nobody can walk into the retention pond without climbing.

In July, the fence along Orleans Street had a wide hole and several sections of fencing on the ground with rusted nails bare. The fence around the retention pond had an equal amount of access. Margaret Pendleton said she thought the dry pond may be dangerous for any youth who may try to explore it and worried about exposed nails in the fence as well. She called the dumpsters visible from her home an eyesore and said garbage occasionally blew into her yard when the receptacles were full.

Pendleton said sections of the fence were repaired before. Those areas clearly had newer wood. Rent-A-Center Manager John Faison agreed saying, “It’s not the first time it was down, (but) they usually get it back up.” The part of the fence facing the back of his store leaned at almost 45 degrees. Faison said, “That’s the reason I don’t park there. It could be a concern.”

Commissioner Jayer Williamson said it was a situation the county had been looking into for over a month. He confirmed it would be a code compliance issue and had already been in touch with Randy Jones in code compliance after receiving emails from Pendleton.

Jones at the time said, “I don't know that I would call it a public safety issue per se, but it could certainly be a nuisance to someone living across the street.” He said the issue was a work in progress as the fence had come down multiple times and has been repaired repeatedly.

Two days ago, Jones said the magistrate is not in effect yet, but the new fines are. The new magistrate he said, “should be in place most any time now.” Jones said a few weeks after the initial interview with him, the property owner did fix the fence.

Jones said the property owner could be cited as a “repeat offender, potentially, if the repairs are not adequate.” He also noted the magistrate, when in place, will mean the county is in control of the calendar to take care of code violation cases and not a judge, who may only hear those once a quarter. The violator, too, he said could request the magistrate hear the case.

Logan Devries is the property manager of Pace Station, who works for Nai Halford, a property management company. The owner of Pace Station is Litchfield Pace LLC. Devries said problems with the fence go back to Hurricane Ivan. "Two to three months ago," he said, "we had a squall line. An afternoon storm of 60 to 70 mph wind came through." He said the wind knocked the fence down damaging a BMW. He said Nai Halford took offers from multiple fencing companies, went with the best pricing, but "it took forever for them to finish it." Devries said the business owners were the ones to contact him about the fence and wasn't aware of the new code compliance fines in the county. "I agree if something keeps coming down, we need to do something different." However, he said, "The county fine would go up to Litchfield. We take care of issues, but with claims that goes to the owner."

Two months ago, the Pendleton’s and their neighbors, Robert and Jane Fry, and Charlie Driscroll stood along Orleans St looking at the back of the businesses and the dumpsters through the fence. Thursday, The Pendleton’s were away, but Jane Fry was home. She said, “It looks good so far. It looks like it will last.”