JANUARY 25, 2011, 7:00 P.M.,



1.   Roll Call

PRESENT:  Brown, Mead, Pnacek, Senesac, Stewart and Young

ABSENT:    Ballard and Hanna


OTHERS PRESENT: Keith Baker, Planning Director, Cheri King, Community Development Specialist, Cindy Winland, Consultant Planner, and Jim Branson, City Attorney and one other.


2.   Public Hearings




3.   New Business


  1. Board & Commission Orientation Refresher – Jim Branson, City Attorney


Mr. Branson commended the Planning Commission regarding the fact that they handle themselves well and he, as the City Attorney, does not have the problems that some other communities have, that he reads about in his professional journals.  He explained the criteria and the frequency of FOIA requests.  He also discussed the conflict of interest regulations.  If there is a fiduciary interest in the topic being discussed, there is the possibility of a conflict of interest.  The petitioner should have a legal interest in the property coming before the Commission.  If there is no legal interest in the property, an individual should not have the right to change the use of that property.


Security is an important concern in these times.  We have security in the area when Boards and Commissions are meeting.  It is not something staff takes lightly.  Our community is very safe compared to many others.  However, it is not something staff takes lightly and precautions have been taken behind the scenes.


  1. Chickens – What comes first, the chicken or the r-egg-ulation?


There is a continuing inquiry for the keeping of chickens in residential areas.  City staff has had more interest expressed in the keeping of chickens than there has been in the keeping of any other animal.  There have been at least six inquiries about the keeping of chickens.  Ms. Winland stated that chickens are very common.  Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Lansing, East Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Grand Haven Township all allow chickens in their communities.  Most of the communities have followed the Ann Arbor model.  Most of them must be in the back yard, 10’ from property lines and 40’ from residential structures.  Most of them also require approval by the neighbors. 


The most common complaint from people who want to have chickens is the “Right to Farm Act and Raising Poultry”.  “In areas zoned agriculture or where agriculture is allowed, the Right to Farm Act (RTF) may supersede certain local ordinances.  If the area is zoned residential, then local zoning requirements may apply.  The RTF Act is subject to final interpretation by a judge.”


Ms. Winland stated that most municipalities expressly prohibit fowl, unless it is a domestic bird that is kept inside all the time.  Staff is not promoting this, but the subject has come up.  Ms. Winland spoke with several Planning Directors in communities that allow chickens.  The numbers of chickens are usually limited and where chicken coops can be located on property. 


Thus far, Mr. Baker stated he has been telling people that chickens are not permitted in the City of Midland.  The ordinance text that has been revised is explicit that fowl are not allowed in the city. 


Mr. Senesac asked if people had inquired about ducks, turkeys, and other fowl.  Mr. Baker stated there had been no inquires about these types of fowl.  Mr. Senesac stated that, if this issue is brought before the Planning Commission again, we should include other types of fowl so we don’t have to go through this entire process with each individual species. 


Having reviewed the samples of ordinances from other communities, the Planning Commission desires to leave the current ordinance as it is.


  1. Temporary structures – How do you regulate a tent?


Mr. Baker opened the discussion of how “tent structures” eventually become permanent or storage buildings.  Should those now be regulated like accessory buildings?  They have not been regulated, they have not been permitted, and we do not regulate their location on the property.  The ordinance is silent about the existence of these structures.  When they are utilized for bulk storage or when they start to tatter, sometimes the city receives complaints about these structures.  They tend to deteriorate more quickly than a permanent structure. 


Code enforcement staff feels these “tent” structures are intended to be permanent and that they should be made to meet the same regulations as accessory structures or other buildings. 


Mr. Mead stated he thinks they are an eye sore and they need to be removed.  Ms. Brown agreed. 


These structures are all minimally constructed fixtures.  They can be blown down in a storm, they can become tattered, and they can become rodent infested. 


Mr. Pnacek asked Mr. Baker to take a look at what the Building Code says about accessory structures and how the Building Code defines those structures. 


The Planning Commission is in general agreement for staff to move forward to regulate these types of structures.  Ms. Brown asked staff to compare what they are doing in Ann Arbor, Lansing, and other communities similar to ours. 


  1. Other topics

Ms. Winland presented a draft of the proposed homeless shelter zoning language.  She reviewed it with Shelterhouse, TenSixteen Treatment Center, Safe Haven Outreach Center and the Open Door.  TenSixteen did have some concerns with the definitions.  They are authorized under state law by certain statutes.  That is why Transitional Housing and Residential Treatment Centers contain different language than previously proposed.  Under Residential Treatment Centers, staff has removed statements that tend to classify people into particular groups. 


Ms. Winland has also communicated with clubs and organizations in the community regarding the proposed ordinance language.  No changes have been recommended in this category.


Mr. Mead brought up the subject of walkways to city parks.  Mr. Baker stated that this subject is still on his radar.   The Planning Co-op has just had limited time to work on this issue. 


4.  Communications




5.   Report of the Chairperson




6.  Report of the Planning Director




7. Adjourn                 


   Adjournment at 8:35 p.m. was unanimously approved.

Respectfully submitted,



Keith Baker, AICP, CFM

Director of Planning & Community Development