MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING OF THE MIDLAND CITY PLANNING COMMISSION
WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY,
DECEMBER 10, 2013, 6:00 P.M.,
COUNCIL OVERFLOW CONFERENCE ROOM CITY HALL,
1. Roll Call
PRESENT: Hanna, Heying, McLaughlin, Mead, Pnacek, Senesac, Stewart, Tanzini and Young
OTHERS PRESENT: Brad Kaye, Director of Planning and Community Development and Grant Murschel, Community Development Planner.
2. New Business
a. Public Meeting Hearing and Decision Procedures Discussion
Kaye began explaining the history of this topic as it related to previous discussion with the Planning Commission. He then proceeded to explain the information in the memorandum from staff. Regarding the current site plan approval process, he explained that City Council currently has the final authority. The current process goes beyond what is required by state law and is codified in the city’s zoning ordinance.
Hanna expressed her support of the current process as she believes that the elected representation should have the final say. Kaye acknowledged this point of view, but continued on to explain that site plan approvals at a City Council level can become political. Kaye explained that the site plan process is intended to make certain that specific standards as set out in the zoning ordinance are complied with. When compliance is demonstrated, site plan approval must be granted according to the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act. There is a misconception in the general public, fueled partly by our current process, that site plan approval can be denied at the discretion of City Council whether or not standards are met.
Young wondered about how developers view the process of approval. He believes that Midland could lose out on development if developers think the approval process is too slow or difficult. McLaughlin wondered about City Council being an appellate role. He wanted to discuss this as an option.
Pnacek commented that he has heard comments from developers that they only worry about Council’s opinion and disregard the Planning Commission. Tanzini and Pnacek explained that most developers comment on the length of time needed to get through the process, and not the process or the requirements of the process itself.
Mead said that in actuality development tends to be slow after approval. He does not buy the argument that development is hindered mostly by the length of the approval process. Tanzini explained that the financial commitment begins once approval happens, and securing financing can really delay projects. Kaye added that developers start many of their final design and permitting processes after local zoning and site plan approval has been obtained. This design and permitting phase often is the reason for what is perceived as slow movement on the part of developers following site plan approval.
Senesac wondered about feedback on the idea of having signs placed on subject parcels. Kaye explained that the City Attorney do not give any specific objections. It remains to be determined how the signs would be maintained and who would be responsible for placing and removing them.
Hanna explained that not everyone has a computer and notice should still be given to those without this resource. Kaye explained how print information is distributed currently and how notification would still be given without needing a computer.
Heying explained again how the ordinance confines what type of development happens and how as long as staff is doing their work, development will be compliant. Kaye explained that staff is being more diligent in informing the developer of incomplete applications so that the Planning Commission is able to review and decide on applications before them in as timely a manner as possible. At this point, it is more the process than the completeness of applications that causes delays.
Mead wondered about administrative approvals of contingencies. Kaye explained that approval letters are given specifying all contingencies that must be met. The applicant must then apply for all of their permits. A site review is conducted by the Planning Department to be certain that the development complies with the approved site plan before certificates of occupancy are awarded. If contingencies are not met and resolution does not happen, the matter is turned over to the city attorney’s office.
Kaye explained that the items in the staff report will require amendments of the Zoning Ordinance. City Council does not hold currently hold public hearings on site plans and many are placed on the consent calendar if there are no issues or objections to the site plan. Conditional use permits and zoning ordinance amendments go to a public hearing at City Council.
Kaye explained the information that could be on the second page of each public notice. Hanna wondered if this could be placed on the website. Kaye agreed that it could. Hanna wondered if an article could be published in the newspaper detailing this process for those who do not have access to the internet. Kaye responded that we would not publish these guidelines but the newspaper could always choose to write on article on them if they felt that was warranted.
Hanna suggested that the information sheet could include that extended comments can be submitted before meetings. Senesac suggested adding footprints to the mat under the microphone in the Council Chambers to encourage presenters to stand in the correct location.
Stewart motioned to adjourn the meeting. Hanna seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously. The meeting was adjourned at 6:50 p.m.
C. Bradley Kaye, AICP, CFM
Director of Planning and Community Development
MINUTES ARE NOT FINAL UNTIL APPROVED BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION