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Thread: How tall a berm do I need?

  1. #1
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    How tall a berm do I need?

    Hi -- non-planner, average citizen here, asking your help.

    A 24-hour Walgreen's store is proposed adjacent to my residential neighborhood.

    Developers are currently offering a 10 foot high berm with an 8-foot fence at the top as a visual barrier.

    Neigbhors don't like the fence idea, and would prefer a taller berm and a double row of trees on top -- rather than a fence.

    How large a berm is necessary to shield our view of a 28 foot high store?

    My home is about 100 feet from my back lot line. The store will be about 210 feet in to the commercial property from my lot line. The base elevation of my home and the store are about the same.

    It may be impossible to block views from the second story of our homes, but we want to insure a barrier for us on the first floor.

    Is there a calculator or a website that you're aware of to determine line of sight or what height barrier is necessary to block the view?

    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I would recommend a 10 foot high berm (although that seems tall to me) and an assortment of evergreen trees and shrubs. I think a uniform row or two of trees would look too institutional. My personal preference is to NOT do a fence on top of a berm, but your city my have something different. A nice line of evergreen plants would ensure yearround "protection."

    My biggest concern would be the wall pack lighting they are using on the building. Ask for fully-shielded and downward cast lighting ONLY. With regard to parking lot and perimeter lighting, no light should spill over the lot lines (on the ground) but I would ask that all parking lot lighting be fully-recessed and downward cast.

    Sorry, I went on the tangent here, hope this helps or one of my associates will be along shortly with better, more thorough answers.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I would require a visualization based on actual topography and construction plans. Check this site out

    EDIT

    This is an animated berm visualization. Click on the lower of the two.

  4. #4
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    Hi there - I'm new here; thought that I could help.

    Most Landscape Architects that I talk to tell me that a 3:1 berm is the steepest slope that could be planted on to ensure that the plantings survive. So if you want trees, for every 1 ft. in elevation that you want to increase the height of the berm, the width of the berm would increase by 6 ft., (unless retaining walls get proposed, which have their own problems, and assuming that the berm is being accommodated on the developer's land). The developers may resist further increasing the height of the berm depending on how tight the site is, because increasing height means widening the berm, and thereby taking away from the developable site area. This is probably why they're proposing the berm/fence combo. Something to consider.

    As well, before dismissing the fence, think about what activity occurs on the side of the building that faces the residential area. If it's noisy (ie. loading bays), a fence may provide better acoustical mitigation than the immature trees that will get planted. If you/they go with a fence, try to get tree and shrub plantings on the berm between the fence and the residences.

    ZMAN raises good points about evergreens and lighting. Good luck!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    From a design point, you do not want berm plus a fence on top, it will actually accentuate the use and cause shadowing on the adjacent residential units. When designing a berm and natural screen as has been suggested, don't plant all of the trees on the top of the berm either, plant them on the downslope of the residential side near the crest, but not on top.

    Not to be to harsh, you may be over reacting to the impact of the walgreens. To construct a 10 foot tall berm, it will have to be at least 20 feet wide (10 feet center to edge) to hold together, plus as noted the 210 foot distance from your home to the use, is almost the distance of a normal city block.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by halyn
    Hi there - I'm new here; thought that I could help.

    Most Landscape Architects that I talk to tell me that a 3:1 berm is the steepest slope that could be planted on to ensure that the plantings survive. So if you want trees, for every 1 ft. in elevation that you want to increase the height of the berm, the width of the berm would increase by 6 ft., <snip>
    3:1 is the absolute maximum slope you can mow, and a lot won't mow that. 10 feet tall, 3:1 slopes on both sides, 5' wide top (maybe 10') is a total of 65-70 feet wide.

