APRIL 10, 2012, 7:00 P.M.,



1.   Roll Call

PRESENT:         Hanna, Heying, McLaughlin, Mead, Pnacek, Senesac, Stewart, and Young

ABSENT:   Tanzini

OTHERS PRESENT:   Brad Kaye, Director of Planning and Community Development, Cindy Winland, Consulting Planner, Cheri King, Community Development Specialist, and 2 others.


2.   Approval of Minutes

Moved by Senesac, seconded by Young, to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of February 28, 2012.  Motion passed unanimously. 

Moved by Senesac, seconded by Young, to approve the minutes of the work session meeting of March 13, 2012.  Motion passed unanimously. 

3.   Public Hearings




4.   Old Business


      a.   Master Plan Update


            Revisions to the density chart


            Ms. Winland presented the proposed revisions to the density chart, summarizing the density discrepancies between the Zoning Ordinance and the Master Plan.  She explained that we are trying to recognize the densities allowed by zoning and better reflect those in the Master Plan.  The Master Plan would now define low density as being 6 or fewer units per acre, medium density as 7-10 units per acre, and high density as greater than 10 units per acre.  A corresponding change that would reduce the minimum lot size for single family dwellings in the RA-4 zoning district from 7,200 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft is also proposed which would allow a density of 7.26 units per acre.  The RA-4 district would then fall within the medium density range of the Master Plan.


            Mrs. Hanna questioned whether the RA-1 zoning district would be changed to permit up to six units per acre.  Ms. Winland stated that no change to the minimum lot size in RA-1 was proposed.  It will remain 12,000 sq. ft., which would only allow up to 3.63 dwelling units per acre. 


            Mr. Senesac stated this table is a great improvement.  It is easier to see what is required.  Mr. Mead agreed. 


            Mrs. Hanna asked Ms. Winland to explain the discrepancies in the proposed RB district for more than two-family dwellings.  Ms. Winland stated that, in the Zoning Ordinance, there is no limit to the number of units allowed, so long as the square footage requirements are met.  We can change the “RB” line to say “3 or more units” and eliminate the last five lines of the chart. 


Future Land Use Map


            Mr. Kaye presented the Future Land Use Map.  At a previous meeting, several areas in the city were identified to take a closer look at to see if any changes were warranted.  Property owners have not yet been consulted but that would take place if any possible changes are identified following this review.


Mr. Kaye showed a map of the Stark and Saginaw Road area.  These areas have been annexed to the city.  Staff would like to change two parcels to the west of Stark Road from medium density residential to Commercial.  These two separate properties are privately owned at the present time.  Mr. Kaye stated these proposed changes would pertain to the Future Land Use Map only and that we are not initiating a zoning change for these properties.  There was consensus on this change. 


            Map Hawk’s Nest Plat is a single family plat with densities of three units per acre.  It is recommended that this be changed from medium density residential to low density residential to be more indicative of what is actually happening on the property.  Areas to the north are already developed as commercial.  The Planning Commission requested that staff look at a broader area to the south that is currently designated as medium density residential.  Much of that was developed as low-density residential. 


            Ms. Hanna asked if the adjacent land still in Homer Township was zoned that it would be compatible with our adjacent zoning.  Mr. Kaye responded that he would investigate this and report back on his findings.


            Map #4 shows lands near Letts and Perrine Roads extending to the MUGA Boundary.  Staff has no recommended changes for this area.  The Planning Commission wanted to take another look and just verify the plans for this area.  This is a mixed use area.  No necessary changes were identified.


            Map #5 shows a small area northeast of City Forest, including a single family residential property that is not within the city boundaries.  The Master plan currently designates the southwest corner of Monroe and Eastman for commercial purposes, with the balance of the area designated for medium density residential purposes. East of Eastman Road the lands are designated for light industrial purposes.  Staff has not identified a need for any change in this area at the present time.  Commissioners struggled with the idea of this area actually developing for residential purposes but were not comfortable changing it at this point.  The Planning Commission would like to take a further look at this area.  Staff will contact the property owners as this area is further considered.


            Area #6 is Commerce Drive and Jefferson Avenue.  The area to the north of Commerce Drive is predominantly designated medium density residential, along with a smaller commercial designation near the south west corner.  Mr. Senesac asked if the proposed Airport Zoning Map aligns with this map.  Ms. Winland stated she has not looked at the proposed overlay for the Airport Zoning Overlay but it is more a zoning issue and it is far enough into the future that it will not impact this activity.  The Planning Commission concluded that this was a mixed use area and no changes to the Future Land Use Map were necessary? 


            Area #7 is in the area of Waldo Avenue, on the north side of the expressway, by Diamond Drive.  This area includes property that is currently outside the city limits, but within the MUGA boundary.  The zoning showed on the Master Plan Land Use Map has been recommended by the property owners.  The land owner has interest in extending water and sewer.  Mrs. Hanna stated she does not see that as a heavy commercial area as there is already too much traffic with people going to work at Dow.  She would discourage any commercial development in this area until that road can be reviewed and the traffic problems solved.  Mr. Kaye stated that we can have the option of writing those types of concerns directly into our master plan policies.  Mr. Mead stated that the way it is now is the way it is likely going to be for a while.  It was noted that to the south of E. Wheeler Road is property owned by the city’s landfill. 


