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Fenton Neighbors Face Off Over Ice Rink

Dispute over ice structure could result in city ordinance.

It's a face-off that has left the skating rink and neighborhood and has landed in city hall.

Fenton resident John Jones has built a backyard ice rink behind his home in the Andover Woods subdivision for about six years. Recently, however, a neighbor filed a complaint with the Homeowner's Association and the dispute has city of Fenton officials drafting an ordinance on backyard skating rinks.

"I was very disappointed to find one disgruntled homeowner wants to take away the one thing I love doing for the community," Jones said. "We are just making memories for these kids and it keeps them out of trouble and doing something positive."

Neighbor Bob Campbell says the ice rink is not aesthetically pleasing and lowers property values, according to the Flint Journal.

"It's the location, the appearance, the aesthetic," Campbell said in the article. "There's a very strong sensibility of quality of life as it relates to aesthetics (in Fenton)."

Jones told Fenton Patch he is worried he won't be able to construct the rink as usual next winter. He disassembles the structure and stores it in his shed, before bringing out again when the weather cools. Jones places a liner on the ground, fills it with about six inches of water and puts up short walls on the rink. It costs him around $500 to construct each season. He also has insurance on the rink.

"It’s all worth it," he said. "Our children and the children in the surrounding homes look forward to this activity all year round."

In November, Jones said it was requested he take the rink down on a Homeowner's Association infraction of aesthetics, but won an appeal to keep the ice structure.

"The bottom line is we arbitrated an agreement," said Michael Piacentini, who lives in the neighborhood and serves on the association as well as the Fenton city council. "It's unfortunate it escalated to this, but we'll get through it."

Jones said he was issued a temporary land use permit for the rink this winter. Once a ordinance is drafted, it would go to the planning commission and city council will discuss the issue. It's not likely to happen this month.

"The planning commission should discuss it and pass it to city council," Piancentini said. "I don't see much support for it, but I could be wrong. It's recreation for the kids. It's pure Michigan fun."