    I checked your (ryellen) previous posts and you mentioned a 75' setback from your property to the building, this berm would take up that entire 75'. Is the building still in the same place?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    How tall is your house? can you see the lights of the parking lot from your second floor windows? If so, ten feet may not be enough.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    3:1 is the absolute maximum slope you can mow, and a lot won't mow that. 10 feet tall, 3:1 slopes on both sides, 5' wide top (maybe 10') is a total of 65-70 feet wide.

    I checked your (ryellen) previous posts and you mentioned a 75' setback from your property to the building, this berm would take up that entire 75'. Is the building still in the same place?

    Thnaks for the better info. Your slope values are better
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  9. #9
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    I would recommend a 10 foot high berm (although that seems tall to me) and an assortment of evergreen trees and shrubs.
    Planting an assortment of trees and shrubs is also important not only from an aesthetic point of view but if your community is blesses with some sort of tree or shrub fungus or diease you won't end up loosing all your screen.

    Alternate your planting types to allow a less uniformed look and increase the chances that all plantings will survive.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I seem to have forgotten about the width berms would have to be in order for them to be taller. And my background in landscape maintenance seems to have been void at the time I had written this yesterday (end of a long day at the Planning dept.) You cannot mow steep berms very easily.

    But reading some of the other posts has made me think of something else. We have an Albertsons (grocery store) in town that backs right up to a residential area. Now the fencing and landscape are decent, but it is the rear of the store where the deliveries arrive that faces the houses. THAT neighborhood had us put on a time restriction for the delieveries to the store. Instead of normal grocery deliveries occuring in the middle of the night, Albertsons has to get theirs during the day.

    Think about that one too.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Be sure if you are going to go with the Berm idea that you specify the size of trees that they should plant.

    A berm was suggested for a property that I know of and they were told to plant trees on top and the went out and bought the 1 ft cedars, then there was a dought for a couple of years and they had been planted in really poor soil. So now they are just barely 2-3 ft tall. That is not screening........
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  12. #12
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    300 feet is a large distance and any noise impact will be greatly reduced by the time it makes it to your patio/deck/house. The proposed berm (no fence, please go with the bermside naturalistically planted with a variety of evergreens and native vegetation), sounds like it will be more than adequate at screening the "nasties" at ground level. The occasional daytime & weekday delivery truck, the daytime & weekday garbage pickup, the outside storage, etc. On weekends or after work, lighting will be the biggest issue this walgreens presents. Make sure that all lighting is down facing, sheilded, and directed away from your property.

    If the walgreens faces a busy road, you may be surprised to find out that the store will REDUCE the amount of traffic and commercial noise you will experience. I know from living first hand next to a brake/tire store. My house was about 180 feet from a roadway carrying 20,000 cars a day. I barely noticed the noise of the road in my backyard thanks to the brick commercial building which was about 30 feet from my property line. I believe that most commercial uses are not as bad as they are imagined to be.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Evergreens, lighting, fence, delivery hours, etc. - all good ideas. The only thing that has not been mentioned is drainage. Make sure that a berm does not disrupt the natural flow, or you may end up with a swamp.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  14. #14
    I'd also look at the orientation of the drive-through pharmacy window so that headlights aren't pointing at your bedroom window of an evening, along with the inevitable car that needs a new muffler or kids with the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa stereos waiting to pick up their scrips for hearing aids.

    Although the berm might work, I'd look at a privacy fence or wall instead to keep the trash on wallygreen' side and not blown into your backyard.
    Je suis Charlie

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    But reading some of the other posts has made me think of something else. We have an Albertsons (grocery store) in town that backs right up to a residential area. Now the fencing and landscape are decent, but it is the rear of the store where the deliveries arrive that faces the houses. THAT neighborhood had us put on a time restriction for the delieveries to the store. Instead of normal grocery deliveries occuring in the middle of the night, Albertsons has to get theirs during the day.
    Agreed, the backup beepers on forklifts was a huge issue in a Home Despot infill development case I worked a while back. Forklift noise, trucks idling, and the crash and boom of garbage truck ops do have an impact. Luckily the delivery requirements for a pharmacy are much smaller than big box stores.

