MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE MIDLAND CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY,

JULY 28, 2009, 7:00 P.M.,

COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL, MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.   Roll Call

PRESENT:  Brown, Eyre, Gaynor, Hanna, Mead, Pnacek and Senesac

ABSENT:   King

VACANCY:  One

OTHERS PRESENT: Keith Baker, Planning Director; Cindy Winland, Contract Planner, Cheri King, Community Development Specialist, and seven others.

 

2.   Approval of Minutes

Moved by Hanna, seconded by Eyre, to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of July 14, 2009 as written. Motion passed unanimously.

 

3.   Public Hearing

 

      a)   Site Plan No. 293 from Gerace Design Group on behalf of St. Brigid Catholic

            Church for site plan review and approval of a 12,700 square foot building addition

            located at 207 Ashman Street.

 

            Cindy Winland showed an aerial photograph of the subject property.  Surrounding land uses include public and institutional including the city and county buildings.  There are some retail and office uses and parking lots in this area.  The zoning in the entire area is “Downtown.”  The future land use is also very consistent, showing it as staying in the Downtown designation.  This is a 12,700 sq. ft. addition to the existing structure.  There is an existing sanctuary, school, playground, and parking on the site.  The playground is roughly where the new addition will be.  The site plan is complete.  The proposed project does not impede any other development in the area or any ability to develop the surrounding area.  Landscaping is computed based upon street frontage, parking and land area.  There will be nine trees removed and ten trees preserved.  Three trees are located in the city’s right-of-way.  There will be 10 new trees and 42 new shrubs, making it eligible to meet the Zoning Ordinance requirements.  The closest point to any property line is on Larkin Street, which is four feet.  The fire department has reviewed the proposed site plan and determined that it is adequate for emergency vehicle access.  Circulation on the site will change from what it is now, where parents can drop children off at the school.  Children who will be arriving by bus will be dropped off on the Larkin Street side.  There is room for five buses in this area.  Parents bringing children to school will use a driveway both entering and exiting off Ellsworth Street.  Trash collection is located on the south side of the building. 

 

            There are no parking minimums in the Downtown District.  The site plan is exempt from providing off-street parking, according to the ordinance.  Staff did compute how many parking spaces would be required if this were not in the Downtown Zoning District and that number is 192 spaces.  Staff counted 460 parking spaces in the vicinity of this area.  Storm water retention is adequate and will be submitted for Engineering Department review.  There will be one light post in the area where vehicles will be dropping off children.   A photometric plan will be available within the next few weeks. 

 

            Water will be extended from the existing structure.  New storm and sanitary sewer will be added.  The trash receptacle will be adequately screened.  No health or safety issues have been identified.  The project will be done all in one phase.  There will be a slight change in pedestrian traffic in this area. 

 

      The following contingencies have been identified:

 

      1.   The Storm water detention system is designed and constructed in accordance with the City of Midland Engineering Department specifications.

      2.   All landscaping shall comply with Article 6 of the Zoning Ordinance.

      3.   A photometric plan shall be submitted and all exterior lighting shall comply with Section 3.12 of the Zoning Ordinance.

      4.   All exterior signage shall comply with Article 8 of the Zoning Ordinance.

      5.   All parking spaces shall comply with Section 5.01D of the Zoning Ordinance and be delineated by the “box” style striping.

      6.   The location, access and flow of any proposed fire hydrants and water service shall be in accordance with the City of Midland Fire Department and City of Midland Utility Department specifications.

      7.   All irrigation systems will comply with the City of Midland Water Department specifications.

      8.   The bus drop off area on Larkin shall be shown and meet the requirements of the City of Midland Engineering Department.

 

            No public comments or correspondence has been received by the Planning Department to date.  Mrs. Hanna asked how many parking spaces they currently have.  The petitioner stated they now have roughly 50 spaces.  Mrs. Hanna stated she has two concerns.  The first is the amount of parking they will be taking away. It seems like they will have to be relying on parking provided by other businesses in the area.  She is also concerned about the number of mature trees being removed from the site.  Ms. Brown asked about the requirement for the sidewalk to be seven feet.  Should this not be added to the contingency items?  Ms. Winland stated this could be added to the language in the contingency items.

 

            Mr. Baker noted that the city’s contract traffic consultant has reviewed the proposed site plan and recommended the bus drop off lane on Larkin St. as well as possible changes to the parking and entrance drive off of Ellsworth St.   

 

            Lance Bickel, from Gerace Construction, represented the petitioner.  The primary trees that are being removed are in the area of the bus drop-off.  The trees that will replace those will meet the Zoning Ordinance requirements.  In regards to the traffic flow pattern, he thinks the traffic consultant made the recommendation that people would come down Ellsworth, circulate around the site and loop back out.  In the center of the bus drop-off area there is a fire hydrant that will be preserved.  Right now, the parents come in to drop off children and they go every which way on the site.  The planned traffic circulation on the site will enhance safety on the site. 

