MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2006,

AT 6:30 P.M., IN COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL,

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL.

PRESENT:           Board Members -      Sutton, Lichtenwald, Higgins, Holthof and Green

ABSENT:             Board Members -      None

OTHERS PRESENT:      Daryl Poprave, City Planner; Cheri Standfest,   Community Development Specialist and 9 others.

 

2.      APPROVAL OF MINUTES

It was moved by Higgins and supported by Holthof to approve the minutes of the December 20, 2005 meeting as corrected.  Motion was unanimously approved.

 

Next, the Chairman explained the public hearing procedures that the ZBA would employ to reach a decision on the following variances:

       

3.       PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

No. 06-01 – Keith Wirth, of Three Rivers Corporation, on behalf of Amish Reflections for an area/dimension variance to expand their existing building within the front yard setback and to construct a second story mezzanine addition at 503 South Saginaw Road. 

 

The petitioner is proposing to erect a 3,000 square foot mezzanine addition to the building at 503 South Saginaw Road.  Mr. Poprave showed a location map, indicating the property is located between Rodd Street and Dartmouth Street, on South Saginaw Road.  The aerial photograph shows the property is located next to a retail center, just south of the Circle.  The zoning map identifies this property as RC - Regional Commercial.  It is directly adjacent to RB, RA-2, and some Office Service.  This property is across the street from a residential district, but it is adjacent to commercial property.  In July of 2005, there was a petition heard on this property.  The drawing in the current packet is the site plan by which the previous area/dimension variance was approved on July 19, 2005.  The Zoning Ordinance states that minimum 25 foot front and rear yard setbacks are required for RC – Regional Commercial property.  This property currently maintains a 133 foot rear yard setback.  Because the majority of the building already encroaches into the front yard setback, this would be considered as an enlargement of the nonconforming structure.  Before the petitioner can increase the size of the front of the building, that is located in the front yard setback area, a variance must be granted.  The petitioner is also requesting a renewal of the variance that was granted on July 19, 2005.  This variance expires this Thursday (January 19, 2005).   The petitioners are requesting that when the variance is granted, that the Board allow the period of validity to be extend for two years.   The petitioner specifically asked what it would take if to renew the variance once it had expired.  Mr. Poprave told them they would have to submit a request letter to the Board asking for a time extension.  They would not have to pay another fee or have another public hearing.

 

Keith Wirth, Architect for Three Rivers Corporation represented the petitioner this evening.  He stated that they were asking to have this current application replace their previously granted application from July 19, 2005.  There have been numerous changes made to the design of the Amish Reflections’ building.  Addressing the criteria, Mr. Wirth stated that the existing walls are set back and not very visible to customers.  The building is setback from the adjacent buildings.  It does get blocked when there are leaves on the trees.  The existing building has a partial setback of approximately 12 feet from the front property line.  They are asking to be able to build a new, 307 sq. ft. vestibule.  To build over the rear parking lot requires the owner to bring the property into compliance with current storm water management requirements, which requires major parking lot renovations and unwarranted expense.    The variance will do substantial justice to the applicant as well as to other property owners with the more visible attraction for customer draw and making the business easier for customers to find.  Removing the existing west wing wall opens up road visibility. 

 

Mr. Wirth stated, at first, the project was going to fill the entire road frontage.  The new plan reduces the square footage of the vestibule addition to 307 sq. ft. with the second floor addition of 3,000 sq. ft. with portions of this mezzanine in the front yard setback area.  If they were to build to the rear, they would have to completely redesign the parking lot or create an underground storage tank to retain the storm water on the property.  The current owners purchased the building in February 2005.  Building up will negate any need to deal with additional storm water detention and create more show room as desired by the owner.  They have enough room to meet the required number of off street parking spaces. 

 

They are allowed to go up to 3000 square feet on the second floor, under the building code, without the need for elevators or barrier free facilities.  There would be a balcony space on the second floor, contained by a railing, to allow light into the second floor.  Mr. Wirth showed a drawing of the proposed additions to the building.

