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Posted on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Fight with city hall over fence results in Ann Arbor homeowner considering moving out of town

By Ryan J. Stanton


Louis Breskman, who lives on West Madison Street with his fiance, went toe-to-toe with the city's Historic District Commission last July after causing a fuss by installing a split-rail fence on his property in a historic district. The city doesn't think the fence is historic and has ordered Breskman to take it down.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Louis Breskman says he's considering moving out of Ann Arbor after being "hassled by the city" for installing a wooden fence in front of his home.

Breskman, who lives on West Madison Street with his fiancee, Meredith Newman, went toe-to-toe with the city's Historic District Commission last July after causing a fuss by installing a split-rail fence on his property in Ann Arbor's Old West Side Historic District.

The problem: Split-rail fences in front yards are incompatible with the historic character of the district, according to city officials.

Ann Arbor takes historic preservation seriously, with about 1,800 properties included in 14 historic districts throughout the city.

Following a hearing before the HDC in July, the city promptly ordered Breskman to take down the fence, which he estimated cost him $1,200 to have installed.


Breskman, who works in the Livonia area, said he's seriously thinking about moving to the northern Detroit suburbs now.

Ryan J. Stanton |

At first, Breskman said he was going to comply, but his fiancee convinced him to appeal the decision.

And so the case went before an administrative law judge in Lansing this past fall where sworn testimony was heard from both sides.

"He thought the whole thing was ridiculous and didn't want to waste the court's time," Breskman said of the judge. "Because it is stupid. It really is. The whole thing."

Breskman said the judge asked the two sides to try to work out the issue, and that has led to discussions with the city attorney's office. Breskman said he asked if the city would pay for the cost of removing the fence, and the city declined.

The HDC passed a resolution last month in an attempt to finally settle the case, setting a May 1 deadline for removal of the fence and directing the city attorney to take all necessary steps to reach a settlement with Breskman.

Assistant City Attorney Christopher Frost has represented the city in the matter. He and City Attorney Stephen Postema spoke with about the case this week.

They said the issue still isn't formally resolved, and the judge eventually will decide the case if a mutual agreement isn't reached between the city and the homeowner. But the judge has recommended the two sides try to reach a settlement on their own first.

"We are working with the homeowner on a resolution," Postema said, adding the ball is in Breskman's court at this point.

"The homeowner is reviewing some documents," he said. "It's along the lines of giving them some time to remove the fence. If not, their other option is to wait until the administrative law judge rules, but I think the administrative law judge is trying to have us jointly resolve it."

Frost called it a pretty standard case and said the city has tried to find a resolution that satisfies both the law and the homeowner.


City Attorney Stephen Postema said the issue still isn't formally resolved, and the judge eventually will decide the case if a mutual agreement isn't reached between the city and the homeowner.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"I think Chris has dealt very fairly with them and we'll continue to deal fairly with them," Postema said, predicting the case will be resolved within a couple of weeks.

Breskman said he's felt out-matched, going up against a deep-pocketed city government with a team of professional attorneys.

"The city put together this five-inch-thick document," he said. "If I had paid a lawyer to do that, it would have cost me over $10,000. I don't have the resources the city does."

Breskman said there's been no budging on the city's part, and now he feels he has little choice but to take down the fence by May 1.

"We tried to fight it a little bit, but there wasn't anything we could do," he said. The city just forced us to take it down. All I could do was agree to take it down."

Breskman said one of the most disheartening parts of the process has been learning through sworn testimony in Lansing by Jill Thacher, the city's historic preservation coordinator, that one of his neighbors complained to the city about the fence.

Breskman, who works in the Livonia area, said he's seriously thinking about moving to the northern Detroit suburbs now.

"Nobody likes to get hassled, especially when you're a homeowner," he said.

He said he chose to live in Ann Arbor when he relocated from Philadelphia for work in 2004 because of its liberal reputation. But after being here a while and earning his MBA at the University of Michigan in 2010, he's of the opinion "it's maybe more ultra conservative."

He's still reflecting on his fight with the city.

"I don't know what else I could have done. I didn't want to spend a lot of money," he said. "Their priorities were to spend a lot of money on winning and mine were not."

Added Breskman: "I wish it could have turned out differently."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Kai Petainen

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:50 a.m.

i'm not sure what political party this city is. to me, it seems to be a diversified city with a diversified crowd. there are those who like obama, and there are those who like snyder. and to me... as long as they are respectful of one another -- i think it's good to have this diversity. i'm not convinced that ann arbor is a liberal or a conservative city. i think ann arbor is a city of diversified ideas.

Huron 74

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

Ann Arbor used to be one of the coolest places on Earth. Now I wouldn't live there if they gave me a house. Everybody I know who lives there has had problems with the city or their neighbors (not to mention the taxes!). It is funny how a bunch of hippies have changed their tune when they got older. Too bad for Mr Breskman. Lucky for me, I already live somewhere else.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

Anyone here ever hear the term historic preservation? Without it everything old would be gone...mowed down in the 60's for urban renewal. All of Depot Town in Ypsi would be gone if not for a few enlightened citizens who began preserving our history, buildings, sites and homes.

hut hut

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

So let's blame the disintegration of social order on government. It seems to be all the rage. Indeed, it seems that we as a people refuse to accept the necessity to live harmoniously with each other, to work and play as equals, accepting rights and responsibilities for the betterment of all.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

Wow! 183 comments. It's a fence people.

Lets Get Real

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

Anyone who followed this story knows this guy did check with the city first. He thought wooden fences were historic. But, more importantly, he thought he was moving into a town where neighborhoods mean friendly people who help one another and liberal meant an ere of tolerance in the community. I'm not sure what is not being said in this case, but I don't blame him for looking elsewhere for more friendly and welcoming places to live. The bully government finds a flaw - understandable, reasonably easy to negotiate and fix - and they strong arm the citizen who pays their salary - because they can. Want to hear some stories? Ask some of the small businesses being harassed by the county treasurer. Ask some of the emerging businesses who have been driven from Ann Arbor by the dealy tactics of city's planning commission through the approval process. Regrettably, the arrogance of the ruling elite in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County believe they can spend and tax, and spend and tax, and punish anyone who doesn't do it their way. Power. Winning. Being in control. In the name of the greater good for the people. Excuse me while I attend to my nausea.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

I can't tell from the article or the comments, do the "rules" specifically state that you can't have a split rail fence in your front yard? And what sort of neighborly neighbor runs to tattle to father AA? I'm really glad I moved to Northfield Township, just north of Ann Arbor.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

No, No and No! Life is much bigger than whether your neighbor shovels his walks on your schedule and to your standards? Maybe he needs help, that's the real neighborly thing to do!

hut hut

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 12:27 a.m.

What sort of neighborly neighbor tattles? The neighbor who followed the rules and did things in accordance with the same laws that Mr Breskman consciously and openly flouted the law and is now complaining about what happened because of his feelings of entitlement, that's who. If you're neighbor tried to build a garage without a permit after you followed the law governing construction in the city. Would you turn them in? If your neighbor doesn't shovel their strip of sidewalk next to yours and never gets ticket, but you always shovel yours. Would you call down to City Hall?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.

Good Fences make Good neighbors!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11 p.m.

And if you haven't been to the Taj-Ma-City Hall lately, please notice that the fencing on E. Huron St. makes it look quite like a prison! And I won't even bother mentioning how totally unimpressive the ridiculously expensive "art" looks.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 10 p.m.

That's why I advise people not to buy a house in the hysterical sections, they will cost you BIG!

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

And if you take care of them, their value actually goes up and they sell quickly!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

I certainly don't see anything modern about a split rail fence! In the picture, it does not look unsightly. I would rather see that than a purple house!

hut hut

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

PLease feel free to paint your home purple. Just get ready for lots of questions and negative comments from neighbors. Purple paint will really narrow the market for resale.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

They were in the wrong for not getting a permit, but come on. That fence is not a problem. Looks nice, looks old fashioned, fits in fine with the surroundings and the historic nature of the area and it compliments the house. A picket fence is not going to look any better nor be any more "historic." And if they were like us, not a single person told them about the historic district when they purchased the house. We moved to the old west side from another state, and neither the real estate agents or the closing agents mentioned it. It wasn't listed on the property disclosure. If we had gone to put up our own fence (rather than hiring a fencing contractor) we never would have known about the historic district. Seems to me the real problem here is a culture of neighbors calling in to the city to endlessly complain about everything, rather than welcoming new neighbors to a historic district and explaining some of the policies and procedures. No doubt that in the end these folks will have to take their nice fence down. Rather than moving out, I hope they paint their house purple with orange shutters and live here happily ever after.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

Just to update you in case you haven't been keeping up, but Mr Breskman has owned another house in the historic district for several years. Additionally when he was first informed he was in violation, he ignored the stop work order posted by an inspector and finished the fence anyway. He has no excuse. They're welcome to paint their home any color they wish. Purple and orange will certainly get a lot of negative comments, but it's not against the law.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

State Street? Need I say more?...but I will point out that there's a beach volley ball pit in the front yard of one of the frat houses and this guy can't put up a split-rail fence? I think there are some obvious inconsistencies here.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

Haha, and the frat house next door has a .... wait for it.... split rail fence around the yard. But it's probably not "technically" in the historic district.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

If you buy in a "Histarical District" BEWARE!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

I don't always agree with the majority opinion but all three (different) most popular posts seem to completely cover such situations. Well, except for the following. I think we live in a "free country" and a very good (comparatively speaking) city. But the term "free country" obviously doesn't mean total freedom. I think "equal justice under the law" applies as well: but my own experience and that of many others show's that this justice is imperfect and at times damages the innocent (or unwary). I know government at all levels is democratically elected, but I see that too casual, under-informed voters have brought massive changes to government (and then they rant about living under dictatorship). The Case of the Prohibited Fence is a small matter though. We know: to begin with - it should be made clear to everyone that buying a house in a historic district entails some onerous responsibilities and limits. The term "Historic District" implies a pleasant place with idyllic peacefulness. Real estate sales should by law be required to provide sufficient information about this to prospective buyers. This should be under the Doctrine of Honest Capitalism (vs. Faux Capitalism where such information is suppressed in the name of "advertising.") If then houses in historic districts go without buyers: those houses will go empty and will eventually be replaced with more appealing and livable homes. In that way, Honest Capitalism works as an instrument of democracy and justice. Likewise, the Historic Commission must be required to communicate its mandates to the general public and to buyers without exception. a


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

Ann Arbor, I don't know what to say about the fascination and anger over this issue (again turning it into a a partisan issue) All the nit-picking people with unresolved anger issues on this thread. Good grief.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

It looks to me exceptable for that historical district. The city needs to put this to rest. It would be nice if the judge found against the city.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

If you think it's "exceptable" then volunteer to be on the HDC. Maybe you can make some changes!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

How is a split rail fence not historic enough? I would be a lot it came in the US long before other types which are acceptable. Think pioneers.

hut hut

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

That's because Cobblestone Farm is a farm. Split rail is for farms and rural backdrops. Anywhere else it looks silly and contrived.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

A splint rail fence is on the city's " historic" Cobblestone Farm on Packard.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

I have a question. does anyone know what happens when a house in a Historic District is Damaged beyond repair by either a fire or a natural disaster?. Are you forced to build a replica of what once stood there, or can you build something more contemporary?

hut hut

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 12:34 a.m.

By State law (and thusly the HDC) design changes from original require review for compliance. Most often buildings are upgraded with modern materials alike or similar to what was existing. New materials must comply to current construction codes, like windows, insulation, electrical, etc.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

There is a lot of mis-information floating around. All the Historic District Commissions in Michigan primarily follow/interpret Federal (not State) guidelines. The HDC rules are only for exterior - any interior work just needs to follow regular building codes. Yes, it can be harder to change windows with energy efficient windows that meet HDC guideline but it can be done. In general, if you approach the HDC in advance to doing the work to review your plans, you will know where there are issues and they can make suggestions which will allow you to adjust and still be able to get functional results - yes it takes a bit longer than doing the equivalent outside of a Historic District but with a little planning up front, its not that hard (I have done work on a house in a Historic District with success).

John Q

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

"People need to stop making things up. Here are the facts." Too bad the reporter couldn't provide a full picture of what happened here. Ryan's failure to tell the full story seriously distorts the public's perception of the process.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Actually, imposing large amounts of useless regulations is a liberal trait, not a conservative one. If you want to move out of Ann Arbor come to Milan - lots of nice old houses and much cheaper than Ann Arbor. And you can put up any fence you like, as long as it is 1 foot back from the property line. The city also collects the garbage (including old appliances) without requiring that it be in an "approved" container, chips large branches left on the curb, and collects huge amounts of brush without complaining, sweeps the leaves, picks up christmas trees, plows the streets, repairs the sidewalk. You know... provides the kind of service you are supposed to get from a city government. All for the price of city taxes we pay twice a year - which incidentally went down last year in Milan. Not up, like Ann Arbor. Of course, we didn't get a water feature outside the city hall, or a homeless encampment outside the post office.

