By Diane Madigan
Independent Special Writer
Nineteen homeowners from about 80 homes in Belle Harbor Subdivision met Oct. 3 to discuss a project that would replace an old fence along their subdivision and then voted 15-4 to support the new fence.
The fence project is being done by the Van Buren Township Downtown Development Authority and DDA Executive Director Susan Ireland and DDA Vice Chairman Craig Atchinson attended the meeting to answer questions.
Karen Mida, a 25-year resident of Belle Harbor and the only current homeowners’ association officer, had called the meeting to elect officers, collect association dues, and to ask the residents to decide whether or not to go along with the DDA plans to replace the existing cyclone fence on the east side of Belleville Road between Sunrise and Harmony Lane.
Ireland, who has been working with the residents, township engineers, township planning consultants and Wayne County for over a year, gave a history of the fence and the DDA’s efforts thus far.
After several complaints from members of the community about the blighted condition of the fence, Ireland approached the DDA board, where it was decided to research actions needed to replace the fence.
Some long-time residents insisted the fence, which still had barbed wire on the tops of some stretches, was installed by Henry Ford when he owned that property.
Ireland said a land survey was done along the cyclone fence that revealed in some places the fence is two inches from the Wayne County right-of-way and in other places the fence is four feet into the right-of-way. She said most of the greenery is poison ivy.
Wayne County decided the DDA would be allowed to remove the fence and replace it in the same exact location. Ireland said she sent letters to the 11 residents whose properties abut the fence and heard back from two. One resident wanted the fence replaced and one did not.
Another resident had concerns about her privacy fence that abuts the chain-link fence.
“I will not touch the privacy fence that is on your property line,” Ireland promised.
Mida said there’s no issue because the cyclone fence is not on private property but on county property.
Ireland added, “Theoretically, if the county wanted to, they could come and rip the fence out.
“If everybody really doesn’t want to have it done, I’ll take my fence fund and start on another project. I put in a lot of man hours and twisted a lot of arms at the county,” Ireland said.
Ireland said this is a $150,000 project and answered residents’ questions as to where the funding was coming from.
She said the DDA would be responsible for maintenance and repair, as they currently are doing with the street lights. The DDA will also continue to mow along Belleville Road, trim along the bottom of the fence, and deal with any graffiti.
Ireland circulated a sample of the fence and described the completed replacement fence as being six feet tall and running 1,100 feet.
Comments from Belle Harbor residents included: it will look like a gated community and it will look like a fort with a fence. Some residents said they appreciate the trees along the fence because they shadow the street lights.
Ireland said the only trees that are going to be removed are the ones growing in the fence. The trees that are planted along Belleville Road will stay.
Ireland described the location of the DDA district, how the district is funded, and the many projects it has completed and currently is working on.
“I do not live on that side of the sub,” one resident said. “I do not have to look at it from the back of my home. I personally think it’s a very good idea. I personally think it enhances Belle Harbor Sub. Since we are the first subdivision into downtown, it does Belleville proud when our sub looks very nice from the street. I don’t have to look at it but I am grateful that you all are offering it to us.”
Barbara Miller asked if there is an option to just fix that part of the fence that is “bent and unsightly.”
Kimberly Kennedy, whose property abuts the fence, said she’s never seen where the main entrance to a community is nothing but a big plastic PVC fence.
“It’s usually beautiful trees and greenery,” Kennedy said. “When you walk it or ride your bicycle down it, you don’t want to look at a solid piece of plastic for 1,100 feet. To me it’s not as pretty as greenery leading up to the nice bridge and the beauty of the lake.”
DDA Vice Chairman Atchinson replied, that the DDA looked at other options for a fence and asked her if she’d rather see a “chain-link fence that is cheaper or a wood fence that is going to fall apart?”
“We thought this was the best option as far as durability and maintenance,” Atchinson said.
Mida then asked for a vote on how the members felt about the DDA replacing the fence. Fifteen raised their hands in favor and four were against.
Kennedy said she was the only one voting at the meeting who lived along the fence.
Ireland said barring complications with Wayne County, the project should be completed by the end of this year.
Following approval of the fence replacement, Belle Harbor residents elected Steve Roberts as president and Ken LaPointe as vice president. Karen Mida was re-elected as treasurer.
By Diane Madigan