Lakewood Officials Defend Claims Of Political Pressure In Fence Dispute

LAKEWOOD — A Lakewood couple in dispute with their neighbors regarding a fence bordering their backyard have brought their grievances back before the village’s Board of Trustees.

Michael and Judy Looker attended Monday’s board meeting at the Anthony C. Caprino Municipal Building to discuss their ongoing, thus-far-unresolved border issue with Myra and John Blasius.

The Lookers both gave respective statements regarding the lengthy duration of the issue, which was said to have begun in May and was first brought before the board at its June 26 meeting. Additionally, it was asserted that Myra Blasius, deputy chairperson on the Lakewood Zoning Board of Appeals, has been utilizing her political connections to insure that the village’s elected officials would not vote unfavorably against her in the matter.

“There has been obvious behind-the-scenes political pressure put on the members of this board, the zoning board and the employees of the village to bump this case as far down the road as possible to keep from offending another village of Lakewood political official,” Michael Looker stated. “This means that average citizens like us can’t get justice, and it means the elected officials are giving unfair and biased favor to the politically connected.”

Michael Looker initially brought the issue to light at the June 26 board meeting — which was also attended by the Blasiuses — where he stated that the Blasiuses had intentionally erected a replacement fence bordering both properties backwards, with the unfinished side facing the Lookers’ yard. The Blasiuses refuted each of Looker’s onslaught of accusations, and the opinions of Jeff Swanson, Lakewood code enforcement officer, and John LaMancuso, Lakewood attorney, were both sought.

The matter was brought before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday, however all but one of the board members recused themselves from voting on the subject, while another member was not present. This meant that a quorum could not be established and the matter received no vote.

At Monday’s meeting of trustees, both Swanson and LaMancuso advised that the matter be brought before a zoning board in a neighboring municipality, as neither of them were of the belief that they had the legal authority to make an official ruling on the matter. Bill Chandler, chairman of the Lakewood Zoning Board of Appeals, said that a special meeting of the board may be called to order to move on a resolution that would allow for another municipality’s zoning board to make a final, binding ruling.

In response to Michael Looker’s assertion that Myra Blasius has been exerting political pressure on Lakewood’s elected officials, both Mayor Cara Birrittieri and Trustee Ted McCague stated the contrary.

“I can tell you that no political pressure has been placed on me by anyone,” McCague said.

“I assure you that no one has been purposefully putting this off; we’ve been very diligent about doing this right,” Birrittieri said.