Troy Driskell, left, and Terry Fields, right, and residents in the Sunnybrook Homeowners Association in Harrison Township lay sandbags along the edge of Elm Lane on May 19, where the 5-foot easement and guardrail are slowly sinking into the canal. The high lake levels are making matters worse.

Troy Driskell, left, and Terry Fields, right, and residents in the Sunnybrook Homeowners Association in Harrison Township lay sandbags along the edge of Elm Lane on May 19, where the 5-foot easement and guardrail are slowly sinking into the canal. The high lake levels are making matters worse.

Photo by Brandy Baker


Elm Lane residents fighting to save their street

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 30, 2019

 A section of the guardrail on Elm Lane, a private street made up of 28 homes, has collapsed into the canal.

A section of the guardrail on Elm Lane, a private street made up of 28 homes, has collapsed into the canal.

Photo by Brandy Baker

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Years of harsh weather and the current record-high lake levels have merged to create a perfect storm for residents on Elm Lane.

The private road off Jefferson Avenue in Harrison Township’s southeast side is slowly falling into the adjacent canal. The seawall there is no longer doing its job, and a large section of the safety guardrail is already in the water.

Tom Bagnasco, an Elm Lane resident for 23 years, said the situation is getting steadily worse, and there’s little that can immediately be done.

“The easement has completely eroded,” said Bagnasco on May 19, when dozens of Elm Lane residents and volunteers came out to fill and lay more than 1,000 sandbags along the edge of the canal in an effort to stave off further damage. “We can stop this erosion temporarily until we find out who the true owner (of the easement) is.”

Members of the Fresh Air Park subdivision, which comprises the Sunnybrook Homeowners Association of Sunnybrook Street, Maplehill Street and Elm Lane, say the easement has been neglected for years.

John MacKenzie, counsel for the Fresh Air Park subdivision, said litigation with the Pointe Rosa Homeowners Association is ongoing in an effort to determine who will address the easement issue and ultimately fix it.

The complaint was filed by residents of the Fresh Air Park subdivision in Macomb County Circuit Court in April. The complaint against the Pointe Rosa Homeowners Association states that the deteriorating easement issue was slated to be addressed by the true owner as far back as 1973. Pointe Rosa Street is located one block east of Elm Lane.

The case will be back in Judge Kathryn Viviano’s courtroom on June 17.

John Gwyn, attorney for the Pointe Rosa Homeowners Association, could not be reached for comment by press time.

“The easement hasn’t been maintained properly,” said Bagnasco. “We want to know, legally, what we can do, because soon we won’t be able to get to our homes.”

Bagnasco said the canal side of Elm Lane needs a new guardrail, approximately 533 feet of seawall, and 533 feet of new asphalt or pavement.

While residents agree that the issue of the road’s deterioration is decades old, the recent high lake levels are rapidly making matters worse.

As of May 24, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that Lake St. Clair was up 7 inches from the average level for the month, and up 2 inches from the highest level recorded for May, which was in 1986.

“This road is not going to make it another summer,” said Terry Fields, president of the Sunnybrook Homeowners Association. “The garbage trucks come down and the drivers say they watch the road crumble. Soon the emergency trucks won’t even be able to make it down our street.”

Fields said making matters more perilous is the fact that there are major utility lines running under the road.

“Residents’ lives are in danger here,” he said. “It’s a private road and there is nothing they can do.”

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