Supervisors on fence about trail issues

By on August 12, 2015

LuAnne Mikos is not happy.

Akron Borough’s newly completed portion of the Rail Trail ends at the edge of her property. Come spring, Ephrata Township will resume work on the next phase of the trail, which will run behind her home on Bomberger Drive. Because that portion of the trail will be several feet higher than her back yard, LuAnne Mikos is adamant that the township pay to install a privacy fence between the trail and her back yard.

For the second time in as many months, LuAnne Mikos, along with her husband, Gary, has brought her crusade for privacy fencing before Ephrata Township Supervisors. At last Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, LuAnne Mikos returned with a new request: to pay the difference between the cost of the standard split rail fencing being used elsewhere on the trail and the type of privacy fence they would prefer.

And while they have even 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, the supervisors are concerned that what they do for the Mikos’ they would then have to be willing to do for all residents along the trail. And, what’s more, 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 all completed, the trail will extend miles through each municipality and the supervisors are cautious about creating a precedence which would put other municipal partners in a difficult position.

Adding to those concerns, from a police perspective, Police Chief William Harvey pointed out that such a fence creates an inviting canvas for graffiti and vandalism. Even with the Mikos’ willing to share in maintenance, there is no end to the possibilities such a fence could create.

Alternative solutions were presented to the Mikos’ and each were met with firm resistance in the face of their resolve to see only a tall privacy fence installed along the trail.

So far, of the four other property owners bordering the Ephrata Township portion of the trail, the Mikos have been joined in their efforts by neighbors Francis and Carmen Gatti, who also live on Bomberger Road. Chairman Clark Stauffer noted that only two of the property owners were present. LuAnne Mikos explained 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 while they consider plans to move.

“Perhaps you could visit and look at the trail from the inside of our house looking out,” challenged LuAnne Mikos.

Her husband added further perspective.

“One person I spoke to was kind of miffed to learn I was not in favor of this trail because she said she liked looking in people’s yards,” said Gary Mikos. “It’s not a back yard or a back window. It is our lives. If I could move it to their back yard I would but I cannot.”

Township leaders spent considerable time listening to the concerns. Supervisor John Weber questioned whether Akron Borough had given the Mikos any response to the same request. LuAnne Mikos 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.

“It almost has to be on both sides of the property,” she added. “If you want to be fair to everyone, there has to be a few thousand dollars in the budget somewhere to run it the whole way through [the township]. We want it to look good in our back yard. We want the security too. We have tried to put forth our good citizenship with the property.”

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.

Despite all the various alternative suggestions, the Mikos remained firm in asking for the township to see to it that a privacy fence was installed behind their house. They were clear in not wanting that fence to be white. Likewise, they were not open to the idea of using various types of plants, fast growing trees and vegetation which would create a natural privacy buffer.

Eventually, the Mikos did agree to give some consideration to allowing the township to remove a privacy fence after ten or fifteen years when it had come to the end of it’s life cycle. 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, this should be seen as a short-term goal.

“If we would go ahead and put the fence in and require the resident 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 ten to 12 years and then we don’t have a billboard waiting to be spray painted by kids. I think that would be covering our long-term goal. And, since we are working with Akron Borough, Ephrata Borough and Warwick Township on this, we need to be sensitive to them, as well.”

Gary Mikos tried to nudge a decision that night.

Yet, after much discussion, the supervisors agreed to table any discussion until more consideration could be given to all options. Zerbe asked Stauffer and Weber if they were willing to vote on the matter that night. Both declined.

“No, I am not,” said Stauffer. “I really need to give this much more thought before I’m willing to do anything further on this. “

Undeterred, LuAnne Mikos added: “The sooner you can make a decision the better it is for us. We want to move on with our lives. We have been looking at this for ten years.”

Stauffer again reiterated that he would not be making a decision until at least next month.

Work on the next phase of the Rail Trail will not begin until Spring, 2016.

In other township news, the supervisors presented three residents with 2015 Community Service Awards.

Eight-year-old Gretchen Suhrbier was recognized for her handwritten letter to supervisors and efforts to bring more “grown-up kid” swings to the Sycamore Acres Park. Jake and Helen Burkholder were also recognized for their countless hours of service at the Ephrata Township Park, helping to pick up trash, clean bathrooms and do whatever necessary to make the park a better place for everyone.

For more information on Ephrata Township, visit their website at ephratatownship.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your questions and comments via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

 

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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