MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE MIDLAND CITY PLANNING COMMISSION,

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY,

JANUARY 9, 2007, 7:00 P.M.,

COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL, MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.   Roll Call

PRESENT:  Brown, Eyre, Gaynor, Hanna, Jocks, Kozakiewicz, Mead, Senesac and Svenson

ABSENT:     None

OTHERS PRESENT:  Daryl Poprave, Acting Director of Planning & Community Development; Cheri Standfest, Community Development Specialist, Jim Branson, City Attorney, Brad Maki, Assistant City Engineer and 8 others.

 

2.   Approval of Minutes

Regular Meeting of December 12, 2006.

On page 5, the next to the last full paragraph, the second line, “wimp” should be “whim”.

It was moved by Eyre and supported by Senesac to approve the minutes of December 12, 2006.  The minutes were unanimously approved as corrected. 

 

3.      Public Hearing

 

a.   Zoning Petition No. 532 (tabled) – Consideration of a petition initiated by Patrick and Shawn Pnacek to rezone .98 acres of land located at 110 Oakbrook Drive from RA-1 to OS.

      This is still tabled and will not be dealt with tonight.

      b.   Zoning Petition No. 534 (tabled) – Consideration of a petition initiated by Patrick and Shawn Pnacek to rezone .96 acres of land located at 104 Oakbrook Drive from RA-1 to OS.

      This is still tabled and will not be dealt with tonight.

c.   Zoning Petition No. 541 – Consideration of a petition initiated by Lapham Development, LLC to rezone 2.06 acres of land located at 1314 West Wheeler Street from Office Service zoning to Regional Commercial zoning including the voluntary offer of conditions pursuant to Section 30.03(E) of the Zoning Ordinance.  (POSTPONED)

 

4.   Public Comments (not related to agenda items)

 

      None

 

5.      Old Business

 

a.   Vacation of Public Property – Consideration of a petition initiated by the Dow Chemical Company – Michigan Operations, to vacate the following public streets:  Austin Street, Bay City Road, including sections of 18th Street, 19th Street, 21st Street and Washington Street.

 

Motion by Hanna, seconded by Senesac to remove this petition from the table.  Motion was unanimously approved.

 

The Chairman presented the format to be followed for this petition.  The Interim Planning Director will make his presentation, the Engineering Department will make their presentation, then Dow Chemical Company will make their presentation.  Following this, they will open the floor for Commissioners to speak and then the public will be allowed to speak.

 

Mr. Poprave reviewed the aerial photo of the proposed street vacations.  Dow Chemical Company has petitioned the city to vacate the above mentioned streets.  He also presented a drawing provided by Dow Chemical Company indicating a new proposed gate and their desire to have all their streets behind the Dow fence line. 

 

Tonight is a follow-up to the December 12th meeting including the process, history, requested information, and public comments.

 

The process states the City Council shall adopt a resolution referring the matter to the Planning Commission, the City Engineer, and other City departments as appropriate, for their report and recommendation.  A public hearing is not conducted by the Planning Commission but is rather reserved for City Council. 

 

The Planning Commission could consider the Master Plan for guidance.  Goals 7 and 8 of the existing Master Plan, which include providing land to support industrial diversification of the Midland Economy and maintaining streets for efficient movement throughout the City, without disruption of residential neighborhoods.  Dow Chemical stated they have some Renaissance Zoned land, but this is not the major reason they are asking for these street vacations.

 

City streets are designed by the City Engineering Department.  Because this vacation will likely require alternate access via a new east to west road, City Council could require a development agreement as a condition of approving the street vacation request.  Prior to the streets being removed, this development agreement will be executed and a final road design will be received, and the new public road made operational to the Midland Soccer Club agreement project.

 

Thus, once the recommendations from the Planning Commission, City Engineer and other city departments have been received by City Council, the vacation request will be subject to a public hearing.  City Council action on this vacation request will be based on all the public information received.

 

There were several public comments received at the December 12th meeting including representatives from Rapanos Enterprises, Steve LaLonde and Consumers Energy. 