 

Higgins asked why they need a variance when they can build the second floor onto the back section of the building and not encroach within the front yard setback.  The petitioner stated they wanted to get the building to the front so it would be more easily seen by approaching customers on S. Saginaw Road.  The front will not be dressed up where it could be seen from the road unless the addition is placed flush with the front of the building.

 

Holthof stated that perhaps they could put some signage on the side of the building where it sticks up over the adjacent buildings that would call attention to passing motorist about the business. 

 

Higgins also asked why they have to have the variance good for two years, rather than the six months allowed by the Ordinance.  The petitioner stated their current lease does not expire until 2008 and they will remain in their current building until the lease is up.  He stated he would be willing to come back every six months and request the variance, granted tonight, be renewed.  Higgins stated they made a proposal six months ago and now they are back with another proposal when the six months is ready to expire.  If the owners were able to get out of their lease at their current location, they would be able to do this work within the six month time frame. 

 

Sutton stated she is also uncomfortable allowing the variance to hang out there for two years.  If the property was sold prior to 2008, the variance goes with the property – not the property owner.  She feels it is better for them to come for the variance within the six months prior to the start of construction. 

 

Staff stated the city engineering department concurs with Mr. Wirth’s storm water assessment, that, so long as they build up and not out, they do not have to comply with the additional storm water detention requirements. 

 

No one spoke either in favor of or in opposition to this request.

 

Sutton and Higgins both suggested the Chairman ask the petitioner if he would like to withdraw his request at this time, and come back six months before the desired start date for building this addition. 

 

Staff stated the City Attorney and City staff both are uncomfortable granting anything for a longer time than what is allowed in the Ordinance.  The Building Department has to track these variances.  If the property sells or if something happens to the business, the variance still goes with the property.  There is no guarantee that the property will eventually look like their proposed drawing two years from now.

 

Chairman Lichtenwald asked Mr. Wirth if they would consider tabling or withdrawing the request until they are ready to proceed.  In consulting with the business owners, Mr. Wirth stated they would like to withdraw their application at this time.

 

No. 06-02 – Lawrence Hale for an area/dimension variance for a parking lot expansion into side yard setback at 3106 Swede Avenue.

 

The property is located in the OS - Office Service district.  The location map shows the property is located on the northeast corner of East Ashman and Swede Avenue.  It is currently the location of a hair salon and Hale & Hale Family Dentistry.  The aerial photo shows the building on the north side of the property.  It is surrounded by residential uses, with the exception that directly to the east is an ophthalmologist and directly south is a party store.  There are several parcels in this area that have split zoning on the parcel.  Mr. Poprave showed a photograph of the dentist’s office and the parking lot that is of concern this evening.  If approved, this non-use variance request will allow the petitioner to pave a previously constructed, gravel parking area in the required side yard setback.  Due to the change in use at 3106 Swede, the petitioner must create additional paved parking on the north side of his property.  This is the only available space suitable for parking.  Staff pointed out that in Residential A-2, if this was a new parking area, they would be required to secure a conditional use permit from City Council prior to construction.  Since this parking presently exists in a non-conforming situation, the Board can authorize the improvement of the non-conforming use (paving the parking area).  Mr. Poprave stated he spoke with Joe Rokosz of 3110 Swede Avenue today (neighbor to the north).  Mr. Rokosz is in favor of this variance being granted.  The property to the east used to be a church.  The parking area used to be an alley that was vacated years ago, for access to the church.  This area has been being used for parking for several decades now. 

 

The two office buildings, in their present use, are slightly non-conforming with regard off- street parking standards.  The change in use requires them to conform to today’s parking standards.  The petitioner must provide additional paved parking to accommodate the new beauty shop and this is the only remaining space on the property suitable for parking. 

