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Some Pearl St. folks want wall between them, new alleyway

Oxford Village Manager Joe Young (left) goes over the East/Edison Alley plans with Pearl St. residents Rose Bejma (center) and Patricia Flack. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
August 06, 2014 - It appears a number of Pearl St. residents want some type of wall constructed to separate and protect their properties from the potential noise and traffic generated by the new East/Edison Alley that Oxford Village is planning to build to the west of their neighborhood.

"Bushes are not acceptable," said Pearl St. resident Jim Suchy, who favors having the village build "a concrete wall with a brick veneer."

"You've got to think about safety for the residents, the children and the pets," he noted. "What if a car . . . goes flying through somebody's backyard and takes out a kid or a dog or someone? What if their gas pedal sticks?"

Citizens, mostly residents of Pearl St., packed the Oxford Village Council chambers July 30 for an informal meeting regarding plans to construct the new East/Edison Alley.

"It's been in our future land use plan for over 25 years," said village Manager Joe Young.

The project calls for constructing a 900-foot asphalt road, just east of M-24, between Ensley St. and Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The road would be 28 feet wide and consist of two lanes.

Another 300-foot portion of asphalt road would be constructed parallel to the church property to the south. This portion would be 16 feet wide and consist of one lane. It would begin at M-24 and run eastward to connect with the 900-foot portion via a circular turnaround or roundabout.

The 900-foot portion of the alley would accommodate both northbound and southbound traffic, while the 300-foot portion would only be for motorists heading east off M-24.

Young noted the alley would serve two purposes – 1) encourage economic development involving the commercially-zoned properties located along it; 2) give traffic an alternative to M-24.

To allow for pedestrian traffic, a 4-foot marked bicycle lane would be created along the side of the alley. The project also includes installation of a 12-inch storm drain.

Council is expected to discuss the project and make some decisions regarding it at its 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12 meeting.

Depending on what council decides, it's estimated construction of the East/Edison Alley could begin Aug. 25 and be completed by Oct. 15.

Young explained to the crowd that construction of the new 3,300-square-foot Genisys Credit Union facility on M-24 (S. Washington St.) was "the catalyst" to get the East/Edison Alley project done this year.

"The original plan was to do this over three years," he said.

However, with construction of the Genisys branch currently underway and expected to be completed by January 2015, the village, according to Young, had to speed up its timetable for the alley project.

But Tom Alter, vice president of research and development for Genisys, indicated the credit union's project could proceed with or without the alley.

"We have an entrance from M-24 and we have an exit (on) M-24," he said. "We think it would be safer if there is (an) exit to the alleyway for the M-24 traffic . . . We would like to see it come about, but it's not make or break for us at this point."

The village's engineer, the Pontiac-based Nowak & Fraus Engineers, estimated the alley project would cost $317,778.

Three construction bids were submitted for the project.

The low bid was $327,102 from the Lapeer-based Ron Bretz Excavating, Inc. The other two bids were $378,673 from the Trenton-based Pavex Corporation and $409,069 from ASI, Inc. in Pontiac.

Neither the engineer's estimate nor the bids submitted included the additional $20,000 in engineering costs for the project.

Also not included is the cost for any potential screening, be it landscaping or a concrete wall, between Pearl St. properties and the alley. "That's something we'll have to address," Young told the crowd.

Village resident Bill Dunn, who chairs the Downtown Development Authority board and serves as township supervisor, was sympathetic to those who want a wall. His residential property on Dennison St. abuts a commercially-zoned parcel.

"I insisted on a masonry wall between me and my neighbor," Dunn said. "Why can't they insist on a masonry wall to protect their property?"

It was noted the Pearl St. properties would be abutting a public street (i.e. the alley), not a commercial property as in Dunn's case.

The village zoning ordinance requires a 4-to-6-foot high masonry wall be constructed whenever a commercially-zoned property abuts or is adjacent to a residential district.

Young said Pearl St. residents "can insist" on a wall, but ultimately, it's up to the village council to decide whether or not to incorporate one into the project "and if there's the money to pay for it."

"Well, I'm sure we've got money for a lawyer between all of us," Suchy retorted. "We've got to stand up for ourselves."

"We're not to that point," Young said. "We're here to discuss the project, what your needs and concerns are, and then come up (with) what solutions you'd like to have considered (and) presented to the village council. (Then) they make their decision. That's how it works."

Pearl St. resident Mike Bejma knows from personal experience that "a wall is not a sound barrier," but it would still give him some "peace of mind" to have one there.

"That's all I need," he said.

Robert DeFrain, a professional engineer who attended the meeting as a representative of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, explained that walls do not make effective noise barriers.

"Sound travels – you can't stop it," he said. "A sound wall that is 10 feet high, 6 feet high, 20 feet high – I don't care how high it is – isn't going to do squat."

Having a wall is all about creating an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality with regard to whatever is located on the other side of it, according to DeFrain.

"If you can't see it, it's not there," he said.

Pearl St. resident Dale Spiker wants to see some type of barrier separating the alley and his neighborhood because he's concerned about bicyclists potentially cutting through people's yards. "We don't want them on our property," he said.

Young noted if any Pearl St. residents would like to have vehicular access to the alley from their properties that could be arranged.

"This is going to be a (public) street," he said. "So, if you back up to that property, you have the right to ask for a driveway access."

"I'd like an opening (to the alley)," said a gentleman in the crowd. "It don't matter to me what you do, but an opening would be kind of nice."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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