1.      ROLL CALL.


     PRESENT:  Board Members – Green, Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald, Sutton

ABSENT:     Pelton (excused)

OTHERS PRESENT:      Mark Ostgarden, Secretary, and 12 people in the audience

Chairman Hank Holthof opened the meeting with a welcome to the television audience viewing the MGTV telecast of a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.  He explained the role of the Board and the meeting procedures.


The minutes of November 18, 2003, were approved subject to the following corrections:

1.The motion to approve Petition 03-15 was made by Sally Sutton and not Jack Higgins.

2.Finding # 4 of Petition 03-15 should read: “Compliance with the Building Code (not the Ordinance)….”




a. Petition No. 03-18 – Curt Brooks, 1418 West Pine Street, for an area/dimension variance to permit a garage addition in a required side street yard.


The petitioner has a corner property in an older part of the community.  A garage addition is proposed which will have direct access from a street side yard.  The property is zoned RA-3 which permits a 15’ street side yard, except that a direct access garage is required to have a 20’ setback.  The addition will encroach 1 foot into the required setback area.  The lot is less than the minimum size  required for the RA-3 district.  The garage is 17’6” in depth. 


One letter of support was received.


Mr. Brooks explained that he desired the addition which will make a functional garage.  The current garage depth does not permit that  to happen.   Access onto Pine Street was discussed.  The house was constructed in 1910.  


No one else spoke in support of or in opposition to the request.


Findings of Fact:


1.   Property is zoned RA-3.

  2.   The lot is smaller than required for the zoning district.

  3.   It is a corner lot bounded by West Pine Street and Jerome Street.

  4.   One letter in support was received.

  5.   Front yard is on West Pine Street as defined by the Zoning Ordinance.

  6.   The house was built in 1910 with several additions made.

  7.   The addition results in a 1’ x 14’ encroachment into the street side yard.

  8.   RA-3 allows a 15’ street side yard setback where access is not directly to a street.

  9.   The existing garage is attached to part of the house.

10.  The options described are not viable (for the petitioner to pursue). 


Sally Sutton thought all the criteria were met.  Lot size was an issue in meeting practical difficulty.  The variance will do justice by improving the property. There are several reasons for the property being unique (corner lot of less area than required for Zoning district; garage attached to front of house; no other options).  The problem is not self created based on the above factors. The Board concurred with her comments regarding the variance.


Motion by Jack Higgins and seconded by Roy Green to approve the request based on the findings of fact.


Vote on the motion:


Yea:   Green, Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald, Sutton

Nay:   None


The variance was approved.


        b. Petition No. 03-22 – Grace Naessens, 3203 Fuller Drive, for a special approval

            for fence height in the required front street yard.


Mrs. Naessens purchased the corner property this year, with the front yard for setback purposes (as defined by the Zoning Ordinance) facing Waldo Avenue.  The front door and the driveway face Fuller Drive.  A wood fence along the north property line was constructed by a fence contractor which encroaches 10’ into the required front yard setback area.  Photographs of the property and other fences in the area were shown.  One photograph depicts that evergreen trees were planted in the required front yard setback area.


Mrs. Naessens stated that prior to constructing the fence; she contacted the city several times.  She showed the site plan, as seen by the Board, to the city so she thought the fence was being properly constructed.  


        Findings of Fact:


1.      The property is zoned RA-1.

2.      No letters were received.

3.      The lot front faces Waldo Avenue.

4.      The first 10’ of the 6’ high fence encroaches into the required front yard setback.

5.      A 3-1/2’ high fence is allowed in the required front yard setback.

6.      The fence can be decreased in height.

7.      The fence was built by a contractor.

8.      The speed limit on Waldo Avenue is 35 mph.

9.      The property driveway is on Fuller Drive.

10.  Pine trees have been planted in the required front yard setback area.


A motion was made by Sally Sutton and seconded by Jack Higgins to approve the request based on the findings of fact.


Sally Sutton identified that there is a driveway on the property immediately to the north.  She thought the fenced constructed in the required setback area would create a vision obstruction for the adjacent property and would impinge upon the neighboring property based on visibility issue and safety for drivers and pedestrians.  She did not think that the fence is compatible and she thought that it is out of character with the neighborhood.  She noticed it right away and thought something was wrong with the fence placement.  Roy Green agreed.


The other Board members did not agree.  Tim Lichtenwald stated that the evergreen trees that were planted by the petitioner creates more of a vision problem than does the fence.  Jack Higgins stated that the fence could be constructed to within 20’ of the property line if the required front yard was on Fuller Drive.  Hank Holthof stated that a driver of a large vehicle could see beyond the fence before getting to the sidewalk when backing out of the adjacent driveway.  


Vote on the motion:


Yea:   Green, Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald

Nay:   Sutton


The special approval was approved.


c. Petition No. 03-19 – Midland Ford Lincoln Mercury, 1303 South Saginaw Road, for

    an interpretation of “building” as it applies to allowable sign area and if needed

    an area/dimension variance from the maximum allowable sign area.


The secretary explained the request had two parts.  First, an interpretation has been made by the Planning and Building Departments that the addition at Midland Ford is part of the existing building; therefore, the sign proposed is not permitted as the building currently exceeds the maximum sign area allowed for the building.  This interpretation is being challenged by the owner.  Second, if the Board agrees with the staff interpretation, then a sign area variance is needed for the proposed sign on the building addition.


The addition to the building has been determined to be part of the original building because it was viewed as an addition by the Building Department.  When looking at the building from the street it appears as one building with a unified look.  Midland Ford was represented by Attorney Dick Handlon.  He stated that his client contends that it has separate access, it is a free-standing building, it has separate utilities, and it is structurally separate from the older building.


A motion was made by Jack Higgins and seconded by Sally Sutton to consider the addition as a separate building based on the findings of the Board.


(Note:  During the discussion on the interpretation, the secretary stated that the addition is assessed for tax purposes as a separate building.)



The Board concurred with the property owner, finding that it is a separate building, that the building is not attached to the older building (there is a small space between the buildings), that the addition does not rely on the older building for structural support, and that there are separate utilities for the addition.


Vote on the motion:


Yea:  Green, Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald, Sutton

Nay:  None


Based on the interpretation by the Board, the sign area variance is not required.


d. Petition No. 03-20 – Nathan Crosslin, 815 East St. Andrews Road, for an

    area/dimension variance to build a carport in the required side yard.


Mr. Crosslin desires to construct a carport onto an existing detached garage.  The petitioner owns a corner lot with the front, for setback purposes, facing Washington Street. The detached garage is located in the side yard and there are 16’ to the side (north) property line.  The carport will be 14’ in width and encroach 2’ into the required 8’ side yard setback area, creating a 6’ setback from the property line.


Mr. Crosslin stated that he desired the carport to make the property more functional.  The carport would keep a vehicle out of the elements.  The  encroachment is only two feet.  When asked why the property is unique he thought it was unique in that if the front was different (i.e. facing East St. Andrews Road) the carport could encroach to within 3’ of the property line.  The petitioner stated that constructing a second garage as an accessory building on the property is not practical because it would be too expensive.


When asked about the construction details, Mr. Crosslin stated the north wall of the carport would be four 4” x 4” posts for support of a roof.  The fence along the west wall would remain. 


One letter was received from the property owner to the north who offered support to maintain harmony.  A second letter in support was received from a property owner somewhere else in the neighborhood.


Hank Holthof did not think the problem was self-created in that the petitioner was not responsible for the placement of the structures on the lot or for establishing the setbacks.  There would be no harm done to the neighbor to the north.


Findings of Fact:


1.      Property is zoned RA-1.

2.      The property was purchased in January 2003.

3.      The property is located on the corner of Washington Street and E. St. Andrews Road.

4.      The traditional front yard faces E. St. Andrews Road, which by definition is the street side yard.

5.      There is currently a single-car garage.

6.      A deck exists between the house and the garage.

7.      The interior side lot line is the north property line by Zoning Ordinance definition.

8.      The carport will encroach 2’ into the required side yard setback area.

9.      One letter in support was received from a property owner located somewhere in the neighborhood.

10.  The existing fence will remain.

11.  The north wall of the carport will remain open.

12.  One letter from the property owner adjacent to the north was received in support “to keep harmony”. 


A motion was made by Sally Sutton and seconded by Jack Higgins to approve the

request based on the findings of fact and with the following conditions:


1.      Drainage from the carport (roof) will be onto the property owner’s (petitioner’s) lot.

2.      The north side of carport will remain open from top to bottom.


Jack Higgins thought it would not be burdensome to comply with the ordinance.  There is nothing unique about the property in that there are many corner lots in the community.  There are alternatives available for the petitioner.


Sally Sutton did not think it would do justice to the property owner to the north.  She was concerned about drainage from the roof of the carport onto the neighboring property.  She also thought a second garage (or carport) could be built on the lot as an accessory building.


Tim Lichtenwald observed that a vehicle was parked there now.  The carport could be decreased in width and still be functional.


