DETROIT
06/01/2012 05:21 pm ET

Palmer Park Orchard Dispute Simmers, As Detroit City Council Orders Neighbors To Reconcile

DETROIT -- The Detroit City Council on Thursday gave neighborhood residents arguing over an apple orchard planted in a northwest city park a month to work out their differences.

The May 31 decision follows a May 29 committee resolution to uproot the orchard, issued by council members James Tate, Kwame Kenyatta and JoAnn Watson, the Free Press reports.

The three council members were responding to complaints by several neighborhood residents that 500 trees planted at Palmer Park last month by the community group People for Palmer Park would attract rodents. Some neighbors are also concerned the trees will encourage criminal activity and bring down property values.

Eric Sabree, deputy Wayne County treasurer for land management, lives in the neighborhood and made some of the complaints.

"All this vacant land in Detroit, and they want to put it in our neighborhood," he lamented to the Free Press. "We didn't move here to be next to a farm."

Dr. Ron Perry, a professor of horticulture at Michigan State University, told The Huffington Post via email that he didn't believe the trees would be a huge draw to rodents.

"I know that mice are attracted to stored grain, birdfeed, dogfood, hot tubs (warm places to reside) [and] garage space during the winter," he said. "As to being an attractant, I don't think [the orchard] would be an issue anymore than other feed stuff."

Jason Fligger, 43, a board member of People for Palmer Park and an architecture student, lives on the less-affluent east side of the park. He said he can understand the worries about property values among the more upscale homeowners in the neighborhoods of Green Acres, Palmer Woods and Pontchartrain, which also border the park, but thinks their concerns are misplaced.

"It's not going to have a haphazard community garden feel. It will complement the architecture there," he said. "I can appreciate the architecture of the homes, and in that aspect, the orchard will add value to those homes."

Sarah James, 41, is also a board member of the nonprofit People for Palmer Park, as well as the University District Community Association, another neighborhood group. She said some city council members have inaccurately painted the pro-orchard group as a bunch of outsiders.

"We're a very diverse group of people from the apartments, renters, owners. We have hundreds of volunteers," said James, who grew up in the neighborhood. "We are the community."

People for Palmer Park began two years ago as a partnership between community members and the city's Recreation Department. It sponsors a variety of activities including tennis, golf, hiking, yoga, horse-and-carriage rides and storytelling for kids.

The group intends the orchard to produce cider and fruit for local residents and the police horses who stay at the park, as well as offer an educational tool for local youth. The trees are already mature and should bear fruit in the fall.

Rochelle Lento, another board member, told the Free Press that the group held several public meetings before planting the orchard. People for Palmer Park received approval to plant it from the city's General Services and Recreation departments, according to the Detroit News. But because the trees were a gift, the city council has maintained that ultimate authority over the orchard rests with the council.

According to James, representatives from People for Palmer Park plan to meet with those opposing the orchard next week and report back to the council within the next four weeks. She said she is pleased by the arrangement.

"We're trying to reach out to these neighbors," she said. "We don't want drama. We want to work things out."

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