Jason Alexander (Editor) February 13, 2012 at 03:40 PM
What do you think?
Bill Hoffman February 13, 2012 at 04:19 PM
This may be the most ridiculous thing I have read. I do not live in the neighborhood but know it well. That rink does nothing but foster and build a sense of community. It is things like the rink that will create some of the best childhood memories available. Bob "Get off my lawn" Campbell needs to realize that a winter rink will not hurt the value on his house. It may help! Most of the home buyers right now are younger and either have kids or are starting families. The rink would be a major plus for me if I was still shopping for a home. A warm and welcoming community and neighbors you can play or bond with are both things that do not hurt your home value. The only thing the city should make sure is that the owners are insured, which they are.
jennifer February 13, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Can't wait for this footage to be brought out when 2 of these boys could possibly end up in the NHL! It's all worth it.
Kelly Berry February 13, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Really....does Bob have children? What a wonderful thing John has done for the kids in the neighborhood! To think, they (the kids) could be out doing horrible things in the neighborhood to actually bring property values down.....Bob should be THANKING John!!
Stephanie Grayhek February 13, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Crazy - I know the neighborhood and seen this. We walk through there a lot. Nothing better then seeing kids have fun and the grass looks great there in the summer - not sure what the biggie deal is???? I guess someone will always find something to complain about. Gee's it's for kids and its fun.
tamra February 13, 2012 at 04:47 PM
This is rediculous! complain about something that gives the neighborhood kids something to do in the winter months, which is close to home and keeps them out of trouble! REALLY?? people need to get a life and worry about more pressing issues! be thankful to have a neighbor that takes the time and money to do something great for the the residents in the community!
Bev Fitzgerald February 13, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Very few things about winter are aesthetically pleasing. Everything is dead and grey, it seems like it would be nice to see children and family's enjoying the outdoors. People should lighten up and worry about the more serious issues in life!
Kathleen Davis February 13, 2012 at 05:08 PM
It is ridiculous. Mr. Campbell seems to know a lot about rules and regulations, but very little about being a good neighbor.
michael henk February 13, 2012 at 05:09 PM
How many more things do we want to complain or legislate out of existence? One of my fondest childhood memories was walking with my skates over my shoulder to a nearby outdoors rink to skate and playing hockey with my neighbors. Here is someone who takes the time & effort to design, build and maintain a structure for the good of all the kids in the area. From my perspective, the value of the neighborhood has gone up! What next? People complaining about a few chickens in their neighbor's yards?
Lenny Haise February 13, 2012 at 05:41 PM
It is such a great feeling to glide across the ice with a cold wind on your cheeks. If you do not learn to skate at a young age it is much more difficult. I remember watching my children skate almost as soon as they could walk.what a joy. Lights too! Fantastic exercise! FUN,EXERCISE, LEARN A SKILL! Good job John.
Jen Peters February 13, 2012 at 05:41 PM
i love living in fenton, but get frustrated with the number of housing associations each with their own rules and regulations (ours is about a book worth)...how about we agree on a few basic rules and DISCUSS the rest?? personally, i would much prefer my kids skating on 6 inches of ice over grass and dirt than 6 inches of ice over 5-10 feet of frigid water and i think it's a neat thing for a neighborhood of kids! i give the guy props for covering the cost (including insurance!) himself!
Julie February 13, 2012 at 05:46 PM
So, Mr. Campbell doesn't like the way the ice rink looks. What if he decides he doesn't like another neighbor's swimming pool or playscape? What if gazing balls or lawn ornaments in someone's flower garden don't meet his standards for "aesthetically pleasing" items? Does Bob get to harass others and city officials until he gets his way? This is absolutely riduculous! John Jones is a respectable and responsible homeowner. The icerink is something he does and maintains for the community. It is only up for the winter, so Mr. Campbell should be able to deal with it or ignore it for a few months. He should be thankful he doesn't have to look at something much worse. I'm sure there are families in Flint that would swap houses with him! Stand your ground Mr. Jones! Your icerink and your family rocks!
Bill Hoffman February 13, 2012 at 05:49 PM
How often is there a story that has EVERYONE in agreement? I hope Bob reads this and realizes he is the problem not the rink.
Jason Alexander (Editor) February 13, 2012 at 06:59 PM
When I was younger, I was blessed to have a natural skating rink in Fenton Township because of a depression in my parents yard. It would fill with rain water and freeze and I would spent entire winters out there, day and night. The most prized Christmas present I ever received was a pee-wee hockey stick I used for years. I still go out and skate on lakes by myself, push the puck around a little bit and remember the great times I had learning to skate on that ice.
Nora February 13, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I wonder how many NHL Hockey players and Professional Figure skaters have the memories of skating in their back yard ice rink? I believe there are many! And have you researched on line the people who put the ice rinks up? The photos are awesome!
Joe Kershaw February 13, 2012 at 08:28 PM
As a child growing up in Fenton my friends and I would, during the winter, frequently go to a pond or lake and skate. When I worked at Tyrone Hills Country Club they would have skating parties on the pond there and serve hot beverages. I and many of my neighbors use to make small rinks in our yards. Of course I am also the person who broke his leg skating on White Lake after running into a dock. What I learned from that skating (including the broken leg) and the great memories I have are priceless. Two things. #1. Mr. Campbell - beauty and/or asethically pleasing is in the eye of the beholder. I suggest you move to an area where people think of asethically pleasing the same way you do. #2. Mr. Jones, I send my best wishes for success in this matter. Thanks for thinking of the kids.
Robert Marr February 13, 2012 at 10:33 PM
The city of Fenton should NOT be wasting their time discussing such nonsense. This is an excellent service that Mr Jones is providing, out of his own pocket, doncha know. A knee-jerk reaction to ONE person's complaint is in-effective government. How do you spell SURVEY? How do you spell PETITION? Is this a concern to more than one person? It's Mr Campbell's responsibility to do the leg-work to determine if there's anyone but him who has a problem with the rink. One name on the petition isn't sufficient to waste city council's time...
Deborah Conlon February 13, 2012 at 11:40 PM
It sounds as though Mr. Bob is the only one with the problem. Perhaps he should move to a more aesthetically pleasing area, like a condo. Kudos to Mr. Jones for putting forth his time and money for something so rewarding for the children in his neighborhood. If I were a prospective buyer driving through Andover Woods, I would be pleased to see an ice skating rink. It would make me think this is a neighborhood that represents family values.
Linda February 14, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Jason - you brought back memories with your "backyard depression." We, too, had one. My mom used to attach a hose to the kitchen sink and run it out the back door to OUR depression. I skated in below zero temps all the time while growing up in Wisconsin, and grabbed any chance I could to go to one of the many local rinks. By the way, I live in the Pine Creek sub next to Andover Woods. We have NO association by OUR CHOICE! And to my knowledge, we've had no problems, for the 15 years I've lived here.
Barb Scott O'Reilly February 14, 2012 at 11:46 AM
seriously why would anyone ubject to this my son and his friends had to walk to a fields to play hockey, they would of given anything to have a kind and fun neighber to do this for the kids ... who ever is complaining dosn't have children,,, SAD'''''.... I'LL VOTE FOR IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
John N. February 14, 2012 at 01:07 PM
So i read somewhere that Mr. Campbell work for flint public schools. I would think that an individual that worked for a school would understand the positive impact that outdoor recreation has on a child. I has so many benefits health, social interaction, fun. Mr. Campbell should have considered the impact this may have before he bought this on. I for one would love to a have an person like Mr. Jones in my neighborhood. And he can bring his rink with him as that will actually increase the value of homes in our neighborhood. Cudos to you Mr. Jones and shame on you Mr. Campbell.
Stacey February 14, 2012 at 01:44 PM
I live in Andover Woods and while I am not close to this particular house (wish I was so my little boy could skate) I think this is a great idea. I don't think it brings down the value of the home. I think it enhances the value of the home. Having children of my own if I was looking for a place to move I would see that as a way for people to come together. Some people do not know how to be neighbors anymore and it is sad.
William Garbutt February 14, 2012 at 04:49 PM
My son and Johns son play organized hockey together, in an ice rink at least 3-4 days a week. We came over to skate on his backyard rink a few weeks ago and had a great time, much more than just sitting in an ice rink. There were approx 10-12 kids out there some 1st time skaters. I tied their new skates for the first time and watched as they learned how to play. Due to the previous days warm weather the ice wasn't the best but the kids didn't care, they loved it. As snow accumulated on the surface the kids would grab shovels and clean the ice off. The parents sat or stood around the campfire to stay warm. I met several new people that day. That's the kind of community I would love to live in. I commend and thank the Jones family for what they've done for the community. They are a wonderful, genuine, giving family. The kind of people we should all try to be more like. Again, thank-you John and your family.
stephanie pytlowanyj February 14, 2012 at 07:12 PM
To my understanding pond hockey is where professional hockey first started. It's a great sport! Which reminds me, Go 'Wings. Hoping they make it 21 consecutive wins at home!
Melissa February 14, 2012 at 10:21 PM
John, thank you for taking the time and energy to improve your neighborhood. I believe it is an asset to your community. We also built and maintain an outdoor rink for friends and family. We are fortunate, we own 50 acres so no association to deal with. I really hope the vote goes your way and you are able to contribute this generous act to your neighborhood in the future.
Ted February 15, 2012 at 04:15 PM
So if my neighbor puts up a basketball goal or a pool or a tennis court and I do not like it, I should complain to the government and they will make it illegal for anyone in the city to have those things? Talk about Pandora's box. And as many people have pointed out, what will the kids do when we make all these things illegal? My message to City Council is this: you represent the city of Fenton and all it's people and it's best interests. Are you listening to the people or are you listening to the squeaky wheel? Are you serving the cities best interest or trying to pacify he who whines the loudest? We have placed our trust in you through the great amercian election process and we expect you to represent the will of the people. After reading the comments on this article, the will of the people seems clear. I understand due process, but it seems you are wasting valuable tax payer resources on a initiative that is clearly not supported and not in the best interest of the city.
Sean Rosekrans February 19, 2012 at 02:18 PM
We have a neighbor with the same problem. He complains about everything. I agree with everything you say. I wish Mr. Jones the best.
Sean Rosekrans February 19, 2012 at 02:21 PM
It seems to be a rout in favor of Mr. Jones. Mr. Campbell you have lost this issue go on to something.

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