 

The Planning Commission is assigned the responsibility to offer a report and recommendation on vacation to City Council.

 

Brad Maki, Assistant City Engineer, showed an aerial photo.  One of the big issues is the timing of the traffic shift.  By closing Austin Street, Bay City Road and Austin, traffic will be directed to James Savage Road which will provide for a smoother traffic flow.  The intersection of James Savage Road and South Saginaw Road is already fairly loaded with traffic and would cause less efficient traffic movements. 

 

Mr. Maki showed another aerial photo showing Washington Street., James Savage Road and Austin Street.  Traffic will have basically a through movement on Washington Street.  This would allow significantly smoother traffic flows on Washington Street and cause less traffic congestion at the corner of Washington Street and James Savage Road.  The level of service at that intersection will be improved by eliminating the vehicle delay caused by increased traffic in this area.  There will be less volume of traffic and less left turning movement from James Savage Road onto Washington Street.  By closing James Savage Road, the traffic on Washington will decrease.  This will provide for a more efficient intersection.  There will also be less conflict between vehicles and pedestrians, which also provides for a safer intersection.  These road closures will not impact the pedestrian path that goes along James Savage Road, goes under the overpass and east, along Patrick Road. 

 

Todd Konechni, Project Manager with Dow Chemical, spoke on behalf of Dow Chemical Company.  Rollie Shook, leader of Emergency Services and Security for the Dow Chemical Company, and David VanHine, Traffic Consultant from Wilcox Engineering.

 

Security initiatives have greatly increased in the chemical industry since 9/11.  The vacation of these streets plays a great part in establishing the security and allowing the enclosure by gates of the Dow Plant.  This will enable them to bring the Renaissance Zone property into the gated area.  Dow is proposing to build a new 4-lane connector road from Washington Street to Saginaw Road.  It will be designed to meet the city’s engineering standards and will be open to the public and maintained by the city of Midland.  The new public road will need to be opened and available to the public prior to the actual vacation of these proposed roads.  There will be a new entranceway into the Dow Plant through the new security gate.  It will be the only 24/7 security gate into the Dow Plant.  The City of Midland and Consumers Energy will be granted easements to take care of the utilities that go along these vacated streets. 

 

Rollie Shook spoke about the need for security for the Dow Chemical Company, as well as safety and security of the surrounding populations.  They have been working with both federal and local security agencies to enhance the security for the chemical plant.  Perimeter characteristics, physical barriers, monitoring along with emergency services, make up the perimeter security program.  A perimeter security system is made up of many layers as possible in as many locations as possible.    Safety issues such as increased greenbelt space aids in security coverage of the plant areas.  It reduces public access adjacent to the site perimeter.  It removes the public access that is directly adjacent to operations north of Austin Street and South of James Savage Road.  Dow’s plan reduces the number of gates and insures appropriate security systems are in place (as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security).  Washington Street gate will have dedicated Dow traffic corridor road (Washington Street) for all traffic that intends to enter the Dow facility.  No public traffic traveling directly adjacent to their 24-hour gate and intermingled with the Dow traffic.  It allows for monitoring of all traffic and early detection of all vehicles traveling down this corridor.  It eliminates the public access corridor (Washington, Bay City Road and Austin Street) that separates their perimeter security systems.  It allows one perimeter security system and provides potential future expansion area within the gated area. 

 

Security is the primary driver behind their request to vacate Bay City Road and Austin Street, as well as their plan to develop a new, 24-hour gate on Washington Street.

 

David VanHine spoke on behalf of Wilcox Engineering.  They performed traffic counts in this area and worked with Dow to see what their security needs included.  Because of the number of traffic signals on Bay City Road and the congestion on James Savage Road, they have tried not to send a lot of new traffic to the interchange roads at the end of US-10.  Mrs. Hanna asked about the reason for the bend in the road.  Mr. VanHine stated that the best way to bring a new road in is at a 90-degree angle.  If this bend were not in the road, it would not intersect Saginaw Road at a 90-degree angle.  The new road will be four lanes wide.  At the intersections of Washington Street and Saginaw Road, there will be traffic signals installed.  They have suggested the speed limit, although set by the city, could be 45 mph because there are no driveways or intersections on this street.  Therefore, the speed limit could be faster. 

 

At the Planning Commission meeting on December 12th, an alternate design was presented on behalf of LaLonde’s Markets.  Wilcox has examined that proposal in detail and makes the following comments on why that proposal will not be the best alternative:

·         Building a separate roadway parallel to the existing Saginaw Road but only a short distance west involves needless construction costs.

·         Building a second roadway increases maintenance costs for the City of Midland.

·         The new road provides excess capacity which is not required.

·         The proposed roadway encroaches on Dow property that was to be made secure as the initial purpose of the entire proposal.

·         The proposed roadway encroaches on existing wetland areas with resultant ramifications with the State DEQ.

·         The proposed roadway encroaches on the renaissance zoned area for future Dow expansion which may mean increased Dow employment and monetary investment in the community.

·         The proposed Saginaw Road intersections with the new boulevard cannot accommodate Saginaw Road left turning vehicles because of insufficient storage.  This means, that from a traffic engineering standpoint, the alternative will not work.

·         The proposed design does not take into consideration the eastbound Railroad Grade Road desire to turn left and go north on Saginaw Road – it is a very circuitous routing.

 

In conclusion, Todd stated they are trying to provide the best possible scenario for the community, making the traffic patterns able to accommodate the existing traffic and allowing them to access South Saginaw Road and Washington Street pretty much the way they do today.

 

Mr. Mead asked if there was a contingency plan in case there was an extreme increase in traffic in this area.  Mr. VanHine stated the majority of the land surrounding these areas is all owned by the Dow Chemical Company.  The new road is going to be a 4-lane road and that can handle quite a load of traffic.  There is a lot of capacity over and above the traffic capacity that exists today.

 

Dan Kline, 143 McDonald, Midland, Attorney for LaLonde’s Market and Steve LaLonde, owner of LaLonde’s Market spoke.  This petition involves the request by a private business for the large-scale vacation of a valuable public right of way.  It is the job of the Planning Commission to make a recommendation on this proposal.  The Planning Commission should make a deliberate informed recommendation.  Under the City’s ordinance, there is no deadline by which this Planning Commission must make its recommendation.  The Department of Homeland Security is not involved in this.  The petitioner is merely responding to the suggestions of a chemical trade association.  Nothing in the proposal submitted by the petitioner addresses the issues along South Saginaw Road.

 

Mr. Kline stated there has been no independent consideration of the public impact of these road closures.  Wilcox was retained by Dow.  They were constrained by the many conditions set by Dow in advance, including acquisition of non-Dow property.  Stan Cool, the city’s traffic consultant, is given brief mention but the city has refused to supply any documents in which his opinions are expressed.  No consideration has yet been given to the impact of this change on Midland’s southeast section including future development, ease of travel from Bay City Road to downtown Midland. 

 

Mr. LaLonde stated they have met both with the city and with Dow Chemical Company.  He is concerned with the process that has evolved.  He is concerned that the only information made available to the Planning Commission is from Dow Chemical Company and they have made only one traffic option.  Were there any other options presented or reviewed from the city’s traffic consultant?  They have requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act and were denied access to these documents.  He understands there is a report from Stan Cool forthcoming, however, they have not been made available to the public as of this time.  The numbers used in the Wilcox report were taken at three different times in one day.  Right now, if you come from downtown, you have only two traffic lights to get to Bay City Road.  Under this proposal, you will have to go through five traffic lights to get from downtown to Bay City Road.  They are fully aware of the concerns of Dow.  However, he would like to see other options considered before a final decision is made.  He stated he has been told this is the only option under review.  Why is this the only alternative being considered?  Does the Planning Commission believe it has enough background information to make a reasonable recommendation on this unprecedented street vacation?  He is a small businessman and he has done business at the Bay City Road location for nearly 50 years.  His small business does well based upon the high traffic volumes on Saginaw Road and Bay City Road at this time. 

 

Mr. Cline requested the Planning Commission obtain an independent report and analysis prior to making a final decision.

