MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2007

AT 6:30 P.M., IN COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL,

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

PRESENT:          Board Members -      Green, Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald, and

Steele

ABSENT:            Board Members – None  

OTHERS PRESENT:    Daryl Poprave, Cheri King, and 10 others.

 

2.   APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

It was moved by Higgins and supported by Holthof to approve the minutes of the November 20, 2007 meeting as presented.  Motion was unanimously approved.

 

The Chairman explained the public hearing procedures and how the Board decides if the variance request is approved based on the five ordinance criteria.

 

3.   PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

a.      No. 07-15 – Alex Rapanos for an area/dimension variance to exceed the maximum allowable square footage for a wall sign at 1549 Washington Street.

 

Mr. Poprave showed an aerial photograph of the subject property.  It is located in a large strip-mall development on the north side of this development.  It is west of Washington, south of Haley Street and north of Patrick Rd.  It is zoned RC Commercial and adjacent to office service to the west.  There is some RB to the north.  In Attachment 3, the city issued a letter in 2005 where the existing conditions of the property were discussed, along with future signage requirements.  The petition is on behalf of a tenant named Covenant Med Express.  They desire to erect two wall signs, one on the side that faces Washington and one on the interior of the driveway that faces the parking area.  They would like to erect two, 87 sq. ft. signs, for an aggregate of 174 sq. ft. of signage.  At the present time there are nine wall signs in this development advertising tenants in this shopping plaza.  For purposes of signage, the city has divided this property into five buildings.  Table 8.2, footnote “e” permits an additional 150 sq. ft. of signage based upon the amount of street frontage.  They already have more than the allowable sq. ft. of signage, as it was erected prior to the existing zoning ordinance.  However, in order to have additional signage, a variance is required from the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Mr. Poprave showed photographs of this building from several angles.  They do have a pylon sign that has empty space on it.  In addition, some of the additional tenants have signage above their businesses already on this building. 

 

Staff recommends denial of this variance based upon the fact that Building E well exceeds the amount of allowable signage allowed.  The property owner is solely responsible for who receives what amount of signage on the property.  Staff thinks there is room for the property owner to adjust other signage on the property to allow additional signage for this new business.  There is also space available on the pylon sign.  All the signs that are currently there total 450 square feet.  That entire building is only allowed 300 sq. ft. under the current zoning ordinance. 

 

The petitioner, Alex Rapanos, property manager for this commercial site, and who resides at 700 Heathermoor, Midland stated that there was signage here for Chart Hits Video, which was taken down when this business left this location.  His intention is not to circumvent the ordinance but he has a tenant that needs signage for his business.  If this were built in three separate buildings, they would be allowed 900 sq. ft. of signage on three separate buildings.  There is a new strip mall here in town that contains Starbucks, Coldstone Creamery and Sprint.  They have maximized their signage at about 300 sq. ft.  His building is almost three times the size of this development.  All but one of his signs was put up before the ordinance changed.  They have agreements with their tenants that they will be allowed signage for their business.  It is very difficult to go to an existing tenant and ask them to reduce their signage because he has a new tenant moving in.  A tenant needs to have some visibility on the building.  They just want to have equal visibility to the other tenants and to other businesses throughout the community. 

 

Green asked if the petitioner has a lease already signed for this building.  Mr. Rapanos stated he has been working on the lease, but one of the conditions of their signing the lease is that they are allowed to have appropriate signage. 

 

Higgins asked why they need to have such a large sign.  What they are asking for is more than half of what the entire building is allowed.  Higgins asked if a 60 sq. ft. sign would be acceptable.  The petitioner stated he would have to ask Covenant if they would be agreeable to that.  He did not know.  Holthof asked how large the sign was for Chart Hits that was taken down.  The petitioner stated he did not know.  The sign was taken down about two years ago.  The petitioner stated he has not discussed reducing signage for other businesses in the building with the business owners.  The petitioner stated there is room for a sign for this business in the pylon sign but the size of this is only 1’ x 8’.

 

The Chairman opened the public hearing and asked if there was anyone present who wished to speak in favor of the request.

 

Allen Storm with Covenant Health Care, 5754 Maple Road Frankenmuth, Michigan, stated part of the reason they picked this location for Covenant Health Care was due to the location on Patrick Road and off Washington Street.  They felt that when someone saw the Covenant Health Care sign on the building it would draw customers to the business.  This is an occupational health business, not an urgent health care business.  Higgins asked if 60 sq. ft. total signage would be acceptable.  Mr. Storm stated he could not answer this question.  He would have to go back to Covenant to see if they would accept it or not.  Higgins stated the sign they are asking for is larger than any sign would be allowed in the City of Midland.

