The Street Ends Task Force met Monday to make recommendations about the controversial fence constructed near the South Avenue beach front in 2010.
The meeting was a culmination of an emotional period for many residents, who said they did not believe a fence was necessary and that it took away from the natural beauty of Lake Michigan.
The first recommendation from the task force included removing the fence entirely.
A second action, by a vote of 7-2, allows for the village manager and board to plan to move the fence closer to the bluff, so as not to mar lakefront views.
It is currently 65 feet from the bluff.
Residents would then have improved access to the public land, while limiting unauthorized entrance into the beach, which could cause potential safety issues, according to Paul Harlow, village manager.
During the three-hour meeting, the necessity of the fence also was called into question.
“These access points have been open for a century,” said Michael Glass, task force member.
“I am unaware of any particular disaster that has befallen anybody on this particular location for how many hundreds of years that it has been open,” said Dale Thomas, task force member.
Overall discontent from residents who live and spend time in the area also was communicated.
“When people talk to me about the street ends issue, it is the South Avenue fence that people are very angry about,” said Laurie Morse, task force member.
Concerns from village staff, however, relate to safety issues if there were no fence for nearby residents and access into the beach after hours.
“If the fence were to be gone, it would be construed by me (and staff) as not being safe — whether it is in the middle or at the bluff— as long as there is some part of it that provides safety,” said Harlow, during an interview Wednesday.
Public Safety Director Mike Volling said at the Dell Place street end near the beach, there have been 13 trespassing violations since January, but none involved arrests for alcohol or drugs.
Jon Lippitz, another task force member, noted he saw two teenagers surfing recently which demonstrates why additional safety precautions are necessary.
“In the next five years, when somebody drowns, I will say I saw it coming,” Lippitz said.
One task force member believes more study is needed on the issue.
“I am loathe to undo something (the) staff has decided is in its best judgment merely on the limited conversation we have had on South Avenue,” said John Tuohy, task force member.
“I cheer in general the thought of opening that up at some time, but we haven’t done the kind of research we have done at Dell Place. To remove the fence because it is unattractive doesn’t seem to be part of our charge,” Tuohy said.
The reference was to the intense effort the village placed on deciding what to do with the Dell Place street end.
Last month, the same task force recommended no fence was needed there, and it should be kept open to the public.
Monday night, they voted 6-2 to that end, despite arguments that some type of measure was necessary to prevent potential accidents.
To cap off the evening's actions there was a unanimous vote to construct a bicycle rack and a staircase at Dell Place, and a 7-1 vote for swale improvement, which will make the downslope on the street end more erosion resistant.
At tonight’s village board meeting, a brief overview on the Street Ends Task Force recommendations will be presented.
The recommendations for the fence at South Avenue could be considered at the July village board meeting when a more thorough presentation is scheduled, but Harlow said no concrete date has been set for a board decision.
On a historical note, the Street Ends Task Force meeting, that could lead to the ‘tearing down the fence’ was held just a day before the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan similarly declaring to President Gorbachev ‘tear down this wall’ in Berlin.
Though the issue is nowhere near comparable in magnitude or seriousness, if you’d like to view a video recalling this historical moment in time, click here.