            Area #8 is at the corner of Saginaw Road and St. Andrews Road.  There are two parcels right on the corner that we are concerned with.  These parcels are currently vacant with residential development behind them.  There is currently a low-density residential designation currently on these parcels.  The Planning Commission agreed that the two lots on the corner should be designated medium density residential. 


Chapters 8 and 9


            Chapter 8 is the implementation chapter.  In Chapter 8, the question is do we want to do prioritize the activities directed by this chapter or should we just leave it as it is.  The “Implementation Measure” of S. Washington/W. Bay City Road Closure/Vacation has already been done.  Ms. Winland will check with Engineering to confirm this.  Mr. Senesac stated that, when the Master Plan is completed, we should review Chapter 8 and start working those into our agenda.  Mr. Heying stated that we should review this chapter after we complete the full Master Plan review and see if the issues make sense in relation to the changes that were made.


Chapter 9 is the detailed performance measures where tasks identified five years ago were to be implemented.  Figure 9.1 on Page 9.3, contains a list of items that were identified and dealt with first in the ten-year cycle.  Mrs. Hanna asked to look at 2.a.  She thinks we first need a definition of “natural features considerations”.  Everyone will have a different idea on what a natural feature is.  In Chapter 9, we will change the “not done” to “to be completed”.   


      b.   LED Signs


At the last Planning Commission work session, discussion focused around the use of digital signs and their impact on the community.  In 2004, the ordinance standard regulating change rate came into effect.  Signs in effect prior to that are not subject to that rule.  Most of the signs in the City are subject to that rule.  We realize that we need to look at the enforcement of this rule. 


Staff prepared a quick overview of the many digital signs we have, as well as the areas of regulation that the current City ordinances do not cover.  A series of minor amendments to the ordinance are being recommended. 


Digital signs are looked at differently because of their safety issues.  This should be reflected in the purpose statements of our zoning ordinance standards.


            Section 8.04 amendments would add two types of signs to those that are already prohibited.  Signs that emit any audible sound of any kind and mobile digital signs affixed to a vehicle of any kind would now be prohibited.  The Planning Commission felt strongly that signs that emit any audible sound of any kind must be prohibited as they are definitely a distraction.  Mr. Heying stated that someday there may be signs that communicate directly with your IPAD or I-Phone, which might then interfere with your driving.  We should proactively prohibit such signs.


            In the Sign Design Standards, staff is recommending adding a requirement that signs with video images must be turned off between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.  The Planning Commission was in favor of this.


            Under “Nonresidential District Signs”, it was pointed out that changeable copy signs are treated the same way from a size and placement standpoint as any other sign.  Regulations are based on the type of sign – freestanding, wall, awning, etc., the number of signs, size, height, location, and any requirements specific to a zoning district or specific lot type for instance.

In Table 8.2, On-Premise Advertising Sign Standards, Staff recommends adding language that digital signs are prohibited in all districts adjacent to or across the street from any residential district and in the Office Service District.  Ground mounted digital signs may not be located closer than 1,000 feet from another digital sign on the same side or the opposite side of the road.  Any existing sign would be grandfathered in.  Mr. Kaye will contact the City Attorney to determine his opinion on how to handle applications for new digital signs prior to the Planning Commission completing their review of this issue.  Mr. Pnacek has a problem prohibiting these types of signs in the Office Service zoning district.  Limiting the hours of operation might be the answer to this issue.  Ms. Winland clarified that public schools’ signs are exempt from the Zoning Ordinance standards. 


      c.   Woodland Place Apartments – Banner/Flag Signs


            Banners were displayed on the property at Woodland Place Apartments.  The property is zoned Residential B.  Banners and flags are not permitted in this district.  The property manager wrote a letter to the Planning Commission requesting consideration of this issue.  If they are allowed on this residential property, they would then be allowed on any RB, and they are not all on Saginaw Road.  They could apply for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.  However, the property may not be unique and it would certainly be self-created.  Commissioners felt that the current standards should not be amended.


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




6.   New Business




7.   Communications


      a.  Letter from Terry Starks


Mr. Kaye provided an overview of the current ordinance standards that apply to the screening of storage areas.  New and used vehicles initially appeared to fall within this definition.  Upon further review, an interpretation made back in 2008 was discovered that differentiated between outdoor storage areas and outdoor display areas.   The definitions used in that interpretation have since been adopted into the Zoning Ordinance.  Consistent with that previous interpretation, outdoor display areas for vehicles being offered for sale will not be subject to the opaque screening requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. 


8.   Report of the Chairperson


      Commissioners received their copy of the “Michigan Planner”


9.  Report of the Planning Director


A Notice of Public Hearing has been received from Larkin Township.  They will be considering the adoption of Master Plan amendments previously presented to the Planning Commission.  No concerns to the City were identified in the initial review of those amendments.


There is a training on the basics of zoning ordinances being conducted on Wednesday, September 26th at the Isabella County Building. 


     Mr. Senesac stated there is going to be a public hearing on the proposed Airport

     Zoning Ordinance on Aril 24, 2012.


10. Adjourn             


     Adjourned at 9:17 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,





C. Bradley Kaye, AICP

Director of Planning and Community Development