Couple seek privacy fence as shield from nearby rail-trail

By on August 18, 2015
The rail trail in Ephrata.

Akron Borough’s newly completed portion of a rail-trail ends at the edge of LuAnn Mikos’ property, and she’s concerned about her family’s privacy.

Come spring, Ephrata Township will resume work on the next phase of the trail, which will run behind her home on Bomberger Road. Because that portion will be several feet higher than her backyard, Mikos, along with her husband Gary, requested in writing that property owners pay the difference between a planned split-rail fence and the cost of a privacy fence along the trail.

The Mikoses brought their request for privacy fencing to Ephrata Township supervisors Aug. 4. After much discussion, the supervisors agreed to table any discussion until more consideration can be given to all options.

And while the couple have agreed to enter into a maintenance agreement with the township for such a privacy fence, the issue is not as easy as whether to install a different kind of fence behind their home.

For starters, township supervisors said they are concerned that what they do for the Mikoses they would then have to be willing to do for all residents along the trail. And township leaders are well aware that they share the effort to construct and maintain the rail-trail with several other municipalities, including Ephrata Borough, Akron Borough, Warwick Township and Lititz Borough.

When completed, the trail will extend miles through each municipality, and Ephrata Township supervisors are cautious about setting a precedent that would put other municipal partners in a difficult position.

As alternatives to a fence, officials suggested two particular shrubs as screening to the Mikoses and their neighbors, Francis and Carmen Gatti, who also live on Bomberger Road. They instead preferred the original proposal of a six-foot wood fence that would blend into the natural surroundings of the trail.

So far, of the four other property owners bordering the Ephrata Township portion of the trail, the Mikoses have been joined in their efforts by the Gattis.

Supervisor Chairman Clark Stauffer noted that only two of the property owners were present.  Mikos said that while all of the neighbors would like to see the privacy fence installed, not all were committed to becoming a part of the effort.

Township leaders spent considerable time listening to the concerns. Supervisor John Weber questioned whether Akron had given the Mikoses any response to the same request. She said it was on the agenda for the next Borough Council meeting and that they were looking to take council members a positive response from the township.

In considering the possibility of installing a privacy fence, township leaders pointed out that it was not just the difference between the cost of split-rail fencing versus privacy fencing that had to be considered but the cost of applying a special finish to the trail-side of the fence to make it more resistant to graffiti.

The Mikoses were clear in not wanting the fence to be white. Likewise, they were not open to the idea of using various types of plants, fast-growing trees and vegetation that would create a natural privacy buffer.

Eventually, the Mikoses agreed to give some consideration to allowing the township to remove a privacy fence after 10 or 15 years. Since such a fence would remain the property of the township, that would remain an option at their discretion.

Supervisor Tyler Zerbe made it clear that even if the township were to install a privacy fence, it should be seen as a short-term fix.

“If we would go ahead and put the fence in and require the residents to do the plants, once those plants get to a certain height, we could take the fence down,” explained Zerbe. “That would cover both of us for 10 to 12 years, and then we don’t have a billboard waiting to be spraypainted by kids.”

Correction: Ephrata Township residents Gary and LuAnne Mikos requested that property owners on Bomberger Road pay the difference between a planned split-rail fence and the cost of a privacy fence along the rail-trail. This story was updated from an earlier version.

Additionally, in The Ephrata Review article, several quotes were attributed to Luanne Mikos that were actually stated by her husband Gary. In fact, other than one statement, Gary was the one whose name should have been attributed to the Mikos quotes in the article.

 

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