Royal Oak residents fight plan to put sidewalks in neighborhood

Neighbors would be forced to pay for project

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – A group of neighbors in Royal Oak are uniting against the city's plan to put in something most homeowners want: sidewalks.

Walkability comes at a price, and in Royal Oak, it won't come without a fight. The city wants to add more sidewalks, but one group of homeowners who don't have sidewalks wants to keep it that way.

The residents said Royal Oak has a grand plan without seeing how it affects real people's lives. They went to a city meeting Monday night to fight for what they feel are unwanted sidewalks that they would have to pay for.

Much of the East Sunnybrook neighborhood doesn't have a sidewalk, and the neighbors said they're willing to go to great lengths to make sure that doesn't change.

"If they start the sidewalks, I'm going to throw myself in front of the bulldozer," Maureen LaFleur said.

There's a lot of traffic in the area and many people who like to walk, so why don't the homeowners want sidewalks to be built?

"If you look down our street, you can see that it's the trees and the beauty and quaintness of it, and putting in sidewalks will take that away with the trees," Mary Benda said.

"This is the city of trees," LaFleur said. "If you put in sidewalks, you're going to lose many of those trees, and if you don't, it may damage the root system and they'll be gone."

Mayor Mike Fournier doesn't want to take out trees, either, so he commissioned a study that said only one tree and some brush would have to be removed on Sunnybrook for sidewalks to be built.

But the cost is also a point of contention with homeowners, who would be asked to foot the bill.

"It would cost me between $5,000 to $6,000," Mike Freeman said. "If I had to pay it I could. I don't want to, but more importantly, the house value. I think the value of this neighborhood and some of the others with the beautiful trees and no sidewalks have done really well."

"I just think it's ridiculous," LaFleur said. "I just do not see the point of it."

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