Roy Green thought there were alternatives available.  Hank Holthof observed that the house is adjacent to a deck which is adjacent to a detached garage and now a carport is proposed.  He thought there is overbuilding occurring in one direction.


        Vote on the motion:


        Yea:   None

        Nay:   Green, Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald, Sutton


        The variance was denied.


        e. Petition No. 03-21 – CESO, Inc. on behalf of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 910 Joe

            Mann Boulevard, for an area/dimension variance from the maximum allowable

           sign area.


Wal-Mart is planning an expansion of its existing building to create a “Superstore”.  A new sign package is proposed which will have 1236’ sf of sign area on the 1050’ long west wall. Details of each sign were shown.  The building is permitted 200 sf of total sign area with the maximum sign area on the 1050 ft. long west wall, or on any wall, not to exceed 150 sf.


One phone call was received which did not object to the signs but questioned the number of signs.  There was concern about the usefulness of some of the signs being proposed.


Anita Griggs, a representative from CESO, the engineering firm working on the expansion project, addressed the Board.  She asked the Board to look at the sign area in relationship to the entire wall.  The sign area is 8%  to 10% of the entire west wall area.   The Board also was asked to think about the overall size of the building in that it will be a large building in the area. 


When asked about the amount of sign area now on the building Ms. Griggs thought there was about 460 sf.  She pointed out the west entrance is about 350’ to 400’ from Joe Mann Boulevard. 


        Findings of Fact:


1.      The property is zoned Business B-2.

2.      The west wall is 1050’ long.

3.      The distance to Joe Mann Boulevard from the south wall is approximately 108’.

4.      The current entrance is 350-400’ from Joe Mann Boulevard.

5.      The proposed sign area is 1236 sf.

6.      The total sf of the new Wal-Mart “Superstore” will be approximately 200,000 sf; this is approximately 50,000 sf larger than Meijer.

7.      The existing pole sign will change but will comply with sign area requirements.

8.      One phone call was received in support, but the caller did not think so many signs are needed.

9.      Joe Mann Boulevard has an unusual curve in relation to the west wall of Wal-Mart.


A motion was made by Jack Higgins and seconded by Hank Holthof to approve the request based on the findings of fact and conditioned upon the total sign area of the entire building not to exceed 600 sf.


Jack Higgins commented that Section 31.5 of the Zoning Ordinance does not address buildings that run lengthwise away from the street (which the Wal-Mart building does).  He stated it is reasonable to consider the area in relationship to Joe Mann Boulevard and the overall wall length.  He thought the 1050’ wall length makes it unnecessarily burdensome.  The sign area will not adversely affect other property owners.  There is uniqueness based on the length of the building.  The problem is not self created in that citizens want to know where the building is and want it to be visible from Eastman Avenue.


Mr. Higgins comments represented the position of the rest of the Board members, with an additional uniqueness being the location of the building in relation to the curve in Joe Mann Boulevard. 


        Vote on the motion:


        Yea:   Green, Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald, Sutton

        Nay:   None


        The variance was approved.


  4. Public comments before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

There were no public comments before the Board.


Old/New Business.

The Eagle Ridge Church of God requested that two conditions of approval, # 1 and #4, of Petition 03-10 be reconsidered. 

A motion was made by Jack Higgins and seconded by Hank Holthof to reconsider the conditions of approval for Petition 03-10.

The secretary stated that the Board members that participated in the original petition should vote.


6.        Vote on the motion:


8.        Yea:   Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald, Sutton

9.        Nay:  

Pastor Ken DeMaere stated that the conditions would create an ugly sign.  An illustration of a sign constructed in accord with the conditions was shown. An illustration of the sign desired by the church was also shown.  The sign has the church name on the top and an LCD board below the name. The LCD was less than 50% of the total sign area. 

Sally Sutton asked if the sign illustrated by the drawing was the EXACT sign the church desired.  Pastor DeMaere said it was the exact sign. 

A motion was made by Jack Higgins and seconded by Sally Sutton to amend conditions #1 and #4 of the approval for Petition 03-10 to read as follows:

The ratio of sign width to height be approximately ratio of 60:40. 

The LCD reader board not to exceed 50% of the total sign area of 32 sf.


Vote on the motion:


Yea:   Higgins, Holthof, Lichtenwald, Sutton


Conditions #1 and #4 were modified.

In other business, the secretary updated the Board on the Zoning Ordinance project. 


     There was no further business and the meeting adjourned at approximately 9:30 p.m.


     Respectfully submitted,


      Mark Ostgarden, AICP, CFM