  16. #16
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    Thanks for the many helpful replies. The suggestions on landscaping, lighting and restrictions on snow removal, etc. were especially useful.

    I'd like to know if there is a formula or a program which creates line of sight drawings, where I could enter variables such as distance to the berm, height of berm etc.

    I don't trust the developer's representations, because it doesn't show actual elevations for our home and the Walgreen's, or the actual distance of the home from the berm.

    Obviously if I'm standing right at the base of the berm I can't see anything on the other side, but if I'm 150 feet away, I would see more, correct?

    Thanks!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ryeellen
    I'd like to know if there is a formula or a program which creates line of sight drawings, where I could enter variables such as distance to the berm, height of berm etc.
    Line of site is a simple proportion equation.

    Here is a crude excel file to figure how tall the object has to be too see it from the other side of the berm. I did this in a hurry so ask if it confuses you.

    The main thing is assume where you are is a height of 0 and the other heights are based on that. So if the ground is a foot lower where you are standing then where the berm is, you need to add a foot to the height of the berm.

    Line of Site.xls

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by halyn
    Hi there - I'm new here; thought that I could help.

    Most Landscape Architects that I talk to tell me that a 3:1 berm is the steepest slope that could be planted on to ensure that the plantings survive. So if you want trees, for every 1 ft. in elevation that you want to increase the height of the berm, the width of the berm would increase by 6 ft
    I'm not real good at math, but a 3:1 slope means that for every 1 foot of elevation, you need 3 feet of width. Unless you meant a 6:1 slope???? - sorry to nit-pick.
    Otherwise following the 3:1 approach, 10' of height requires 30' of setback, to allow the plants to survive, that is.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  19. #19
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    Thank you so much for your help -- unfortunately, when I clicked on the link, I got a message that said invalid attachment.

    Would you be kind enough to post again, or email to me at ryeellen@hotmail.com

    Thanks!

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr
    I'm not real good at math, but a 3:1 slope means that for every 1 foot of elevation, you need 3 feet of width. Unless you meant a 6:1 slope???? - sorry to nit-pick.
    Otherwise following the 3:1 approach, 10' of height requires 30' of setback, to allow the plants to survive, that is.
    ssn I think she means 3:1 on the foreslope and 3:1 on the backslope would make the berm 6 foot wide

    Quote Originally posted by ryeellen
    Thank you so much for your help -- unfortunately, when I clicked on the link, I got a message that said invalid attachment.

    Would you be kind enough to post again, or email to me at ryeellen@hotmail.com

    Thanks!
    hmmm....worked at home, but not at work, Let me see what I can do.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    OK, lets try this again.

    Here is a diagram to help show what the number represent. Provided the link actually works


    Line_of_site.xls

  22. #22
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    savemattoon,

    You are a prince! I really appreciate the berm calculator -- it helped me a lot!

  23. #23
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    savemattoon,

    Could you clarify something for me?

    I want to make sure I'm doing this correctly -- if the base of the berm and my home are at the same elevation, but the store is at an elevation 4 feet lower than me, would I add or subtract the 4 feet from the actual berm height?

    This may be obvious to some, but math isn't my strong suit!

    Thanks again!

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ryeellen
    savemattoon,

    Could you clarify something for me?

    I want to make sure I'm doing this correctly -- if the base of the berm and my home are at the same elevation, but the store is at an elevation 4 feet lower than me, would I add or subtract the 4 feet from the actual berm height?

    This may be obvious to some, but math isn't my strong suit!

    Thanks again!
    enter the actual berm height, add the 4 feet to "object height" it gives you. The "object height" is how high above the ground at your house. If the ground at the object is 4 feet lower, then the object can be 4 feet taller then the result given.

    I hope I'm explaining it clearly, I can get things so I understand them, but can never explain very well to others. If your head hurts, it because this is to close to high school math class

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