OCTOBER 13, 2009, 7:00 P.M.,



1.   Roll Call

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

ABSENT:   Brown  

OTHERS PRESENT: Keith Baker, Planning Director; Cindy Winland, Contract Planner, Cheri King, Community Development Specialist, John Wegner, Chief Building Inspector and three others.


2.   Approval of Minutes

Moved by Hanna, seconded by Eyre, to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of September 22, 2009 as written. Motion passed unanimously.


3.   Public Hearing




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




5.   Old Business


      a)   Review second draft of proposed Accessory Structure zoning ordinance text



            The first draft was reviewed by the Planning Commission several weeks ago.  The second draft will be reviewed this evening.  Cindy Winland discussed the deficiency in the Zoning Ordinance regarding Accessory Structures.  The Zoning Ordinance is missing language for a compliance permit for structures under 200 square feet yet the building code requires structures are built to applicable building practices.


            Definition:  RAT WALL:  A low perimeter foundation wall that is both below and above grade, intended to prevent rodents and burrowing animals from accessing the sub-floor area.  There are two sketches proposed to illustrate a poured concrete rat wall and a foundation grade lumber rat wall   Staff proposed to add “A zoning compliance permit, as outlined in Section 31.06, shall be required for all accessory buildings and structures with floor area between 50 and 200 square feet.  Any accessory structure greater than 200 square feet in floor area shall require a building permit.


            Also proposed was to add the language about foundations.  “All Accessory buildings and structures with a floor area between 50 and 200 square feet shall be required to have a rat wall foundation that extends a minimum of 12” below surrounding grade.  The rat wall foundation shall be constructed from concrete, block or foundation grade lumber and conforms to the Michigan Building Code.  An accessory building may also be placed on a concrete slab which extends a minimum of two feet horizontally from all four sides of the structure.


            Mrs. Hanna asked how much this will add to the cost of erecting a shed to put your tools in.  Mr. Baker stated staff will come up with a number for the next meeting.  Mr. Eyre stated this would not be a significant amount as it is only 12” around the perimeter of the building, but it would definitely be more expensive than the current ordinance language.


            Mr. Senesac asked if any comments had been received from the public.  Ms. Winland  stated that no comments had been received.  Mr. Baker stated that no notifications have been sent out as the language is still only being proposed.  The purpose of this exercise is to create language and make a recommendation by the Planning Commission to go to a public hearing.


            Mrs. Hanna stated that children have play houses that could be 50 feet or more.  She feels this is “overkill”.  Mr. Wegner stated children’s play structures are addressed separately in the ordinance and they are not regulated.  The Building Department has been enforcing the need for a rat wall for quite some time.  This new language is just placing the wording into the ordinance to make it enforceable.  Consensus of the Planning Commission is to move forward with this language to a public hearing.  Motion by Senesac, seconded by Pnacek, to move forward with this language to a public hearing scheduled for November 10, 2009.  Motion passed 7-1, with Mrs. Hanna voting in the negative.


6.  New Business


a)    Review of recently completed City of Midland Housing Needs Assessment.


            The Housing Needs Assessment was commissioned by the Midland City Housing Commission.  The purpose was to (1) examine existing housing stock; (2) provide recommendations; and (3) determine low and moderate income housing need.  The study was prepared by Community Research Services, LLC and completed in July, 2009. 


            A summary of the current situation is that population and household trends have been positive historically.  The area has benefitted from a diverse local economy.  There is a strong professional segment, unemployment lower than nearby communities and positive commuting patterns.  The city’s rental housing market shows strong occupancy levels and reasonable rental rate appreciation.  The negatives include the fact that many units require renovation and additional units are needed for seniors and people with special needs.  Home sales are slow but at stable price points.  For those with limited incomes, housing affordability, using rent overburden, exceeds 70% (rent overburden means spending more than 30% of household income on housing expenses). 


            The study identifies several critical needs.  These include an increased emphasis on rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing and rental units, more modern, safe and attractive rental alternatives and a need for more housing for the low and moderate income “special needs” population. 


            Mr. Baker stated the city has a rental inspection program.  Rental units are required to be inspected every two years and they are brought up to code at that time. 


            Other critical needs identified include a need for more senior housing for low and moderate income persons.  There needs to be an ongoing emphasis on inclusionary zoning, tax abatement, zoning considerations, and other direct applications.


            Conclusions include:

·                     Aging housing stock

·                     Affordability for entry level

·                     Up to 30 more Special Needs Housing

·                     Up to 50 more affordable senior housing

·                     Government support


            Study limitations include:

·         Outdated income figures

·         Outdated housing information

·         Inability to confirm low and moderate income senior and special needs vacancy rates

·         Inability to draw conclusions . . .


            The study is consistent with findings of the other agencies that work to provide affordable housing.  In addition, it is consistent with the updated PILOT study.  It has a value as a point-in-time measurement of local housing characteristics.  However, the empirical data from the U.S. Census is now eight years old since it has been released.


            Recommendations of the study include re-examining senior and special needs housing units, their vacancy rates and the availability of units for the low and moderate income population.  There is a need to look at options to encourage making more units available to the extremely low income segment of the population.  A determination needs to be made if there are other government funded programs for extremely low income housing that are not being used.


            The purpose of bringing this information to the Planning Commission is to see how it will affect the affordability of housing and to show that there is a need for a specific type of housing, to accommodate the very low income citizens of our community.  Mrs. Hanna stated that she has concerns with the study as the data is old and has become inaccurate.  The local landlord’s association is very upset with this study and the conclusions that were reached.  They are also concerned about the effects of additional PILOT projects.  While regular landlords pay non-homestead property taxes, the PILOT projects pay significantly reduced property taxes.  There have been a number of older homes in the downtown area that were “affordable housing”, that were torn down.  She does not know where these people went.  There is also the issue of low-income people not knowing how to take care of a home.  Often, when they move out, the landlords are left with thousands of dollars of damage to their homes as many low-income households do not know how to take care of a dwelling. 


            Mr. Baker stated that PILOT projects are considered by City Council on an individual basis and considered upon their own merits.  There is currently a PILOT request before City Council that will be administered by Shelterhouse, the Affordable Housing Alliance and Habitat for Humanity. 


7.   Communications


            No communications have been received except the information in the Planning Commission packets about the state’s Safe Routes to Schools Program.


8.  Report of the Chairperson  




9.  Report of the Planning Director


     Mrs. Hanna stated that she has been appointed the liaison between the Non-Motorized Transportation committee and the Planning Commission.  There are many budgetary items that will need to be considered in this area.


     Mr. Baker stated staff would like to schedule the meeting of December 8th for an informal training session in the Council Overflow Conference Room to discuss issues of the Planning Commission or issues that they would like to see brought up in the future.


     Mr. Baker also discussed two items that will be coming before the Planning Commission at their next meeting.


10.  Adjourn  


      Adjournment at 7:50 p.m. was unanimously approved.

Respectfully submitted,





Keith Baker, AICP

Director of Planning & Community Development