 

Todd Konechni stated there was a draft report that was created in August that was not published, that focused on another alternative.  This was to upgrade the James Savage Road and funnel all traffic through James Savage Road.  The City requested another option as this was not an acceptable alternative.  This report was never made public.  Much of the traffic coming down Austin Street, Bay City Road, and James Savage Road come into the Dow Plant.  They do not pass through the area.  Rollie stated that the Department of Homeland Security has been engaged with the formulation of this plan and does endorse this plan.  Some of the other alternatives had the fence line within 20 to 30 feet of their buildings.  This is not acceptable to their security plan. 

 

Mr. VanHine stated they have met with Stan Cool and city staff on a number of occasions and they have all reviewed this plan and found it acceptable.  They would be adding two traffic signals, but they will be modifying some of the others.

 

Jim Branson, City Attorney spoke.  He stated when the city received FOIA requests from Mr. LaLonde, there are certain limitations to what documents will be provided under a FOIA request.  The documents which were denied were “draft” documents and notes.  These documents are not required to be provided under a FOIA request.  Mr. Branson stated he did not want the Planning Commission to lose sight of what they are being asked to do.  They are being asked to consider the street vacations, not the advantages or disadvantages to the Dow Chemical Company and how they conduct their business.  He stated he is not advocating either for or against.  He is just stating that the Planning Commission needs to consider the ramifications of the street vacation based upon the information they have and the implications of these street closures.  The city often adopts reports that have been prepared by outside companies for other entities, if they believe that the report fits with the goals of the city. 

 

Mr. Poprave stated the city has been talking with Dow Chemical Company for nearly two years about this project.  This is the alternative that has seemed to be the best option. 

 

Mr. Branson stated there is a significant difference between closure and vacation.  Closure indicates there is still ownership of the surface rights by the city.  If the street is vacated, the city gives up the surface rights and does not have to maintain the surface of these roads.  If the street is vacated, the property goes to the adjacent property owners.  There are critical utility lines that run there, thereby necessitating the need to maintain the sub-surface rights by the city.

 

Mr. Senesac stated that he sees a problem securing this area with these streets in this area.  Dow has a definite need to have these streets vacated if they are to have the security they need.  The less security for Dow presents a greater risk for the city.  Vacating these streets has value to Dow as well as to the city, as greater security for Dow is greater security for the residents of the City of Midland.  He looks at it as if those streets are vacated, do we have a good alternative?  He answers this in the affirmative.  The City Engineers have done a lot of work on this plan and he is willing to support the plan based upon the recommendation of the city engineers.

 

Mr. Gaynor does not have a problem with vacating Bay City Road, Austin Street and part of Washington Street.  He sees a lack of creativity in the development of the new Railroad Grade Road, but he agrees with Mr. Senesac in his rationale.  It may not be the best option, but it is a good option.  He is inclined to approve it, but he would like to see some more thought about the new proposed roadway.

 

Mr. Mead stated we have vacated several roads over the years, but they had very low traffic counts.  These roads have significantly more traffic.  He feels they have been rushed into making a decision on this issue.  When you are vacating roads that have very few cars traveling on them, that is not a big deal.  However, when you are vacating roads that have high traffic counts, that affects peoples lives every day.  He feels he would like a little more information on some of these issues.

 

Carol Svenson agrees with Mr. Mead.  When she first looked at this area, she saw it was surrounded by Dow property and basically only affected Dow.  She now sees there are other small businesses in the area and there is always the ball stadium traffic that will be going east after the ball games.  She does not feel she has enough information on the Bay City Road and Austin Street closures. 

 

Mr. Jocks stated he agrees with this proposal.  He used to live out Bay City Road and he feels people will use the new Railroad Grade Road rather than James Savage Road as James Savage Road is a narrow road and hard to see under the overpass if you want to turn right onto South Saginaw Road.

 

Mr. Eyre stated that the city has reviewed a number of proposals and obviously brought the best proposal to the Planning Commission for consideration.  He was glad the city did not bring all the plans to the Planning Commission for review of which plan was the best.

 

Ms. Hanna stated Dow has a moral obligation to allow the city to maintain the sub-surface utilities within the fenced area.

