SEPTEMBER 22, 2009, 7:00 P.M.,



1.   Roll Call

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

ABSENT:   None  

OTHERS PRESENT: Keith Baker, Planning Director; Cheri King, Community Development Specialist, and four others.


2.   Approval of Minutes

Moved by Senesac, seconded by Hanna, to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of August 11, 2009 as written. Motion passed unanimously.


3.   Public Hearing




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




5.   Old Business


      a)   Review third draft of Northside Overlay District zoning language.  


            Jeff Purdy, from LSL Planning, began the presentation of the Northside Overlay District zoning language.  The goal was to transform the “Near Neighborhood” or Northside Downtown area based on a common vision.  If the Planning Commission is comfortable with this draft, draft #3, they could set a public hearing and advertise for public input. 


            The “Near Neighborhood” is adjacent to the downtown.  It is a transition district located within the one-way pairs of Indian & Buttles.  There is a key pedestrian link between the downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.  This area has been included in the Downtown zoning district.  It is anticipated that there will be a mixture of residential and commercial land uses in this area.  The design should provide for “complete streets” which would provide for all different types of transportation including bicycles and pedestrian traffic. 


            Mr. Purdy presented several conceptual plans of what the streetscapes in this area might look like.  Store fronts of the mixed-use buildings would face the streets.  These 3-D models provide an idea of how these blocks could appear from an aerial view or a view looking toward the downtown from this district. 


            Overlay district development standards include building standards, site standards and streetscape standards.  The standards would address permitted uses, building height and building placement. 


            Overlay District Revisions include building placement to create pedestrian-oriented streetscape added to intent.  Changes to uses permitted include:

Hotels added as permitted in Downtown

Radio and television studios added to the overlay

Veterinary clinics added to overlay


            Building height would include the following:

·         Minimum height:  2 stories or 25 feet

·         Maximum height:  76 feet


            Building placement would include:

·         Front yard:  0 ft. minimum, 10 feet maximum

·         Building must occupy 40% of total frontage, which may include wall extensions

·         Parking may occupy 50% of total frontage

·         Remaining 10% may be additional building, landscaping or pedestrian areas


Parking lot screening materials would be flexible.  Sidewalk cafes would be permitted.  Additional wall signage would be permitted on corner buildings. 


District boundaries were discussed whether or not to extend the overlay district to either Ellsworth Street or Larkin Street.  If the Planning Commission would like to include the additional area in the boundaries, it would have to be included in the area described for the public hearing.  The Planning Commission could hold a public hearing on the larger area and then reduce the area for the overlay district.  However, if a smaller area is advertised for the public hearing, the Planning Commission could not expand those boundaries without holding another public hearing.


Mrs. Hanna stated she is concerned about storm water runoff, massive areas of asphalt and the lack of green space involved in these areas.  Fences would be allowed to be 6-feet high but they would be in a 10 foot setback area with green space on either side of the fence.  She does not understand why the boundaries of the overlay district go all the way north to Grove Street.  Rob Kramer explained that they are trying to link the main street with Grove Park.  This park is pretty underutilized at the present time and he thinks it could be more of an asset to this part of town.  There could be sidewalk cafes and business that would front onto the park.  Mrs. Hanna stated this is affordable housing in this area and many of the homes in this area have already been purchased and torn down.  She asked if the people who live in this area have been notified that this is going on.  Mr. Baker stated there has been media coverage of this overlay district.  There is nothing to notify the neighbors about except that we are going through this process.  There has not been any specific mailing to any of the property owners in this district, in that the boundaries have not been specifically identified.  There has been media coverage of the subject


Section 27.04 of the Zoning Ordinance talks about Planning Commission approval of site plans.  They would need to make sure that the requirements for site plan review meet the criteria of the overlay district.  The requirement for a loading dock, if you have a commercial building, would have to be at the interior of the block.  There was also discussion about ground signs.  Right now, in the Downtown District, they allow five-foot ground signs.  Do we want to prohibit ground signs in the Northside Overlay District?  Wall signs will be permitted.  These buildings would have to be built within 10 feet from the street so there would not be a lot of room for a ground sign in the front yard of these businesses.  The ordinance allows a single drive-thru lane.  There was some question as to whether or not banks should be allowed more than one drive-thru lane.  As this is designed to be a pedestrian-friendly area, it was felt that single drive-thru lanes should be sufficient.  Mrs. Hanna asked about mail boxes and how this would be handled with businesses in this area.  Mr. Purdy stated that, if delivery is currently on foot, it would remain on foot.  There could be “group” mailboxes on the interior sides of these buildings. 


Mr. Eyre asked about the parking standards for this district.  Mr. Purdy stated the parking requirements would be the same as for the existing uses.  Whatever the underlying parking requirements are the day the overlay district goes into effect would remain for future uses.  There are provisions in the overlay district language for shared parking.  Parking would be allowed on the side streets if it is allowed by the city.  The permitted screening requirements would have to be cleaned up because the requirements are not consistent throughout the zoning language. 


Mr. Mead stated he thinks taking the zoning district down to Larkin Street makes sense.  Ms. Brown also stated she would like to go out to public hearing with the larger proposed district as it can always be made smaller in the future.  She would like to extend the boundary down to Larkin Street for the purposes of the public hearing.  Mr. Senesac stated he is also in support of going out for public hearing with the expanded district.  Several commissioners discussed the potential parking requirements.  Mr. Baker stated the market will dictate how much parking is needed.  Mrs. Hanna asked about bike parking.  Mr. Kramer stated that has not yet been added but it could be.  Mr. Eyre stated there is nothing in the overlay district that addresses parking structures. Mr. Mead asked about storm water detention.  Mr. Purdy stated that these developments would have to meet the storm water detention requirements.  Usually these types of development would have storm water detention underground.


6.  New Business


a)    2010 Planning Commission meeting schedule


Motion by Mead, second by Eyre to accept the proposed meeting dates as provided by staff.  Motion passed unanimously. 


7.   Communications


      Commissioners received the September issue of “Planning and Zoning News”.


8.  Report of the Chairperson  




9.  Report of the Planning Director


     The Michigan Association of Planning Conference is next week.


     Report on City Council action last night regarding Spencer Oil.  The ordinance provides for an extension of the site plan approval for one year with City Council approval.  Council gave their approval last night.  There was the ground breaking for the new Ieuter Insurance building downtown.  Council also approved the vacation of the walkway on Helen Street to the neighborhood park.  Council asked that Planning, GIS and Engineering inventory the walkways and ensure that they are maintained.  This topic was also discussed at the City Manager’s staff meeting that morning.


     Mrs. Hanna asked about the Housing Needs Assessment that was done by the Housing Commission.  She would like to have a presentation to the Planning Commission of that study.  Mr. Baker stated they found an additional need for senior housing and for handicap accessible housing.  The most far-reaching recommendation would be that the extremely-low-income households in the city are “rent overburdened” and this segment of our population needs to be addressed. 


     Next meeting on October 13th, staff will bring the housing studies to the Commission.   


10.  Adjourn  


      Adjournment at 8:23 p.m. was unanimously approved.

Respectfully submitted,





Keith Baker, AICP

Director of Planning & Community Development