 

Dr. Lawrence Hale spoke as the petitioner.  He stated this situation was triggered by them purchasing this property to get control of this parking lot, due to their high number of employees.  It was their intention last summer to pave this lot.  It was delayed because there was a power pole on one corner and the Fire Department requested the pole be removed.  They will probably repave the whole lot at one time. 

 

Higgins asked about the exit onto Swede Avenue from the parking lot.  Dr. Hale said they would like to keep this so they have two exits from their lot.

 

Aaron Cashin, of 857 E. Olson Road is currently the tenant at 3106 Swede Avenue.  They are in favor of this and support Dr. Hale and Mr. Rokosz.  He and his wife are the owners of the beauty shop.  No one else spoke in favor of or in opposition to this request.

 

Roy Green announced that Dr. Hale is his family dentist, but that it will not effect his decision.  Hearing no further comments the Chairman closed the public hearing and directed the Board to enter into findings of fact.

 

Findings of Fact:

  1. Zoned OS and RA-2.
  2. The property is a corner lot with Swede Avenue on the west and East Ashman on the south.
  3. The speed limit is 30 mph on Swede Avenue and 35 mph on East Ashman.
  4. The property abuts RA-2 on the north side with the existing gravel parking lot located in RA-2 on this property.
  5. The wood fence on the north property line is owned by the neighboring resident at 3110 Swede Ave.
  6. On street parking is not permitted on either Swede Ave. or E. Ashman Street.
  7. The property has two, duplex office buildings with the northerly building purchased in 2005 by the southerly building owner.
  8. The property has one driveway curb-cut on E. Ashman Street and one driveway curb-cut on Swede Avenue.
  9. There are a maximum of 31 parking spaces required by the Zoning Ordinance.
  10. Two communications were received in support of this variance, one (via telephone) from the owner of 3110 Swede Avenue and one from a member of the audience.
  11. The Zoning Ordinance requires parking and maneuvering areas to be paved and set back at least 10 feet to any street and any residential zone.
  12. The unimproved parking area to the north has existed for as much as 40 years, and was originally an alley.
  13. There is Neighborhood Commercial across the road to the south and Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church is located to the west of the parcel. 

 

It is moved by Higgins and supported by Sutton to approve Petition No. 06-02 based on the findings of fact, provided the following conditions be met:

1.                  That concrete wheel chocks be installed, per the Zoning Ordinance requirements, at the north end of the parking lot, and

2.                  That the parking area be constructed in accordance with Section 5.01(d) of the Zoning Ordinance.

 

Higgins feels this request meets all the criteria of the zoning ordinance. 

 

Sutton agrees.  This property is unique, as it has evolved over the years. 

 

Holthof also agrees. 

 

Green commends the owner that he has taken an existing lot and desires to make it in conformance with city regulations. 

 

Lichtenwald agrees with what has already been said.

 

Voting in support of the motion:

Higgins:  Yes

Holthof:  Yes

Lichtenwald:  Yes

Green:  Yes

Sutton:  Yes

 

The motion to approve Petition 06-02 was approved unanimously.

 

4.                  PUBLIC COMMENTS (not related to items on the agenda)

 

None

 

5.      OLD BUSINESS

 

None

 

6.      NEW BUSINESS

 

February Board Training Session – Staff is still talking about doing some board training, probably in March.  The board felt the training was excellent last year and agreed that it would be beneficial to hold again this year. 

 

Joe Dunn has submitted a letter of resignation to the City Manager’s office.  Residents can contact the City Clerk’s Office or the Planning Department if they are interested in serving as an alternate member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

 

Mr. Poprave reported there were new Zoning Ordinance changes approved by the Planning Commission and these will be before the City Council at their next meeting.  These changes will take effect sometime in early March of 2006. 

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

 

      a. 05-21, 05-22, 05-23 and 05-24 approval of findings of fact.

      b. Copies of recorded decision sheets from previous meeting

 

8.   ADJOURNMENT.

 

The Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:50 p.m.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Daryl Poprave

City Planner