 

Ms. Brown stated she is concerned about the number and location of traffic lights that may change traffic patterns. 

 

Dan Kozakiewicz stated he can certainly relate to the security issues and the desire for the closure of the streets.  Just based on his past experience on the Planning Commission, when there are sensitive subjects before the Commission, there are a lot of people in attendance.  He feels that if there were a lot of concern from the public, more people would have been here tonight.  There are a couple of businesses in attendance and he feels they certainly need to be sensitive to these concerns.   However, he is in favor of this proposal.

 

It was moved by Senesac and supported by Hanna to recommend approval to vacate the following public streets:  Austin Street, Bay City Road between Saginaw and Washington, including sections of 18th Street, 19th Street, 21st Street and Washington Street, as defined in the staff report, with the contingency that the new Railroad Grade Road is in place and operational prior to the vacation of these streets.

 

YEA:          Brown, Eyre, Gaynor, Hanna, Jocks, Kozakiewicz, Mead, and

                  Senesac

NAY:          Svenson

ABSENT:   None

 

The motion was approved 8-1.

 


 

 6.   New Business

 

None

 

7.  Communications

 

     Commissioners received the current issue of Planning and Zoning News.

    

8.  Report of the Chairman  

    

      The public hearing on the street vacation will be on a Monday night at a City Council Meeting.  This will be advertised as a public hearing and notices will appear in the local newspaper per ordinance.

 

9.  Report of the Planning Director

 

            CITY COUNCIL                                                                                                                

 

December 18th

                                PUBLIC HEARINGS

None

                                ACTION ITEMS

SP #254

Set public hearings for two street vacations – January 22, 2007.

 

January 8th

                PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

                ZP 535, 536, 539 approved as recommended

 

                ZP 537 (6500 & 6501 Airport Rd) – withdrawn by property owner

                ZP 538 (Airport Road ROW) postponed

                ZP 540 (221 W. Wackerly) – postponed by petitioner

 

PLANNING COMMISSION

               

January 23rd 

                                PUBLIC HEARINGS

                                None

 

                                ACTION ITEMS

                                None


 

February 1st & 2nd

                                                SPECIAL MASTER PLAN MEETING

                             Public information session on entire draft plan (televised)

                                2/1 - Meeting starts at 5:30 pm and public info starts at 7:00 pm

                                2/2 – Meeting starts at 7:30 am

 

February 13th

                PUBLIC HEARING

 

                ZP 541 (postponed due to notification error)

                ACTION ITEM

 

                LSL presentation on comments heard at the public information meetings

               

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS

 

        January 16th  

 

           07-01 – 205 S. Saginaw – dimensional variance for increased business signage

07-02 – 2706 Jefferson – dimensional variance for a setback encroachment of new 49 unit         senior apartment complex

07-03 – 1610 Sayre – dimensional variance for a setback encroachment for a garage   addition at a single family residence

                 

PENDING ADMINISTRATIVE SITE PLAN REVIEWS

 

203 W. Wackerly – 3,600 square foot addition to Wackerly Square Building (Bennett Development) – two new retail tenant spaces

5019 Eastman – Parking lot addition for 9 paved spaces and Stormwater detention pond for a new hair salon

 

DIRECTOR’S NOTES

 

The next special meeting on the Master Plan is scheduled for Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers.  Following this meeting the next Master Plan meeting will be:  Friday, February 2, 2007 at 7:30 am in City Council Chambers

 

February 13, 2007 is next regular Planning Commission meeting.  January 23, 2007 meeting has been cancelled due to notification error for ZP 541 and lack of other agenda items.

 

The public can view the Master Plan Update by accessing the City’s website at www.midland-mi.org and going to the Master Plan Update link on the homepage.

 

The City’s website has been update through the January 4th Master Plan meeting including all of LSL’s meeting presentations.


 

10.  Adjourn

Adjournment at 9:28 p.m. was unanimously approved.

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

Daryl Poprave

Acting Director of Planning and Community Development

 

MINUTES ARE NOT FINAL UNTIL APPROVED BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION