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 4 others.



It was moved by Sutton supported by Green to approve the minutes of the January 17, 2006 meeting as written.  Motion was unanimously approved.


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




No. 06-03 – James Dubiel for two area/dimension variances to permit the expansion of an existing detached garage over the maximum allowed square footage and into the required front yard area at 1428 Bitler Street. 


The City Planner began by showing a location map of the subject property.  The site is located east of Eastman Avenue and east of Denver Avenue, which is not a through street.  It is north of Dilloway Drive, located in RA-1 single family residential zoning district.  It is a very large piece of property about 1-1/4 acres in size.  There is a bank located on Eastman Avenue that shields this property from Eastman Avenue.  There are two area-dimension requests before the Board tonight that if granted will permit the petitioner to construct a detached accessory building.  There presently exists an accessory building of 720 feet in size.  The petitioner wants to add a 484 sq. ft. addition to this building.  Because the proposed 22 x 22 sq. ft. addition is added on to the 30 x 24 sq. ft. building, variances are needed for both the location of the building and the size of the building.  The petitioner has shown on his drawing that he also has a 144 sq. ft. shed out back, in addition to the house.  The cumulative area of the accessory buildings (1,348 sq. ft.) will exceed the size of the house which is 903 sq. ft.  The petitioner has pointed out that the addition needs to be on the front of the building as there is a significant drop-off on the back of the existing detached garage.    Two letters of communication were received in support of the variance.  There are several names attached to the variance application that are also in support of the variance. 


Ms. Sutton asked staff when the house was built, and when the petitioner purchased the house.  She will wait and ask the petitioner.


Mr. Higgins stated that, since it is a private street, he assumes they own the street.  Mr.  Poprave stated they do, but there is still a right-of-way granted for the street.


Mr. James Dubiel, of 1428 Bitler Street, stated he is looking to add on to the garage.  He wants to be able to park his vehicles in the garage.  He wants to keep the cars in the garage plus he needs room to work in the garage.  He bought the house in 2000.  The original house was built in the 1950’s.  It has a very small foundation.  Because it is on the end of a dead-end street, it has no traffic that passes by and is out of sight from the main street (Eastman Avenue). 


Mr. Higgins asked Mr. Dubiel to elaborate on the first criteria.  He wants to know why this will be “unnecessarily burdensome”.  He does not think this is unnecessarily burdensome because he can still use the property for a permitted purpose.  Why would it be burdensome for them to live with the garage they have now?  Mr. Dubiel stated he needs it for storage of his kids’ bikes and they have two cars that he would like to put in the garage.  He stated it would be extremely difficult to add on to the house because of the age.  Adding on would take the house a lot closer to other houses in the surrounding area.  He has a full basement with the current structure, but there is still not enough room for storage. 


Mr. Tom Brady, 1430 Dilloway Drive stated that his property backs up to Mr. Dubiel’s property.   He has no objection to the proposed addition.  He feels it would be very costly if Mr. Dubiel had to add on to the house. 


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


Findings of Fact:

  1. The property is zoned RA-1, Residential.
  2. The property was purchased by the petitioner in 2000 according to the petitioner.
  3. The house was built in the 1950’s.
  4. The house is a story and a half with a basement.
  5. There are three communications – two letters in support and one person from the audience in support.

6.   The house is 903 sq. ft. in size on the first floor.

7.   The current detached garage is 720 sq. ft. in size.

8.      The proposed addition to the garage is 484 sq. ft. in area.

9.      The lot is 330 ft. by 169 ft. or 55,770 sq. ft. (1 ¼ acres) in size.

10.  The petitioner is proposing a 484 sq. ft. addition to the detached garage.

  1. Bitler Street is not a through street and is a private unpaved street.
  2. This is the last house on Bitler Street.
  3. 1,348 is the total sq. ft. for all accessory buildings and this is 445 sq. ft. more than the house, which is the principal building on the property.
  4. The proposed addition will be placed 10 feet in front of the principal building.
  5. The north side of the property is heavily wooded.
  6. There is a 2 ft. elevation drop behind the existing detached garage per the petitioner’s statements.
  7. The lot is four times the minimum lot area for RA-1.

The Board questioned which would be the principal building on the property if this variance is granted.  The garage would be larger than the house.  Mr. Poprave stated that the house would still be considered the principal structure on the property.  The assessing records show that the existing structure is 728 square feet in size. 


It is moved by Holthof and supported by Higgins to approve Petition No. 06-03 based on the findings of fact.


Holthof stated he has no problem having the structure extend 10’ in front of the house.  Based on the size of the lot, he does not think this will be a viewable issue.  If the petitioner were adding this on to the front of the home, he would not even be here.  We are telling the petitioner that he can not add a 10’ x 30’ addition to his house.  This property is nearly the size of four lots.  In this case, there is no way he is “overbuilding” the lot.  He feels strict compliance is unnecessarily burdensome because we are telling him to enlarge his house first and then he can add on to the garage.  The adjoining property owners have no problems with this.  This is sprucing things up and making the overall neighborhood look better in general.  He thinks there is no problem with this for this particular property and its unique circumstances.


Sutton has a problem with this, in that this variance goes with the property in perpetuity.  Perhaps someone would come along in the future and add on to the house.  Her concern is allowing 10 feet of the garage extend closer to the street.  Many places have to add fill to build a house on a piece of property.  Also, we have many petitioners state it would be economically burdensome.  Economics are relative to each petitioner regarding them being burdensome.


Green is concern is the first criteria.  It states it would prevent the property from being used for a permitted purpose.  There is property behind the garage.  Is the fact that the property slopes off behind the garage enough to make this burdensome?


Higgins stated he does not have a problem with building on the front of this garage mainly because of the depth of the property.  If something were to happen to this house, he would expect someone would build a bigger house.  That would make this garage legal.  Therefore, he is in agreement with Holthof. 


Lichtenwald stated that he does not feel the first criteria is met.  The house is the house and the size of the garage does not prevent him from using the property.  It might lend to the uniqueness of the property, but the garage is still the garage and it is an accessory structure.


Voting in support of the motion:

Higgins:  Yes

Holthof:  Yes

Lichtenwald:  No

Green:  No

Sutton:  No


The motion to approve Petition 06-03 was denied 3-2.


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










May ZBA interviews.  There is one vacancy for an alternate on the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Ms. Sutton and Mr. Green will be contacted by the City Manager’s Office regarding the dates of the interviews. 


Mr. Poprave stated there are four variance applications out for the May 16th Board meeting.   He anticipates having a meeting in May.


Mr. Green stated he had the opportunity on March 15th to attend a session held by the Michigan Association of Planning in Lansing.  He would encourage members of the ZBA to take advantage of these training issues, especially the opportunity to hear about litigation issues and how the laws have changed over the years.  It is interesting how our procedure in the City of Midland is in conformance with the laws and how our decisions are affected.


The Dollar Daze is back in court at 2:30 p.m. this Friday.  They have chosen to add some oral arguments so there will be a hearing before Judge Ludington this Friday.


We had talked about training for the Zoning Board of Appeals.  We did training for the Planning Commission last Thursday night on a single issue that does not affect the Zoning Board of Appeals.  This topic was on conditional rezoning.  This law went into effect in December 2004.  If the conditions that are set at the time of the rezoning are not complied with, it reverts to the prior zoning classification.  We will go through the public hearing process with the Planning Commission and before City Council, and would probably go into effect in July.  This is not something the Zoning Board of Appeals will have to deal with, though. 


The township zoning act and county zoning act have been combined with the city and village zoning act and all have become one law now.  The difference is that now townships can grant use variances, where they could not before and all municipalities have the same public hearing procedures now.





      a. 06-02 approval of findings of fact.

      b. Copies of recorded decision sheets from previous meeting.




The Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:37 p.m.



Respectfully submitted,



Daryl Poprave

City Planner