Huron 74

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

Way to go Karen! I'm sure your first sentence is going to jack up a lot of peace-sticker, foreign car drivin' Democrats. Small towns are great. I grew up in one and live in one now.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

I am on my way, Karen. Plus, it's almost super sunday, and that can only mean one thing: Jello Wrestling!!! <a href=""></a> In all seriousness though, isn't it amazing? Better service at a lower cost. What might the difference be? Hmmm. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

@Karen: &quot;If you want to move out of Ann Arbor come to Milan&quot; Karen, you seem to ignore the fact that Milan also requires a permit to install a fence in the front yard. And in many cases even prohibits fences in front yards. And just like Ann Arbor, if you put up a fence without a permit an inspector will issue a Stop Work order. These folks ignored the stop work order. Milan would be no different for them. It is a city of laws, just like most every other. Milan wants to preserve the character of the town. I think it is actually more rigid than A2.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

Historic commissions have WAY too much power. My advice: avoid those districts like the plague.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

I guess that you could choose to live in Detroit where similar homes are really really cheap and readily available. But most people prefer to live in real neighborhoods where owners maintain their homes and property values are stable and rising. Buy and live wherever you like, but most home buyers prefer a place where their investment increases in value.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

Everything that's overrated is always in high demand in Ann Arbor.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

I guess that's why demand for homes in the OWS is so low. And homes in the historic district and the OWS in general sell easily and are often priced higher than surrounding market prices. Supply is low and demand is high. Yeah, people avoid it like the plague. lol

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

&quot;A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.&quot; -- Winston Churchill The same goes for some people's &quot;facts&quot; about the HDC, historic rules , the OWSA and the law.

Wilford John Presler IV

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

As if any of this applies, but feel free to use an irrelevant quote from someone famous to make a political statement.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

The most compelling part of this story was not included in this summary. When the homeowner started constructing the fence without a permit, he was given notice that he was in violation of city rules and should halt work. He ignored that notice and finished the fence anyway, probably figuring he'd be able to talk his way out of the problem. To me, that's a lot more meaningful than whether the fence looks good or not. He can't claim ignorance of the situation when he was given a stop order partway through his project. If he wants to move out of town, that's a perfectly reasonable response. But I don't think he can legitimately claim he's being persecuted.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

People need to stop making things up. Here are the facts. Mr Breskman owns TWO homes in the historic district. He knows what the rules are. He knew that the fence required a permit and inspection. By his own admission and the facts, he purposely did NOT get a permit because he didn't want the &quot;hassle&quot; When caught working without a permit, he disregarded a legally posted stop work order by an inspector. He appealed his case to Lansing and lost. Now he's whining and his actions are costing local taxpayers money by his intransigence. And now he threatens to move? So whose fault is this?

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

Thanks for the reminder on the Stop Work order and the new information that he owns two homes and had to know better. Ignoring the SW order really adds an element of comedy to this situation.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Most cities require fence permits. Even Ypsilanti. This is the guy who didn't get a fence permit, like is required for ALL fences in the city. And his wife insists they are right. That they don't need a permit. The rules don't apply to us. &quot;At first, Breskman said he was going to comply, but his fiancee convinced him to appeal the decision.&quot; I love that part. And then they complain that going to court means hiring lawyers. Maybe they could go to court to change that too? I hope they can find a place to live where there are no rules. I hear that pig farmers are very welcoming folks. But it means you will need to tolerate their lifestyle choices.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

Actually the idea of government controlling your home design, your fence, and your life is a liberal mantra. We are faced the same deal in Houston where I live now and where our liberal city council and our liberal mayor went nuts over regulating what my neighbors can do to upgrade their homes. They forced huge areas of the Houston Heights into Historic Districts by a disingenuous political process. Now you can't replace your front door without the Historical Commission's permission, and they encourage neighbors to rat on other neighbors. Property rights are completely compromised and so are property values. No more rebuilding is allowed and the only permits that fly put huge additions on the back of the home making them ugly camel backs. This tore my neighborhood apart and I resent it. This is not the result of a conservative agenda where property rights mean something. This is the result of government overreaching for the &quot;greater good.&quot;


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

Anyone here ever hear the term historic preservation? Without it everything old would be gone...mowed down in the 60's for urban renewal. All of Depot Town in Ypsi would be gone if not for a few enlightened citizens who began preserving our history, buildings, sites and homes.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Fence permits are required for all A2 homes, not just historic homes. They ignored the basic permit process. &quot;They forced huge areas of the Houston Heights into Historic Districts by a disingenuous political process. &quot; These people just bought the home. It was already an historic property.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

How is this a partisan issue? The guy lived in a historical district. Historical districts have specific rules about your home/property. Everyone knows this going in. The homeowner in this case broke the rules and is throwing a temper tantrum about it. Taking this issue and making it about how &quot;liberal&quot; or &quot;conservative&quot; the entire city is because of this one person's unwillingness to go with the established rules is nothing more than a Red Herring.

Marla Neusel

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

I understand that historic districts have rules. But fences were a part of neighborhoods in the time during which those homes were built. Maybe there needs to be some changes in the historic rules. If one goes to Williamsburg, Va in the historic district, you will see fences everywhere, for example. This fence actually is very nice and enhances the looks of the property. Too bad city efforts and money isn't spent on doing something about all the trashy yards, porches and every increasing graffiti in neighborhoods throughout Ann Arbor, especially the north and northwest end.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

This is about a scofflaw trying to avoid the rules that the rest of us have to live by. He was trying to save a buck by not getting a permit. Staff could have helped him choose the right fence for the situation and helped him avoid any stumbling blocks. Instead, he chose to flaunt the law, and ignored the stop work order. He brought this on himself.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:33 p.m.

&quot;Maybe there needs to be some changes in the historic rules&quot; until said changes happen, this whole argument is pointless.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

I bet if it was a piece of Art it would've been able to stay up.

Wilford John Presler IV

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

&quot;God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.&quot; - Thomas Jefferson Least any of us forget...

Wilford John Presler IV

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

I had to use the whole quote because I'm sure they will censor the pertinent quote I wanted to say ... &quot;Death to Tyrants&quot;

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

As if any of this applies, but feel free to use an irrelevant quote from someone famous to make a political statement.

Wilford John Presler IV

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

How much HAVE the citizens of Ann Arbor spent in attorney fees and court costs defending this ridiculous stance against a private citizen and a split rail fence? This appears to me to be a case of &quot;shuffling the papers&quot; just to shuffle the papers. This is what attorneys do. This is what you are paying your city attorney to do. The split rail fence appeared in MI about the same time the first fields here were cleared. They have been a ubiquitous part of the scenery here every since. (with about the only difference is now the mortise and tenon are cut by a machine) To say they are not a part of a historic residential neighborhood anywhere in Michigan is absurd. Would a more appropriate fence of the era be sand bags and concertina wire?

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

@hailtothevictor I'd rather not follow your line on obeying the law. That's a real slippery slope if you live in a civilized society. Obey only the laws that you like. That's being a real American. If you don't like a law, you just disobey it does not work. Maybe you might prefer living in an anarchist state. Silly, just plain silly.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

@foobar please read my posts. I agree with you


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

And &quot;follow the rules&quot; even if you don't agree with them is not a way to live your life. Being a sheep in a society that you don't agree with gets you no where.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

@foobar, no - what I'm saying is that most people break/bend these types of rules because in the end it is our property and most of the time it hurts no one. These rules have their place and IMO this is not one of them. This hurts no one and sure he should have gotten a permit but he didn't and he built the fence. They didn't get a &quot;stop work order&quot;. The city notified him to take down the fence after it was already built. He said no - and the impending fight began. And FYI you can't get thrown into jail over matters like this.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

Oops. Comment was intendted to be directed @hail2thevict0r My apologies to @hut hut.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

@hut hut: So you break the rules and from that conclude what? It's ok if you don't like the rules? Not only did this guy fail to get a permit, he ignored the stop work order. I'm glad the city is making an example of him. I hope they throw the book at him. If they don't, then lots of people will flout the rules in the future. We live in a democracy. If you don't like the rules, vote, run for office, get them changed. Until then, follow the rules.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

Point being, how many of us have done construction on our house without getting a building permit? You need a permit for the smallest of things on the interior of a house, yet, I'm guessing most of us avoid that step unless it's a fairly large project.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

You're right, I read it wrong - it's for fences &quot;up to 6 feet tall&quot;. My mistake.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

@hailtothevictor. You're wrong. Please read the local law.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

hail2thevict0r is wrong. Read the City Code: &quot;Chapter 104, 8:433. Permit: Any person desiring to build or cause to be built a fence upon property within the corporate limits of the City of Ann Arbor shall first apply to the planning and development services unit for a permit to do so.&quot; There is no mention of any exceptions based on height or any other criteria.

Wilford John Presler IV

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

&quot;hyperbolic estimation of costs&quot; ROFFL... You have obviously never paid an attorney's fees... The finest example of hyperbole you will ever see is the day you get a bill from an attorney!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

hut hut - permits aren't required for fences below 6 feet.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

Mr Breskman's action is the cause for enforcement. His actions caused any expenditures required to enforce the STATE OF MI historic district rules. If he had followed the rules, of which he was well aware. and had not refused to get a permit and work in disregard of a legally posted stop work order, we wouldn't be talking about this, nor would your hyperbolic estimation of the costs of enforcement be required.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

&quot;The problem: Split-rail fences in front yards are incompatible with the historic character of the district, according to city officials.&quot; No, the real problem is someone tried to save a buck by not getting a building permit, and is now acting all put upon by the City when it backfired in his face. If he didn't know a fence required a building permit, his contractor should have. When he received a stop work notice, he should have mitigated his losses by doing just that--stopping work! But no, he kept on going, thumbing his nose at the City. He probably thought, &quot;What are they going to do, make me tear it down?&quot; I have undertaken many improvement projects on my Ann Arbor homes over the years and have always followed the rules, obtained permits and inspections, and insisted my contractors do the same. It is for the safety and security of my family that I insist that all work be checked out--not just to avoid potential problems with the work itself, but also to avoid liability issues, possible non-coverage by my insurance company, or potential conflicts with neighbors. Fences built in Ann Arbor are required to have building permits in order to protect the property rights of neighbors (who are asked to sign off on fences that share property lines), and in this particular case, to insure fences on corner lots do not obstruct the views of drivers and pedestrians. Why was it left to commenters to mention that this guy had no permit and ignored a stop work notice?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

It's true that the historic district requirements are over and above regular building permit requirements, but the process allows for somewhat simultaneous consideration. City records show that most HD permit applications are approved at the staff level, and applications in general are approved over 95% of the time (whether at staff or commission levels). The extra review helps to maintain the historic character and high quality workmanship found in historic districts, which are two reasons why people are attracted to them and want to buy houses in them. That's why study after study has shown that historic districts increase property values. Certain improvements are eligible for historic tax credits, too. I agree with the commenters who have made note of the fact that subdivision associations often have far more restrictive rules than Ann Arbor's historic districts, like what color you can paint your house, where you can park your boat, etc. Most are far more restrictive than historic districts or even the local municipality's general ordinances.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

there are better things to be worried about in ann arbor like the sexual predator(s) that hasn't been caught, diminishing police force due to budget cutbacks, drunk students wandering about and possible drinking and driving during game days. this complaint is petty and ridiculous. just let the owner have his fence.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

The historic district exists to block new development. They have to say no to everything so that someone can't sneak a newer structure into there. So we are left with a lot of NIMBY and lead paint.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

Actually, the OWS historic district came in to buying to block the tearing down of perfectly good houses to replace them with ugly apartment blocks, like you can see along Second Street, which were destroying the character of the neighborhood. The result has been greatly increased property values that hold their value through economic downturns as people find such near-downtown neighborhoods to offer great quality of life and a wonderful environment to raise their children. The historic district does not and never has blocked new construction. There's plenty of new construction wherever there are infill lots. There's a few examples on Fifth Street that come immediately to mind.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Block new development? NIMBY opposition? I guess that's why the OWS has openly favored THREE multistory residential buildings either up or due to be built in the next couple of years in that neighborhood. If you don't know the facts, I guess you just make things up.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

The homeowner could move to Franklin MI, I am sure they don't have silly rules like this. He could move to a &quot;private&quot; enclave like Brass Creek or Polo Fields. In Polo Fields a homeowner has been involved in a years long struggle and is going to court over his choice of exterior paint. In Brass Creek people have been ticketed for leaving their garage door open overnight. Yep, it must be just in A2 that these things happen.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Not to mention the places where you can't put up a clothes line, can erect any fence, can't park a pickup in your driveway, can't erect any shed, etc., etc., etc. People must enjoy this kind of overlording though, they eat it up.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

I salute the bored control freaks! I salute the random pattern of &quot;Historic&quot; areas! I salute retaining the &quot;Feel&quot; of a time when people knew their place! I salute Tree City USA! SALUTE!

Randy Parrish

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Ultimately it is the home owners property, Historic District's or not, they should only be guidelines, we can't live in the past or make our home museums. Modern accommodations must be made or the quality of life degrades.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

that's a great idea, except that it is more than &quot;just guidelines&quot; and the homeowner knew this.

