MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,
WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2004,
AT 6:30 P.M., IN COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL,
1. ROLL CALL.
PRESENT: Board Members – Holthof, Higgins, Green, Sutton, and Siemer (late)
ABSENT: Lichtenwald, Dunn
OTHERS PRESENT: Daryl Poprave, City Planner; Cheri
Standfest, Community Development Specialist, James Branson, City Attorney, and eight people in the audience.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES.
It was moved by Sutton and supported by Higgins to approve the minutes of the November 16, 2004 meeting. The motion was unanimously approved.
3. PUBLIC HEARINGS.
a) No. 04-19 – The Midland Community Center on behalf of the Midland Curling Club located at 700 Gerald Court for an area/dimension and a use variance to permit an off-premise sign to be erected at 516 Gerald Court.
Petitioner was given the option to postpone their variance until the January meeting as one member is absent. The petitioner chose to proceed tonight.
The Secretary showed the location of the subject property, explaining the need for both a use variance and an area/dimension variance. The subject property is located at 700 Gerald Court, off of Bay City Road. The proposed sign will be on the east side of the street. This variance would permit an off-premise sign to be constructed at 516 Gerald Court, so that individuals driving by on Bay City Road would be able to find the Curling Club’s location. This quasi-public use is permitted in Residential B. They are permitted to have 32 sq. ft. of signage, so long as it advertises the use on- sight. Because the sign is not advertising a use on that site, a use variance is required. If the use variance request is approved, then the board may proceed to the next part of the petition, that being an area/dimension variance. The area/dimension component has to do with the fact that the existing Anchor Down sign is 24 sq. ft., where 12 sq. ft. is allowed. This sign was constructed prior to the 1967 zoning ordinance. Because the applicants want to add an additional 16 sq. ft. of signage, they will need an area/dimension variance to have 40 sq. ft. of signage.
The aerial photo shows this is a well-forested site. The driveway comes in off a cul-de-sac. There are residential properties surrounding this property. No additional communications were received, other than what was in the packet.
The Anchor Downs existing sign is 24 sq. ft. The additional Curling Club sign is 16 sq. ft. The total variance would have to allow 40 sq. ft. to have both these signs at this site. Normally, the sign could only be five feet high. If the curling club was located on this site, they could have an 8 foot high, 32 sq. ft. sign.
Chris Tointon, Exec. Director of the Midland Community Center spoke for the petitioners. They are a 501C (3) organization. There are 5 operating units including the Coleman Community Network, Midland Community Center, Midland Curling Club, and Midland Tennis Club.
John Zimmerman – 2825 Chippewa Lane – Member of Curling Club Board of Directors elected to speak on behalf of the Curling Club. The Curling Club started in 1962 as a grass roots organization. It is operated by mostly volunteers. It began as an outdoor sheet of ice next to the civic arena. In the 1960’s, this land was obtained from the Dow Chemical Corporation. At this time, the street was not paved, the cul-de-sac was not formed and this area was not developed. The Curling Club has served the community at this location for over 40 years. They have 120 members, mostly from Midland. They have group rentals to work groups, church groups, etc. They are part of a Great Lakes Curling Association region and they are one of 5 clubs in that region with dedicated curling ice.
Mr. Zimmerman asked the front desk at Valley Plaza if they could give him directions to the Curling Club. They knew there was a Curling Club, but could not give him directions. He also asked at Valley Lanes. They could not provide directions. When asked at Stasik’s Market, they did not even know there was a curling club there. It has been a desire by the club board for a number of years to increase their visibility in the community. He is sure there used to be a sign for Midland Granite Club at this same location, but that was probably 20 years ago.
John knows that signage in this area will work because when the sign was attached to the Anchor Down sign illegally for 48 hours the club got noticed. People he talked to thought it was a new use coming to the area.
They think it is a tasteful sign, placed in an uncluttered location. Anchor Downs properties are set way back. It is a wide-open field and is not a public safety issue at this location.
Chris Tointon – The new civic arena is owned by the City of Midland and the Midland Community Center is a 501C (3). They are totally separate entities.
Higgins – What kind of an arrangement do you have with Anchor Downs for the placement of your sign?
John Z. – There was no time limit set.
Higgins – Who owns the property of Anchor Downs? Are their any plans to re-develop the property in the future?
John Z. – The curling club sold 3 acres of their land to the Affordable Housing Alliance in order for them to build their apartments on Gerald Court.
Siemer - Was the Anchor Downs sign raised to accommodate your sign?
John Z. - Absolutely not! Their sign has not been touched in probably 20 years.
Sutton - If that property eventually sells, what would happen to your sign?
John Z. - We would have to re-negotiate the sign agreement with the new owners.
Higgins - asked if we could condition the variance only for a quasi-public use. City
Attorney James Branson explained that would be very difficult to enforce. That approaches trying to regulate the sign content.
Holthof – asked if the applicant’s had considered adding their sign to the new ice area sign owned by the City of Midland?
Chris T. – They had not asked.
John Z. - stated they would be willing to reduce their sign to half, or a total of 8 sq. ft. This would require only 32 sq. ft. of signage to be approved.
No one spoke in favor or in opposition to this request.
Findings of Fact:
04-19(a) – Use variance
1. The property is zoned RB.
2. Four letters were received in support. No letters in opposition.
3. The property is located at the end of a cul-de-sac.
4. The driveway & parking lot on the property are gravel.
5. The property is part of the Midland Community Center enterprise, a 501C (3) organization.
6. The Midland Curling Club is permitted an on-premise sign of 32 sq. ft. in area and 8 ft. in height.
7. The zoning ordinance does not permit an off-premise sign in residential districts.
8. Petitioner requests a sign of 16 sq. ft. to be added to an existing on-premise sign that is non-conforming in size (24 sq. ft. in area & 9 feet high).
9. This property is not visible from Bay City Road.
Higgins – The use variance is giving him some problems as this property has been used for a permitted purpose for the past 40 years.
Holthof – looks at it from the point of being burdensome to the curling club as they cannot be seen from Bay City Road.
Higgins – the other one he is having trouble with is that the problem is not self-created. The only thing he can think of is the curling club was given this property by Dow and therefore, their location hardship was not self-created. That’s the only thought he had. If the sign is not there, they are not going to go out of existence.
Holthof – Thinks the reasonableness in that area is having people find the facility. People can’t get there to use the facility.
Siemer - Having tried several times to find the facility and not being able to, he can sympathize with their dilemma.
Higgins moves and Siemer seconds to approve petition 04-19(a) based on the above stated findings of fact.
Holthof - The unreasonableness of the permitted purpose is having people find the facility. It is a unique piece of property in that it is set back off Bay City Road. It will not alter the character of the neighborhood. It sounds like there used to be a sign there. The problem is not self-created – it is where it was originally built by the private club at the time.
Green - If there is no sign, it is difficult to see the street sign and it is difficult to find this location if you are coming from out of town.
Sutton - She still thinks the property can be put to a reasonable use without the variance. There are other places in Midland that are equally difficult to find. Off Eastman, there is Commerce Drive. There are businesses back there that she is sure would like to have an off-premise sign. They are also difficult to see. She still cannot get past the use variance requested for this property. Any time you are going some place new, you get directions. She cannot vote for the use variance.
Siemer - If someone looks up the location in the phone book and then tries to find it, we have to ask ourselves if we are assisting the public or hindering the public in finding this location? Would we prohibit the library from having a sign or the hospital from having a sign?
Higgins - Doesn’t have a problem with the last 3 conditions. The plight of the owner is due to unique conditions of the property. The use variance would not alter the character of the area. He doesn’t have a problem with it being self-created. The property was obtained a long time ago and this is the property they got. He has a little problem with the first criteria. It says the property could not be used for a permitted purpose in that zone. He feels that, in order to use this property for a business, they would have to have a sign out on Bay City Road.
Vote on the motion:
Petition 04-19(a), a use variance request for the Midland Curling Club is approved.
Findings of Fact:
04-19(b) – area/dimension variance
Listed below are additions to the findings of fact for 04-19(a) that also apply to 04-19(b):
The petitioner has had no discussion with the City regarding combining their signage needs with those of the new civic ice arena.
Higgins moves and Holthof seconds to approve 04-19(b) based on the findings of fact with the following condition that the sign area may not exceed 40 sq. ft. and may not exceed 8’ in height.
Sutton moves and Higgins seconds to amend the above motion to limit the proposed signage to 32 sq. ft. and 8 ft. in height.
Vote on the Amendment:
Motion to amend the motion to approve passes.
The new motion will permit the off-premise sign to be a total of 32 sq. ft. in area and 8 ft. in height.
Higgins can vote in favor of this variance based upon the criteria. Green, Sutton and Siemer agree.
Holthof is having a problem granting this to the apartment complex. He would rather this be coupled with the city’s sign for the new civic ice arena. He said that this is unfair to the other apartment complex owners in the area that this apartment complex can have a 32 sq. ft. sign.
Vote on the amended motion:
The area/dimension variance is approved for the Midland Curling Club to have a sign that is 8 sq. ft. in maximum area and 8 ft. in height. The total sign area permitted at 516 Gerald Court is 32 square feet and 8 feet in height. (This variance total includes the already existing 24 sq. ft. of signage currently encompassing the Anchor Down sign.)
4. Public Comments
5. Old Business
6. New Business
a) Amended City roundtables announcement
b) Zoning Ordinances passed out to board members
There will be a training session with Planning Commission in February 2005 to train board members on the new zoning ordinance.
7. Decision sheet signatures
In the future decision signature sheets from the current meeting will be signed at the next meeting so that the ZBA may approve the minutes and the findings of fact before signing the forms.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:13 PM.