NANCY LEE'S WEDDING BOUTIQUE AND CHAPEL: The front panels of DuQuette's fence remain after Mayor Gary Clayton ordered her to remove the sides that blocked foot traffic along the north side of the Salem Court Square. Photo/Ninemire
Nancy Lee DuQuette, the owner of a retail shop on the Court Square in Salem, has removed fence panels from the sidewalk in front of her shop after being ordered to do so Sept. 28 by Salem Mayor Gary Clayton.
DuQuette, the owner of one of the square's newest businesses, Nancy Lee's Wedding Boutique and Chapel, erected a fence with front panels at the entrance and side panels that extended across the width of the sidewalk to the walls of her shop, blocking any foot traffic along the sidewalk.
DuQuette said she installed the fence to avoid a potential lawsuit from someone who might fall in front of her business.
"I told her I had no problems with the front panels, but the sides blocking the walkway had to go," Clayton said.
"At the last city council meeting I was told that the sidewalk was my responsibility to maintain. That's what this fence is for, and then the mayor tells me to take it down? They need to make up their minds whether they own it or not," DuQuette said.
The confrontation that resulted from DuQuette's fence was carried into that evening's City Council meeting when DuQuette and Timeless Treasures owner Dixie Chappelear questioned the entire City Council regarding the matter.
"I feel like I'm being singled out," DuQuette said. "I'm not one of the good old boys."
"We're not wanting to cause trouble," Chappelear said. "I just want to see the rule in writing. Do I maintain the sidewalk or does the city?"
DuQuette pointed out other businesses that had obstructions along the sidewalk. She said there were numerous businesses along the court square that are not wheelchair accessible; DuQuette offered to build a ramp to her store's entrance.
"I don't understand why the mayor can threaten to take my fence down on what he said was my property," DuQuette said. "The mayor does not like me because I'm not from around here. He's threatened by anyone who stands up for their rights. God forbid there's any change around here; they're threatened by it."
Clayton later explained the situation as an "ongoing harassment." He said DuQuette had been pushing the issue for the past four months and was trying to cause problems.
"Lawsuits from falling on the sidewalk have never been a significant issue, but it might give people ideas the way she's aired it out. Nancy Lee needs to understand that we don't have all the resources of larger areas. In a small town everyone tries to work together and exercise some common sense," Clayton said. "Not everything is black and white."