Erma’s Frozen Custard will install a hedge along its parking lot on Lanse Street. The store’s owners were able to take advantage of a new ordinance that allows different options for barriers in place of a brick knee wall.

Erma’s Frozen Custard will install a hedge along its parking lot on Lanse Street. The store’s owners were able to take advantage of a new ordinance that allows different options for barriers in place of a brick knee wall.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


St. Clair Shores custard shop gets OK for hedge barrier

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 8, 2019

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Two years after receiving site plan approval for renovations at Erma’s Frozen Custard, 28840 Harper Ave., the City Council granted the owners’ request to install a hedgerow in lieu of a brick knee wall.

While the Harper Overlay District used to require the installation of a brick knee wall when parking lots bordered sidewalks, City Council amended the ordinance to allow for alternate materials to be used as barriers. The changes took effect June 30, 2018.

“We were here previously on plans for exterior renovation changes,” said Jay Schoenherr, of Erma’s Frozen Custard.

The proprietors applied for a variance so they would not have to construct the wall, but that was denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“In the meantime, we found out that the ordinance has since changed and allowed for the hedge instead of a knee wall,” he said.

Dense landscaping that provides sufficient yearlong screening is one of the approved barrier methods. Erma’s Frozen Custard was seeking approval to place a Hicksii yew hedge along 50 feet of its parking lot to be maintained at a 26-inch height.

City Attorney Robert Ihrie said that even though the ZBA denied the request, because the ordinance has subsequently changed, “it is permissible right now.”

“There is virtually no discretion involved because it is a permissible barrier.”

Mark Schoenherr, of Erma’s Frozen Custard, said that they were concerned about the liability of children from the school across the street playing on the wall, and the cost. He said estimates were as high as $21,000 to build a brick knee wall, and since he was renovating the interior and exterior of the building, they didn’t have extra money to build the wall as well.

“This is a perfect example of why we went through and changed the ordinance,” said Councilman Peter Rubino. “I think it will look good and serve the exact same purpose.”

Councilman John Caron agreed that it is a good example of what the City Council was trying to accomplish.

“The hedge requires maintenance. I fully expect you guys to live up to that,” he said.

Councilman Ron Frederick asked, however, why the company hadn’t constructed the knee wall in the intervening two years since its appeal was denied by the ZBA. He said he was concerned that the city still wouldn’t see any barrier, hedgerow or otherwise, constructed.

But Mark Schoenherr assured council members that the bushes would be installed.

“There’s no greenery on this,” he said. “Money was a big concern, yes, but if you go back to the original arguments, that’s why we wanted to put the hedge in. We had aesthetic and safety issues.”

The shrub barrier was approved 6-1, with Councilman Chris Vitale opposed.