 

Tim Tinney, Facilities Services Director for Covenant Healthcare, 3873 State Street, Bridgeport, Michigan, stated that this is their logo so the “dove” in the logo is not going to go away.  He would have to speak with the management of Covenant Health Care to see if they would be willing to accept the smaller signage.  Holthof stated there are too many unknowns here tonight so he would like to table this request.  Holthof asked if they tenant needed a decision tonight and Holthof stated if so it may not be favorable, based upon the information that is lacking for the Board.  Mr. Tinney stated that this is a new business and the ability for people to recognize them from the road is critical to the success of their business.  Green asked if they have ever had different sized signs in other communities.  Mr. Tinney stated that each community has its only ordinances and that they have different sized signs in other communities.

 

At the request of the petitioner, the Board adjourned the meeting for a five minute recess so the petitioners could caucus and determine whether they want the Board to move forward tonight with a decision or if they would like them to table the request until the January meeting.  After the ensuing five minute recess the Chairman re-adjourned the meeting and directed the petitioner to address the Board.

 

Alex Rapanos, 700 Heathermoor Drive, Midland, property manager for Midland Towne Center, stated they can remove the “Med Express” portion of the sign which will reduce the amount of signage needed.  They request a decision tonight with as much as the Board feels would be needed by this facility, keeping in mind what the other businesses in the community have for signage. 

 

No one else spoke either in favor of or in opposition to this request and the Chairman closed the public hearing and directed the Board to enter into findings of fact on the request.

 

Findings of Fact:

 

1.        The property is zoned RC – Regional Commercial.

2.        The building is located at 1549 Washington Street.

3.        The building was built in the mid-1980’s, prior to the current zoning ordinance and its sign requirements. (The prior ordinance allowed more wall signage.)

4.        The new tenant occupies 4,800 sq. ft. or 20% of the building total sq. footage of 24,000 sq. ft.

5.        The building is labeled “E” on attachment #2 of the packet.

6.        The new tenant makes 10 occupants of Building “E”.

7.        The building is non-conforming for wall signs with a total of 450 sq. ft. of wall sign currently.

8.        Two letters were received in favor of the zoning change.  Two persons spoke in favor of the zoning change, both representing the tenant.

9.        There were two previous signs which were obsolete and, therefore, taken down by the owner.

10.    The existing pylon sign has space available for additional signage.

11.    There is 650 feet of street frontage on Washington Street, which would allow an additional 150 sq. ft. of wall signage.

 

            It is moved by Holthof and supported by Steele to approve Petition No. 07-15 based on the findings of fact to allow the construction of 174 sq. ft. of wall signage at 1549 Washington Street.

 

Higgins proposed an amendment to the motion “provided that:

1)      Signs on individual tenants cannot exceed the number of tenant’s times 300 sq. ft.

2)      Total sign area of the building may not exceed 300 sq. ft. except:

a.       Current signs may remain until removed

b.      New occupant may have a sign per condition 1 (20% x 300 or 60 sq. ft.), but the total of the signage does not increase the total allowed signage of the building, but will be reduced until a sign is removed until the building signage meets the 300 sq. ft.  As the owner removes signs, he cannot add additional signage until he meets the 300 sq. ft. requirement.

This amendment fails due to the lack of a second.

 

Motion by Higgins and supported by Steele to amend the motion make the additional signage limited to 64 sq. ft. instead of 174 sq. ft. based upon the findings of fact.

 

            Higgins stated that ordinance conformity would be unnecessarily burdensome.  The business should be allowed to have some signage.  The variance is the minimum needed to advertise this business at this location. 

 

Green stated that this company has made a decision to enter the Midland market and that a retail establishment needs some kind of signage.  He does not feel that 64 sq. ft. would prevent them from being a successful entity.  They will undoubtedly do some advertising to make people in the community aware of this business. 

 

Steele agrees with everything that has been said.  As we moved from the prior zoning ordinance to the new ordinance, there was no method of transition from the old requirements to the new requirements. 

 

Holthof agrees with Higgins in his analysis of the criteria.  He feels that, due to the distance off Patrick Road, they need the additional signage. 

 

Lichtenwald is in agreement with what has already been said.

 

Voting on the motion:

            Green:  Yes    

Higgins:    Yes

Holthof:  Yes

            Lichtenwald:  Yes

            Steele:  Yes

 

The amended motion to approve the Petition 07-15 was approved 5-0.

 

4.   PUBLIC COMMENTS (not related to items on the agenda)

 

            None

 

5.      OLD BUSINESS

 

None

 

6.   NEW BUSINESS

 

            None

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

 

  1. 07-12 recorded
  2. 07-13, 07-14 review of findings of fact

     

8.   ADJOURNMENT

 

Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:36 p.m.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Daryl Poprave

Deputy Planning Director