Jon Wax

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

1. sorry lou, you haven't lived here long enough to begin to complain! in fact, folks like you are the problem. 2. &quot;&quot;If I had paid a lawyer to do that, it would have cost me over $10,000. I don't have the resources the city does.&quot;&quot; anyone else see the irony in the fact that, if lou pays taxes to the city of Ann Arbor, then techincally, lou DID pay to have that thing printed up. they used YOUR money. ha cha cha!! 3. seriously? this is what the powers that be have time to do? fences? really? clean out your desks... you're all FIRED! peace Wax

Red Floyd

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

I like how the city refused to cover the small cost of removing the fence (at the owner's request), yet paid attorneys thousands of dollars to publish a five inch thick document detailing WHY the fence needs to be removed!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

Why should the city pay for his failure to build according the rules? The lawyers, etc. would still have been involved if he had taken his case to court BEFORE installing the fence, but HE chose to go ahead without permission. Not the city's problem to clean up.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

MR Breskman's actions are the casue of the cost of enforcement. By your reasoning, the taxpayers shouldn't prosecute bank robbers or enforce traffic laws because it costs too much.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

The lawyers get paid whether they put together this package or not.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Gotta go with the homeowners on this one, regardless of the neighborhood being considered a &quot;historic&quot; district. By who's standards? A bunch of lay people and their self interest? Namely, because a Mayor decided that they should serve? I could understand if the fence was completely out of charecter with the neighborhood but its not. If I were the Breksman's I take the case as far as needed. Waste the city's attorney's time on this matter, bill as many hours as possible, find a lawyer who'll take his case pro-bono and keep appealing each and very decision if it doesn't go his way. This is so over stepping.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4 p.m.

the standards that determined this neighborhood to be historic were originally proposed by the residents of the neighborhood and later ratified by the City Council. This is not some sort of Orwellian attempt to limit homeowners' &quot;freedoms&quot;. the people who live in these areas decide that they want these rules put in place to preserve the value of their homes.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Seems to me that City council could overlook this fence just as they choose to ignore the illegal immigrants in Ann Arbor Just sayin!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

Really. Just call it an &quot;undocumented&quot; fence and move on.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Come on Ann Arbor area attorneys. I know there's one of you out there who will help this guy! There's got to be some loop hole. Besides it's 2012 not 1912 so why are we trying to keep the houses like 1912, oh wait maybe it's so the houses they live in make their antiquated ideas feel more at home...


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

Everyone is talking about this fencing issue as if it's specific to the Historic District - it's not. You are required to contact the city to obtain permits before constructing fencing in ANY part of Ann Arbor. Similar zoning regulations apply in ALL NIEGHBORING townships. Folks - this guy just didn't know the rules. If he had contacted the city and followed the proper procedures, he would have been informed not to construct that type of fence. Be pleasant with your local zoning official, and they can probably help guide you to the proper solution, or even issue a variance to allow your preference. But flaunt the law, and assume you can do whatever you want? This is the outcome.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

Isn't it funny, how things have changed? Left thinking people use to vehemently defend people rights (including property). Ron Paul for city council!!!!!!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

I like your thinking.

Greg M

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Libertarianism != Conservatism


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

I see both sides here - the homeowner OBVIOUSLY didn't know the rules - herein lies the problem: when you buy in an historic district (here in AA) there are no papers you must sign, there is no big sign out that says you are buying in an historic district and that the rules change from year to year. Henceforth the reason WE moved out of the old west side. I bought a house there in 1993 and had NO IDEA that it was in an historic district until I tried to modify my house. I too went through such a hard time with the city - I got fed up and moved out of that house into one that was not in the hsitoric district. As they say &quot;there oughta be a law&quot; and it usually comes after something like this. I feel for the homeowner and I do also appreciate what the Historic commission is trying to do - at the same time - there should be a BIG FAT WARNING that a person is moving into an Historic district (because they are NOT well defined as some might think) and they need to be given the full set of rules that apply BEFORE they buy the house. It would save countless hours of hassel for both the homeowners and city.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Mr Breskman DID and DOES know the rules. He owns another home in the OWS. HE knew a permit was required. He has previously acknowledged not getting a permit and disregarding the one that was posted by an inspector.

dave french

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Wouldn't he have to obtain a building permit? If so, why would the city issue one if the fence wasn't in compliance?

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

He didn't bother to get a permit and disregarded the stop work order that was posted by an inspector. He has acknowledged both not getting a permit and disregarding the stop work order. He knew he was in violation of the law and did it anyway.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

I am sure when you purchased the house you knew it was in a historic district and there are things you can and can't do to the exterior of your property. You should have checked. Don't blame your neighbor for turning you in. Take some responsibility and don't blame the city. If you can get away with it then everyone can and the historic district is no longer historic. I'd be happy to come over and help you take it down.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Considering the fact that The Old West Side Association is now welcoming a 3 story behemoth to their community with open arms and glee, their refusal to allow this fence is laughable. Come out to Dexter Mr. Breskman where silliness doesn't rule.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

hut hut, I guess they should change their name to the NEW West Side Association and stop supporting the historic district rules then.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

The Old West Side Association has NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING to do with the enforcement of STATE OF MICHIGAN rules. THe OWSA is a non profit community organization that promotes the neighborhood thru various FREE sponsored activities. The historic district rules are STATE of MI rules and the Historic District Commission, a government appointed committee oversees the STATE rules, NOt the OWSA! The Old West Side Association has nothing to do with the Historic District Commission, its rules or enforcement. You have no clue what you are talking bout.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

He's owned this house for a couple of years. Because real estate in the OWs is desirable and increases in value. H e should have no problem selling it to someone who can live within the law like everyone else in the historic district. Please, Mr Breskman, sell your OWS homes and move out. It will most likely be purchased by someone who cares and values the neighborhood. You and your selfish attitude will not be missed.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

A historic district does not prevent the construction of new buildings on open land. You're just making up connections that do not exist. The Tree Houses were put on empty land and presumably followed applicable building codes for new construction. If those codes were inadequate or improperly enforced, then that is a problem the city should address, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the historic district guidelines this guy willfully flouted because (apparently) he doesn't think the rules apply to him too. Also, what documentation do you have that the historic district rules &quot;change with the wind&quot;? Can you cite specific examples or are you making up facts there too?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

Problem is that the OWS rules change with the wind and when someone can build an insanely huge house (or the tree house condos) on Mullholland Dr - screwing up the drain water system so that people on Murray Ave deal with huge floods for YEARS because this - yeah, tell me about historic district - the Tree House condos sold back and forth for years before the plan went ahead IN A KNOWN FLOOD ZONE and caused massive flooding because of the inadequate drainage. Right, Historic - I'd love to know what is Historic about the Tree House condos - really?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Quit picking on the city. This is not about AA...building codes, zoning rules, etc. exist in EVERY community. Checking these before undertaking construction is the homeowner's responsibility. This is nothing new. So stop giving this guy a pass. Ignorance is not an excuse. It doesn't matter that the fence looks ok (that's subjective and not everyone would agree). If you build an awesome, award-winning addition onto your home without the proper permits &amp; approvals, would also run the risk of having someone tell you to take it down. The time to argue that you need an exception is BEFORE you build, not after.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

Exactly, sounds like most people here have not built a house or made any major renovations before.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.


Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

I see two separate issues 1. the homeowner screwed up under the existing rules . He should have done his homework in advance. 2. The historical commission should be abolished. It creates and enforces a capricious and arbitrary &quot;snapshot in time&quot; concept that tramples homeowners rights. I think the original stories said if his house was across the street on one of the other corners he could have kept the fence because he would be outside the district. Across the street the fence is fine. And if we want historical accuracy didn't a lot of those houses heat with wood or coal back in the &quot;good old days&quot; ? Its winter, I want to see thick black smoke pouring out the chimneys in the name of historical accuracy. I should be able to see that smoke from several blocks away. Better yet why do a &quot;snap shot in time&quot; circa 1930? Why not a snap shot in time circa 1822? Nothing allowed but huts and log shacks?

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:40 p.m.

did you mean to reply to me or someone else? I didn't call for the abolishment of the building department and a system of codes for construction or permits to insure inspections to insure work is done by prevailing standards of safety. That is what the building department does. But the historical commission is about cosmetics not prevailing standards of construction. Indeed they often fly in the face of prevailing standards. But to sum it up the building department and their requirements have nothing to do with the historical commission and their standards. I say do away with the latter not the former.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

He ignored a stop work order after failing to get the permit that everyone in A2 must obtain prior to erecting a fence. He owns two homes in the historic district, so I now longer believe &quot;he didn't know&quot;. What do you suppose A2 would look like if permits were not required, and there were no inspections?

Richard Johnson

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

I'm sure many people in A2 like to say that they are pro-choice on everything. Of course picking &amp; choosing what they are pro-choice on. How dare he want a fence !!!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

I believe that they made their choice when they bought a house in a historic district. The fact that they were uninformed falls under &quot;caveat emptor&quot; doctrine.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Not sure if people are aware but you cannot change your windows to more energy efficient models if you live in a historical dsitrict. Wasting energy is historical and we need to remain historically accurate. Kind of like the &quot;tiny&quot; bit of mercury in our fluorescent light bulbs that we will soon be filling landfills with; billions of them, now how much mercury do we have? Don't try to reason with a progressive on a mission, the message or cause is more important than the outcome.

John Q

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

The OWS HD didn't allow you to add insulation? On what basis are you making that claim?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Yup - agreed - that's one more reason we moved out of the historic district - we wanted to add more insulation, change windows to decrease energy consumption - but the OWS historic district says you can't do that - sigh. I've written too much - we moved out of our home 6 years ago - I still miss our neighbors, I miss my home - but I do not miss the flooding, the arbitrary rules and the variences that get approved Indiscriminantly.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

To add to what AMLIVE said, here is a picture of Wurster park, which is roughly 530 Madison. This house is at 617, so it is about a (very, very) small block away. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> What's that I spy with my little eye? Yes, the CITY installed one of these monstrosities on THIER OWN property. Yet Louis can't put the same fence on his? Very limousine liberal attitude here. Reminds me of Al Gore and his 10,000 square foot mansion, but I digress...


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

Maybe they walked past that fence on a daily basis and though &quot;that kind of fence would look great in front of our house too!&quot;....and so it did children, and they lived happily ever after....NOT!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

EyeHeartA2 - For the win!!! Here is the Google Street View of the fence at Wurster - <a href=",-83.754731&spn=0.001062,0.002334&hq=wurster+park&hnear=Ann+Arbor+Charter+Township,+Michigan+48103&t=m&z=19&layer=c&cbll=42.27396,-83.754606&panoid=4xbEfEvRvFHMtvs807iFjg&cbp=12,178.95,,0,3.05" rel='nofollow'>;hl=en&amp;ll=42.273985,-83.754731&amp;spn=0.001062,0.002334&amp;hq=wurster+park&amp;hnear=Ann+Arbor+Charter+Township,+Michigan+48103&amp;t=m&amp;z=19&amp;layer=c&amp;cbll=42.27396,-83.754606&amp;panoid=4xbEfEvRvFHMtvs807iFjg&amp;cbp=12,178.95,,0,3.05</a>


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Okay, first of all, I am not sure why this is even considered 'news'. Most importantly, I'm not sure I would want to live in the community that would fit Mr. Breskman's needs. Lets remember, he knew his property was in a historic district, he chose to erect the fence without the required Historic DIstrict approval and failed to even apply for the required building permit. And then when told to stop, he did not and subsequently IGNORED a Stop Work order posted by the City Building Official. Whether or not you agree with the standards of the Historic DIstrict or are mad that the roads are crumbling in the City, there are rules in teh City and the property owners CHOSE on their own to ignore them. Thier are plenty of other people who manage to live with such 'tough' standards.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

hailtothevictor. You're wrong. Try reading the law on fences and fence heights. The same law applies everywhere in the city.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Except according to Ann Arbor fence guidelines, a building permit is only required for fences that are 6 feet or higher. Now I'm not sure if that's the same for the historical district but it's clear to me that his fence is well below the 6 foot mark and wouldn't require a building permit to construct.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

I am sorry that Breskman has been treated so shoddily by the city and his envious neighbors. But, welcome to Ann Arbor

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.

His attitude and actions brought it on himself. Some people feel entitled to break laws they don't like or feel don't apply to them.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

It's kind of funny the more extreme you are- right or left- the more totalitarian you become. The authorities are merely instruments of compliance either way. Less government intervention is better across the board. Don't force me to subsidize idiocracy.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

Good post!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

When I saw the headline I thought the fence would be some avante garde monstrosity made out of space age polymer and we could discuss the legality and morality of the historic planning commision telling people what they can and can't have on their property. Names would be called, feelings hurt, comments deleted and no opinions would change, a deep resentment would grow in all parties, certain that the other was wrong. I click the article and look at the picture. Am I missing something? Did they not have wooden fences back in the day?

Usual Suspect

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

&quot;He said he chose to live in Ann Arbor when he relocated from Philadelphia for work in 2004 because of its liberal reputation. But after being here a while and earning his MBA at the University of Michigan in 2010, he's of the opinion 'it's maybe more ultra conservative.'&quot; Of course that's all a matter of relatives. In the mindset of a flaming liberal, which includes all Ann Arbor residents aside from the ten token conservatives the US Supreme Court had to force the city to allow in, anything toward the center of themselves is considered &quot;ultra conservative.&quot; But he does have one point right: obeying the law is a conservative value, not a liberal value.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

So I take it this is a proper sized government who wastes thousands of dollars fighting a citizen over a, seemingly well built, nice looking fence on their own property? If so I shouldn't expect to hear any complaints in the future about how big our government is, at least locally, because this is the &quot;perfect size&quot;.

Usual Suspect

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

Conservatives are in favor of proper-sized government, but thanks for the copy-paste from your DNC emails.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

Aren't conservatives the masterminds of &quot;No to little government intervention&quot;....&quot;Small Government&quot;.....&quot;Cut government waste&quot;....and all that? I think this applies to all three. I don't think either side is directly associated with &quot;breaking laws.&quot;


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

I get that there are &quot;rules&quot; but it's of my opinion that there should be a way to avoid taxpayers a ton of money in a fight by approving things, like this, that are well done additions or modifications to any property. And honestly, what is more &quot;historic&quot; than these types of wood fences? Rules are there to 1. keep this historic look of the neighborhood and 2. make sure that people aren't trashing their property into nothing and ruining everyone else's property value. As long as something like this is maintained - I see no reason why there couldn't be exceptions; other than stuck-up neighbors who have nothing better to do than police other people. And to say, &quot;he didn't know the rules he's at fault&quot; is a little unfair. I live in an association and I can tell you for sure that I don't know all 100+ pages of rules/regulation and I know for sure more people are breaking at least a few at any given time. I don't know what makes some important and some not.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

I don't get think we should just ignore rules as long as somebody thinks they ought to be the &quot;exception to the rule?&quot; Or...maybe anybody who goes ahead and does it without asking permission should be able to do whatever they want? Then what's the point in having rules?

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

So the police or building inspector find something in violation in any location. And your point is?

average joe

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

Concerning knowledge of rules/regulations, I would bet that if the hysterical police were given free reign, they probably would find at least a few 'violations' at every property address within these districts.

Dave M.

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Why are we wasting money hassling this guy when most of our roads look like the surface of the moon?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.



Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

This fence looks a heck of a lot nicer than some of the rickety, crooked, 50+ year old picket and wrought iron fences that are half tipped over in some yards of the historical district. Yet those are fine and this is an eye sore? Also, how can split rail fencing not be considered historic? You can find pictures of it around houses dating back to the 1800's. I could see a problem if he installed a chain link or page wire fence but there is nothing wrong with this fence, historically or aesthetically. Its frustrating to see the city waste this much money and time over something as petty as the style of fencing used, especially when it adds value to the property.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

You don't understand or likely care what the rules as your opinion is are already formed on hearsay from these comments. If you really wanted to know what you're talking about you might actually read the law and understand the process.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

If the chain link fence was there when the historic district was created, yes.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Chain Link is OK if the &quot;rear yard&quot;. See section 4-19 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

You know what's REALLY messed up, if I recall correctly a chain link WOULD have been considered historically correct.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

When you buy into the historic district, you have to go by their crazy rules. You can't move into a subdivision w/ the housing association rules and then not follow/complain about them. Those areas are for people that like having those rules. I DO think the whole historical district commission is just a bunch of airbags who love hearing themselves talk and being able to tell people they can and can't do things (I saw several of them talk for more than 40 minutes about why they APPROVED a modification request), and I would never subject myself to the insane restrictions on what I could/couldn't do with my house, but if I DID, I would have to accept all that. Now, if this person was uninformed about the nature of historical district, that's a different story. It seems to me they knew it was a historical district, and made the poor assumption that their fence would pass. For what it's worth, I would have moved years ago if we weren't so underwater on our house, because of the ridiculous way they spend our criminally exorbitant property taxes.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

To put things in perspective, I think that really should also have put up a picture of the fence around the city owned park just a few lots east of this home, especially since according to city officials - &quot;Split-rail fences in front yards are incompatible with the historic character of the district.&quot;


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

This gentleman was ignorant of the law applicable to his property; I'm pretty sure that's his fault and no one else's. When he was made aware of his mistake, he decided he was simply not subject to the same rules as the rest of us and fought it in court. Was he outmatched or outfunded by the city? Maybe. But he was the one who created the situation, and he was the one who pursued it to court, and he is the one who is forcing the city to spend its time and our tax dollars on his over-entitled sense of justice. Thanks a lot, buddy.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

Mr Breskman lost his appeal in Lansing. The judges ruling affects the extent the city may take to enforce the law. Such as will he be fined for violating the law, pay court costs and if and how Mr Breskman's proposed remedy may or may not comply with the HDC requirements.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

Hut, read the story. He has not had his day in court yet. &quot;They said the issue still isn't formally resolved, and the judge eventually will decide the case if a mutual agreement isn't reached between the city and the homeowner. But the judge has recommended the two sides try to reach a settlement on their own first.&quot;

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

@burl. But once you've lost, why continue to inflict pain on everybody else in the way of enforcement costs? Mr Breskman had his day in court and he lost. His continuing shenanigans remind me of Tea Partiers who continue to divide the nation because the election didn't turn out the way they wanted.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

I agree, the way to get anything done when you are faced with a law you feel is unjust is to shrug your shoulders and not fight it. A lot has been accomplished with that attitude.

Jim Pryce

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

No one can fix up an eyesore if it is in a &quot;hysterical&quot; district in any town


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

When I was looking for a home in AA, my agent showed me one in the historic district. When I told her I would chainsaw all the ugly overgrown trees, re-roof the house, change the siding, gut the kitchen, and rip down the walls, she didn't say a thing. As we were driving away, I mentioned that all the houses kind of old. She finally remembered that it was in a historic district, then I had to drag it out of her that I couldn't make any of those changes. She would have sold me that house knowing that I couldn't do any of the things I wanted to. I instead ditched her and built a brand new house, it's a little further out, but my family is happy and I don't have to deal with old stuff that needs approval from multiple random committees to do anything.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

Mr Breskman HAD to go to Lansing for his appeal.State law only allows for appeals at the State level, not at the local level. The Ann Arbor HDC is only allowed by law to require what the FEDERAL historic rules allow. The same FEDERAL rules that ALL STATES, including Michigan have to follow. Too bad you don't know how the process works.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

hut hut, nice try. From the story itself, &quot;The city doesn't think the fence is historic and has ordered Breskman to take it down.&quot; The city refers to AA, not Lansing or the HDC.

hut hut

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

The HDC rules do NOT apply to a kitchen remodel, tree removal or roof replacement. And there's no problem if you redid the siding with what was there before, even a look alike aluminum style. There is only one committee, the HDC and the appeals are in Lansing. In fact all historic district rules are governed from Lansing, not A2 stop spreading misinformation.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

wow, just another embarrassing Ann Arbor story, kind of like the Dickens principal field trip, or the mayor and the bridge...


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

Oh my goodness, cette, you and I finally agree on something, lol. I agree 100% with your post :)


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

Ann Arbor, come on clean up the City! I see nothing wrong with that little fence......... Looks way better than some yards I have drove passed and walked by. And the city over looks them. Futher more theres a rental, that has a over stuffed inside chair on it front porch. Has the city done anything about that? STILL ON PORCH


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

so if you buy a house in the historic district you give up your rights to make decisions about your property? Are these rule clearly disclosed by the real estate agent before the purchase agreement. Maybe the the seller is at fault for non disclosure. Do this rules impact the installation of backyard fences if you have kids or a dog?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.

Not true, Ross. Some communities, especially rural ones could care less what type of fence you erect.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

My neighbors and I had to go before a zoning board meeting, pay fees and plead our case just to REPLACE old fences that back our properties separating us from Green Road in NE Ann Arbor. The first thing fencing companies said when we started contacting ANY of them was....&quot;Well, you going to have to get permission from the city of A2, here's how you do it....&quot; This whole problem with the HDC ruling could have been prevented from the start had the home owners done even a modicum of research ( an MBA surely would be capable of that).


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

The zoning and historic district ordinances are public records, available to everyone through the city website and at city hall. A buyer has the same access to them as a seller, so there's no duty or need for the seller to disclose them. A buyer needs to exercise reasonable care by looking into possible zoning or historic district issues before he or she purchases property.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

It doesn't matter whether you are in the historic district or not - you need to get a permit before constructing fencing. There are zoning regulations over fencing EVERYWHERE, not just in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

olddog makes good points. Some people buy property in a subdivision/neighborhood specifically because there are rules ensuring conformity. Others buy property where the rules are not as strict. Were the rules disclosed by the seller?

Les Gov

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

&quot;Louis Breskman says he's considering moving out of Ann Arbor after being &quot;hassled by the city&quot; for installing a wooden fence in front of his home.&quot;.....welcome to Ann you think that this Administration cares if you move out?...I can tell you they don't. However, I'm sure this administration will be glad to sell you moving boxes at 10 times the normal rate.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:29 a.m.

Stephen Postema--don't forget when he's running for judge now what sort of justice to expect either. Lol.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

&quot;He said he chose to live in Ann Arbor when he relocated from Philadelphia for work in 2004 because of its liberal reputation. But after being here a while and earning his MBA at the University of Michigan in 2010, he's of the opinion &quot;it's maybe more ultra conservative.&quot;&quot; You mean because your neighbors secretly turn you in to the police, that the City spends tens of thousands of dollars to make an example of you like some thugs with an unlimited bankroll and that we'd much rather spend nearly a million on foreign water fountain 'art' and insult and slander folks who are working towards opening a warming center for the homeless? And have a Mayor who is in lock step with a right wing Governor and shares zero Democratic Party values? You hit the nail right on the head. Welcome to Ann Arbor Version 2.0.

David Cotton

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

Toleration of race is one thing, toleration of your neighbors artistic desires (i.e. letting people alter the appearance of their home as they see fit) is another. This story is not an isolated incident, I've heard numerous stories about neighbors whining about their neighbors to the city concerning perfectly reasonable design choices. And I'm not taking about letting an old car sit on the property. I'm talking about choosing brick instead of simulated wood siding. Or the types of trees being planted, the color of the roof. Regular stuff like that. Oh yes, a Black or an Asian or whatever can move in, but heaven help them if they decide to change the color of their house.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

Yes, liberalism is about being intolerant. Think about it, they view every person as a group (lesbian, gay, black, straight, white, asian, poor, rich, etc...), and want to give each group a special protection or special right, because they don't think those people (conservatives believe in the person) can make it on their own. A conservative just doesn't care what you are, as long as you work hard and be yourself.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

I would say that Ann Arbor is a city that *thinks* it is liberal. People here talk a good game but when the rubber meets the road, they are some of the most intolerant people I have ever seen. It is a big reason why I didn't choose to live in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

It's the Historic District Commission that made the basic decisions that drive this conflict, and every member of the HDC was appointed by the Democrats that control city council. So, are you suggesting that not only Hieftje but all of the city council goes against &quot;Democratic Party values&quot;? I don't think so. I'd say that they personify them, and this petty squabble is an example of how government can &quot;help&quot; people.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

No kidding - this sort of thing is waste of everyone's time and energy (and, of course, money). And for what? Some stupid fence that *someone&quot; think isn't &quot;historical&quot; enough. Um, didn't Abe Lincoln build split rail fences?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:15 p.m. do you know the city spent &quot;ten thousands of dollars&quot; on the issue? Or are you just trying to stir the pot as usual.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

Neighbors secretly turn you into police? I must have missed that, though if a neighbor is going to go to the police about another neighbor they will probably do it in secret, rather than broadcasting it. And slandering the people who are trying to open a warming center? What I got from that was, &quot;It's a nice idea but we don't have the money for it and the building you proposed is horribly unsafe.&quot; If that's what passes for slander, I don't want to live here anymore, maybe I should move to Livonia...


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

Ha, ha. Nice try. This city is liberal paradise! Every day this newspaper finds a way to slam conservatives. The city shut down a major road just so liberals could sqaut on the governors lawn. They spent millions on an ugly foreign art project (a conservative city would have given a tax break to a corporation to do it for them and make them do American, liberals would rather spend our money out of country). Conservatives are more for helping the homeless, liberals are for giving handouts to the homeless. All the city said was that the homeless shelter was unsafe to live in, so I guess you'd like to have them live in a death trap? This is liberal paradise; hence why liberal Obama is coming back, yet again!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:22 a.m.

You buy a house in an historic district; you know there are rules. Read the rules BEFORE you add a fence and there is no problem. Remove and/or sell the fence and get on with your life.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

I am not sure whether or not this person knew the rules of the district. The fact is that the rules -good or bad -do exist. Ignorance is not an excuse. I live in a neighborhood with an association with a stack of rules, some of which I don't agree with (can't take a cat outside except on a leash!). My choices are to live with the rules or work to change them. I can't just do as I wish nor do I condone those who do just that.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

It isn't clear which houses are in the &quot;historic district&quot;. I live up the block and am NOT part of the &quot;historic district&quot;. Same block, same side of the street, 14 houses away. Unclear boundaries make it nearly impossible for people to understand and know the &quot;rules&quot;.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

What if you buy a house that isn't in a &quot;historic&quot; district, and then that house becomes part of a historic district against your will? That taking of rights should be compensated, no?? We almost had that type of debacle several years ago with the proposed Washtenaw-Hill historic district but luckily it was defeated


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

If I remember the story correctly, I think he built the fence to be consistent with historical standards, but some random committee met and decided that he choose a fence of the wrong time period for the neighborhood by a few years. That's a pretty tough pill to swallow, you choose a period correct fence per the rules only to have it looked at after the fact to find out it was off by a touch. It's not like he put up a 20th century fence. I love you liberals, you always assume people are out to get you.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

I agree with a2scio. Whether the homeowner or anyone else agrees with the rule or believes the rule to be &quot;stupid&quot; is not relevant here. What is relevant is that the homeowner erected a fence without a permit and is now suffering the consequences. It's-easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-to-ask-permission doesn't always work. Was the homeowner not aware he had bought property in an historic district?