Keego report details the dust-up between resident, landscaper

By: Eric Czarnik | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 2, 2012

KEEGO HARBOR — A recent city report investigating a dispute between a resident of Maddy Lane and a landscaping company suggests that the two sides need to peacefully work out some of their issues.

Since July, Maddy Lane resident Elissa Smith and her supporters have publicly sought action at City Council meetings due to activities allegedly conducted by Shecter Landscaping, located in the 2000 block of Beechmont. The business, a nursery that does landscape contracting, is a commercial establishment located near homes.

During a Sept. 20 council meeting, Smith said the business used to just be a nursery, but it’s now a “constant contractor’s yard.” She listed a series of complaints against the business, saying that it creates loud noise, dust plumes and diesel exhaust.

She said the alleged problems have damaged her quality of life and lowered her property value.

“The dust has ruined my summer, caused me multiple visits to the doctor for lung irritation, and I don’t ever get sick,” she said. “I’m a trainer, and my life is health, so this is really bothering me.”

Smith invited people to see a YouTube video she put up titled “Keego Harbor Nightmare,” which can be found under the account name, lakotanaji. She said she wanted the landscaper to move a road away from Maddy Lane and to put up a thick tree barrier and a berm.

“I’m disappointed that such a small town that I love so much has taken so long to get nothing done,” she told the City Council. “I’m really sorry about this, but it makes me question: Are you in office to serve the citizens that voted for you, or are you in office to add it to your resume?”

Mayor Rob Kalman said the city has been working hard on the issue, and the city attorney has finished an investigative report.

“Whether you believe me or not, it’s not being ignored,” Kalman said. “I am slightly offended when you question whether we’re up here for resume purposes.”

In that report, obtained by the Beacon, City Attorney Tom Ryan spoke on behalf of a subcommittee comprising interim City Manager Linda Voll, Police Chief Kenneth Hurst, City Planner Brian Oppman and himself.

In the report dated Sept. 18, Ryan said the subcommittee concluded that the dust issue will need to be reviewed, though the report expressed hope that the business’s new hard-surface road could be a remedy.

The subcommittee also said the company’s site plan must be reviewed on the topic of open storage. And the city can potentially deal with allegations of truck noises under the noise ordinance, the report said.

But the report said other neighbor issues need to be worked out between the two sides, perhaps under city guidance.

The report said Smith moved to her home in 2000 and bought the property next door “within the last year or two.” Both properties were described as being next to Shecter Landscaping.

“As to Ms. Smith specifically, she knew she resided next to a commercial nursery operation and decided to purchase another piece of property, adjacent to her parcel, also next to the commercial property,” the report said.

“As similar as to living next to an airport or an active railroad track, there is going to be some ambient noise or nonresidential disturbance occasionally, but the commercial business has not been hidden or unknown to the residents in the area.”

In response, Smith told the Beacon she moved to Keego Harbor in 1998, and she said the problem has grown much worse in the last year. She added that she wouldn’t have bought the property had the surrounding area been like it is now.

“It was a third of the mess that it is now,” she said. “It is louder. There is way more trucks.”

Company co-owner Michael Shecter said he gave the city the information it wanted and added that he is not in violation with the city. He said his company is trying to mind its own business and earn a living.

“We try to be conscientious of the neighbors,” he said. “I probably have 50 neighbors. I have one neighbor that wants to create an issue, so that’s what prompted the city to do this.”

He said Smith’s allegation of increased activity on the company’s property is baseless, adding that his sales and activity have been down around 70 percent compared with six years ago. “We used to be a lot busier, and now we’re a fraction of the size of the company that we were,” he said.