 

            The existing building is a large parish hall and a number of classrooms.  The parish hall will be relocated to the new addition and it will be a middle-school gymnasium.  The center core will be additional classroom space.  With the parish hall being relocated to the gymnasium, the kitchen area will be relocated.  The food service trucks will park in the bus loading area.  There are approximately 148 students at the present time.  Expected growth is between 180 to 200 students.  There are 11 full-time employees and 11 part-time.  At the present time, buses unload students on Larkin Street, which tends to block traffic.  They have been working on the water detention area.  The net change in what is now paved area and built up area, they are only going to be required to retain water from the new addition.  Depending on how much volume is involved, it will either be stored in the playground or in an underground detention area.  They definitely do not want to store it in the parking lot.  There are utility easements that run through the site but they are not planning to build in any of these areas. 

 

            No one spoke in favor of or in opposition to the zoning petition. The public hearing was closed. 

 

4.  Public Comments (unrelated to items on the agenda)

     

      None

 

5.   New Business

                                                                     

     a) Request by Greta Wittbrodt, Laura Good, Christopher Malecki and Cassie and John Cuthbert to vacate the dedicated public walkway between West Nelson Street and Helen Street.  Referred by the City Council.

 

      Mr. Baker presented a request to vacate a 6 ft. wide walkway.  The walkway separates the properties at 123 and 127 W. Nelson Street and 128 and 202 W. Helen Street.  These four properties are single-family residences.  This is essentially a mid-block right-of-way to Nelson Park, between Nelson and Helen Streets.  The neighborhood properties are all single family properties, zoned RA-1.  It is located between Ashman, Nelson, Helen and Manor Drive. 

 

      Section 23-39 establishes the process by which we consider vacation requests.  The process includes a referral by City Council to the Planning Commission, City Engineer, Utilities Director and Public Services Director.  The Planning Commission reviews the vacation request and makes a recommendation to City Council.  City Council reviews the Planning Commission recommendation and department reports.  City Council schedules a public hearing and advertises the hearing.  Then City Council takes action upon the request.

 

      January 5, 1931, the Midland Manor No. 1 subdivision within the City of Midland was officially platted.  The plat included a 6 foot public walkway extending from Helen Street to Nelson Street.  From its location, it appears the intent of the walkway was to allow pedestrian traffic to Nelson Park.  The walkway is not being used.  Adjacent residents would like to “clean up” their property lines.  The ordinance does not provide any specific criteria for the Planning Commission to consider.  Will the vacation result in a loss of public use or access or is it still a valuable asset to the city?

 

      In 2002 there was a public walkway that was recommended for vacation at that time by the Planning Commission, and approved by City Council.  If the walkway is vacated, the property is divided among the adjacent property owners.  There are no utilities and there has been no public use of this walkway for quite some time.  There has been no notification of the neighbors regarding this petition.  It is not required until City Council advertises for public input.  Neighbors will be notified when the item returns to City Council.  The walkway is not maintained by the city.  It is maintained by the neighbors on either side.  If there is no sidewalk leading to the park, the walkway is not maintained by the city. 

 

      Greta Wittbrodt, 123 W. Nelson Street.  She has lived there for 37 years and, during that time, she has never seen anyone use that walkway.  The previous owner also told her that she had lived there for eight years and no one used the walkway during that time.  In February, she adopted a rescue dog who requires a fence.  She worries about the dog going onto Ashman Street.  She wants to put up a fence.  She did not want to put up a fence six feet from her neighbors and then have the city vacate this property at some later date.  She would like the matter settled before she puts up a fence.  The neighbors at 127 Nelson and 202 Helen Street both have fences already and they are not interested in the additional property.  Mr. Mead asked if she would abut her fence right up to the fence of her next door neighbor.  The fence along 128 Nelson Street is in poor condition and has been patched a number of times. 

 

      Motion by Hanna, seconded by Gaynor, to recommend to City Council to vacate the dedicated public walkway between West Nelson Street and Helen Street.

 

      Mr. Senesac stated that last night there was a presentation made to City Council about non-motorized transportation.  This is a very long block.  If we are to encourage people to get out and walk, it seems like this walkway would be maintained.  The fact that there is nothing there to delineate that this is a walkway, perhaps people do not realize this is a public walkway.  The way the petitioner spoke, the other property owners do not care if this is abandoned or not.  Mrs. Hanna read the bottom of the petition and it is signed by all four affected property owners. 

