Construction of billboard has nearby Ferndale residents upset

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published August 12, 2019

 Several residents have complained to the city of Ferndale about a billboard being built near East 10 Mile and Hilton roads.

Several residents have complained to the city of Ferndale about a billboard being built near East 10 Mile and Hilton roads.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FERNDALE — The construction of a new billboard near Interstate 696 and Hilton Road, and what some said was a lack of communication from the city, has upset residents who live close by.

The Ferndale City Council at its Aug. 5 meeting heard from residents from the northeastern part of Ferndale who were upset by the new billboard being built.

The billboard is located on an easement near a Marathon gas station on East 10 Mile Road.

Linda Popkie, who lives on Goodrich Street near the billboard, fought back tears as she talked about how this will affect her property.

“It’s so ugly,” she said. “It affects the value of our homes. I spent close to $200,000 on the house. I paid an unbelievable amount of taxes. Will the city be willing to reassess homes (and) lower taxes? I mean, it was a slap in the face. You care about the beautification of other areas, but you don’t care about the beautification of that one, and it’s insulting. It’s incredibly insulting.

“You walk into my backyard (and) all you see is this billboard,” Popkie said.

Angela Karolak, the landlord of an apartment building next door, said she never received a letter about the billboard that is less than a hundred feet away from her site.

She also said the billboard has brought down the value of her apartments.

“Every penny that I’ve made in this building has went back into this building, and now I see this, and I have never received a letter about this going on,” she said. “I pay taxes every year — quite a sizable amount of taxes every year … but I never received anything on this billboard.

“It does not belong where it’s at, and it certainly is not welcome with my tenants,” she continued. “I’ve already got a call today from one of my tenants wanting to go month to month now. You’re working on my bank account now.”

Mayor Dave Coulter stated at the meeting that property taxes do get reassessed each year.

The billboard’s history dates back to around 2014, when the owner came to the city to construct it, but was denied by the city on the grounds that it wasn’t a permitted use under Ferndale’s zoning rules and sign ordinance.

This led to a lawsuit, according to City Manager Joe Gacioch, and the result was that the city would have some kind of input on the billboard’s design.

“We were able to negotiate absolutely no digital signage or electrical signage, which was the original proposal,” he said.

It also led to the removal of another billboard owned by the same owner, which was located at 22442 Woodward Ave.

Gacioch said the city was clear that it didn’t want the billboard, but after the lawsuit and during the settlement process, the question of what was being asked changed.

“We had to negotiate in a different position,” he said. “It was a different proposition because our initial approach with this whole project was to deny the application to build a new billboard.”

Attorney David Haron, who represents the billboard owner, said they have all the necessary permits and approvals from the state to have the signage.

“Everything we did was on the surface and above the radar — the litigation and council meetings with city attorneys, with the Planning Department, etc.,” Haron said.

Haron also said that the billboard will not be digital but will have “standard illumination.”

“We feel we are entitled,” he said. “We’ve done it all after a six-year battle. Nobody walked in there and (gave) it to anybody, and the city got the benefit of part of the agreement (that) was removing the billboard on Woodward.”

Gacioch said the best way, administratively, that Ferndale can address the concerns of the residents is to improve its communications and ability to give notices, which was heard “loud and clear.” Gacioch said the city is making sure the language in the development agreement is being strictly adhered to.

“What that means is that when they submit a lighting solution via an electrical permit for their billboard, we’re going to be making sure that it is (following) the code … and we will be ensuring that they will not be putting any digital signage up,” he said.

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