 

      Mr. Eyre stated he has some concern that the rest of the neighbors have not been notified of this petition.  He realizes that it has to be published after it goes back to City Council.  Also, it would seem that if this is truly a right-of-way, the city should have been maintaining it all along.  Mr. Mead stated he brought this subject up at lunch today and his acquaintances seem to be aware of it.  If this is approved, it will set a precedent for every other walkway in town.  He thinks they should be mowed and maintained by the city.  Mr. Gaynor stated the process is what the process is.  The Planning Commission cannot change the process.  The walkway has not been used for its purpose for 37 years.  There are fences already up in this area and he does not see any use for this walkway.  Mr. Pnacek stated that the City Council has to publish and send notices out to the surrounding neighborhood.  If there is anyone with a concern about this, they will have the opportunity to provide public input.  Mr. Gaynor, Mrs. Hanna, and Ms. Brown agree that this has not been used and that it probably should be vacated.  There will be the opportunity for public input at a future step in the process.  Mr. Baker stated notices would be sent to all the properties in the plat.  If there is any objection to the closure, it will require a super-majority of votes of City Council, that being a 4/5 vote of Council. 

 

      Motion passes 4-3 to recommend to City Council to vacate the walkway between Nelson and Helen Streets.

 

6.  Old Business

 

      a)   Site Plan No. 292 from Three Rivers Corporation on behalf of Ieuter Insurance

            Group for site plan review and approval of a 16,006 square foot office building located

            at 414 Townsend Street.

 

            Mr. Pnacek requested to be allowed to abstain as he is employed by Three Rivers

            Corporation, as was permitted at the July 14th meeting.

 

            Mr. Baker showed an aerial photograph of the subject property.  It is located between Buttles and Indian and Townsend and Cronkright Streets.  It is located on the northeast part of the Downtown area, between the one-way pairs.  The majority of the property is zoned Downtown.  The petitioner subsequently acquired a small parcel that is zoned Office Service, but would provide area for parking.  The future land use plan shows this area designated for Downtown purposes.  There is a single point of access on Townsend Street.  There have been no additional public correspondences either in favor of or in opposition to this request.  There were eight contingency items in the staff report.  The petitioner made reference to the fact, after the public hearing, that they are seeking LEED certification for this building.  The landscaping exceeded minimum requirements.  They do provide off-street parking on site, but they would not meet the minimum requirements if it were not zoned Downtown.  They provide screening for the trash receptacles. 

 

            Kristin Riddle, 3069 Vantage Point Drive, Midland, spoke on behalf of the petitioner. 

            She stated she would be willing to answer any questions of the Planning Commission. 

            There were no questions for the petitioner.

 

            Bill Johnson, 3535 E. Ashman Street, is in favor of this petition.  He would like to draw to the Planning Commission’s attention that this site plan does not meet the criteria of the proposed northside overlay district.  The Planning Commission may have to remove this property from the overlay district or change some of their standards.  Motion by Mead, seconded by Hanna, to recommend to City Council for site plan review and approval of a 16,006 square foot office building located at 414 Townsend Street with the following contingencies: 

 

            1.   The storm water detention system is designed and constructed in accordance with the City of Midland Engineering Department specifications.

            2.   All landscaping shall comply with Article 6 of the Zoning Ordinance

            3.   All exterior lighting shall comply with Section 3.12 of the Zoning Ordinance.

            4.   All exterior signage shall comply with Article 8 of the Zoning Ordinance.

            5.   All parking spaces shall comply with Section 5.01D of the Zoning Ordinance and be delineated by the “box” style striping.

            6.   The location, access and flow of any proposed fire hydrants and water service shall be in accordance with the City of Midland Fire Department and City of Midland Utility Department specifications.

            7.   All irrigation systems will comply with the City of Midland Water Department specifications.

            8.   The sidewalks shall be 5 ft. wide around the perimeter of the site.

 

            Mr. Baker commented on the standards of the proposed Downtown Overlay District.  This development would exceed the setback from Townsend Street.  It would be 2-story, but definitely this is being developed prior to the change in the ordinance.  Mrs. Hanna stated she thinks they did a very nice job on this site plan and she is in favor of it. Mr. Gaynor stated he wished they tried to use some of the design elements of the ordinance, but he is in favor of it.  Ms. Brown stated she is also in support of the plan.

     

      Vote:

      YEAS:             Brown, Eyre, Gaynor, Hanna, Mead, Pnacek and Senesac

      NAYS:             None

      ABSENT:        King

      VACANCY:     One

     

      Motion passes 7-0

 

7.   Communications

 

      The July 2009 Planning and Zoning News          

 

8.  Report of the Chairperson  

 

      None

 

9.  Report of the Planning Director

 

     City Council appointed a new member to the Planning Commission, James Stewart, and he will be joining in at the next meeting in August. 

 

     Mr. Baker received one response so far to participate in the annual planning conference September 30 through October 3 in Mount Pleasant.  Please let the office know if you would like to attend.

 

10.  Adjourn  

 

      Adjournment at 8:17 p.m. was unanimously approved.

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

Keith Baker, AICP

Director of Planning & Community Development

 

MINUTES ARE NOT FINAL UNTIL APPROVED BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION