MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2006

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

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

PRESENT:           Board Members -      Green, Higgins, Lichtenwald,                                                                                   Steele, and Pnacek

ABSENT:             Board Members -      Holthof

OTHERS PRESENT:      Cheri Standfest, Community Development Specialist, Debra Sharon, Office Assistant, and 8 others.

 

2.   INTRODUCTION OF NEW MEMBERS

      Jon Steele was introduced as a new regular member and Shawn Pnacek was introduced  as an alternate.  Mr. Steele stated he came to Midland in 1981 and worked for Dow Chemical Company for 20 years.  Mr. Pnacek stated he builds new houses in Midland and also works for Pumford Construction, in Saginaw.

 

3.   SELECTION OF CHAIRMAN AND VICE-CHAIRMAN

      Higgins moved and it was supported by Green, to nominate Tim Lichtenwald as Chairman for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.   Higgins moved the nominations be closed.  Tim Lichtenwald was unanimously approved as Chairman. 

 

      Higgins moved and it was supported by Steele, to nominate Roy Greene as Vice-Chairman for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.  Higgins moved the nominations be closed.  Roy Green was unanimously approved as Vice-Chairman.

 

4.   APPROVAL OF MINUTES

It was moved by Higgins and supported by Green to approve the minutes of the June 20, 2006 meeting as corrected.  Motion was unanimously approved.

 

Green:  Page 1, First paragraph under Case No. 06-06, remove the sentence “Northwest Plaza is to the south which includes the Dollar Daze Store.”

Higgins:  Page 2, third paragraph, fourth line, should read “already encroaches eight (8) feet into the rear yard setback.”

Higgins:  Page 7, Case No. 06-09 should read, Bill Waterman “requested” instead of “for”.   Mr. Higgins did not feel it read well.

 

5.   PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

a.      No. 06-10 – Betsy Dunham of 5206 Ridgeview Court for an area/dimension variance to permit an existing 8 foot tall wrought iron fence to remain on top of a retaining wall on her property.

 

This property is located in a subdivision just to the north of Wheeler Road, just to the west of the US-10 expressway.  The property is zoned Residential A-1 and is surrounded by RA-1 zoning on all four sides, with some Residential B zoning just west of the expressway.  There are protected wetlands to the south between the subject property and the next lot.  The petitioners have a retaining wall around the property to prevent erosion into the wetlands.  The variance is to allow an existing 5’9” wrought iron fence to remain on top of the existing retaining wall which varies from 2 feet to 8 feet in height on the property located at 5206 Ridgeview Court.  The petitioner states in her letter that the fence was professionally installed in 2005, along the side of a retaining wall, which is located on the southwest side of her home.  Because of a rapid change in the grade of her property, she felt it was necessary for safety that a fence be constructed for safety reasons, to keep people from falling off the retaining wall.  The retaining wall height is not an issue for the City of Midland because this wall was a necessary component of the construction of this home to control erosion.  At issue, is whether or not the existing 5’9” tall fence can remain on top of the existing retaining wall in its present location?

 

Section 7.03(a) of the Midland Zoning Ordinance states “All fences shall not exceed six feet in height above grade except for the following:  a) Fences located in the required front or side street yards shall not exceed three and one-half feet in height above grade.   Attachment #1 depicts the south side elevation view of the retaining wall and fence.  Because the zoning ordinance prohibits fences over six feet in height anywhere on a residentially zoned property, not abutting freeways, a variance is required for the 5’11” fence that is located in the required front yard setback of 30 feet. 

 

The petitioner will need two variances – one for over the 3.5 ft. height in the required front yard and one for over the six feet allowed in the side and rear yards.  They have a 3-car garage and a car pad.  There are federally regulated wetlands on three sides of their property.

 

No public comments were received for this petition.  An affirmative vote of a majority of ZBA members is necessary to approve this variance request.

 

            Art Dunham, of 5206 Ridgeview Court, stated they have protected wetlands on three sides of the house.  One of the reasons they bought this house is that no one would be able to develop close to them due to the wetlands.  They built a retaining wall on three sides of the house to prevent erosion into the wetlands.  They wanted to prevent the erosion of soil around the house.  They installed the fence after they built the house.  The section of wetlands slopes downward as you go from the front to back, or west to east, on the parcel and culminates in an 8½’ drop at the back.  In February, 2005, they had Midland Fence install a 69” wrought iron fence on top of the retaining wall, along the entire length to prevent anyone or anything from falling off their property and onto the adjoining parcel.   Mr. Dunham stated that if they were to comply with the zoning, they would have to cut down the front 8 feet of fence to 10 inches, and they would not be able to have any fence at all in the back.  His photos also showed that the fence is barely visible when looking at it from the north, and visible but discreetly so when looking from the south.

 

            Jack Higgins said that he couldn’t help but feel that the petitioners created their own problem by putting the fence up in the first place without approval.  Mr. Dunham’s response was that he assumed Midland Fence would be aware of the zoning laws.  If they have to comply with the ordinance, they will have to take the fence down and there will be an 8-1/2 foot drop on the back side of the retaining wall.  The fence was an afterthought after the house was built. 

 

            Roy Green asked about the approximate foot of wall on the outside of the fence.  He felt that in the interest of safety, a person could still walk outside the fence and fall.  The petitioner admitted that yes, one could, but that in most scenarios the fence would be adequate in preventing that from happening.

 

            Jack Higgins asked Mr. Dunham if he would have a problem lowering the front 8’ of fence to 42”.  Mr. Dunham said he would not, and stated that he had actually thought about that possibility.

 

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

 

            Findings of Fact:

            1.   The property is zoned Residential A-1.

            2.   The property is located on a dead-end court.

            3.   The property to the south is partially federally regulated wetlands.

            4.   There is a deep gully adjacent to the petitioner’s property.

            5.   The fence is 5’9” above the pad level.

            6.   A retaining wall was built to prevent erosion and to allow the construction of a car pad.

            7.   The fence is needed to protect individuals from a drop off the wall into the gully.

            8.   The retaining wall and fence were built in 2005.

            9.   The retaining wall is 8-1/2 feet high at the highest point (at the rear).

            10. No correspondence or comments were received either for or against this petition.

            11. The house was built in 2005.

            12. The fence is located on the south side of the property.

            13. The house has an existing 3-car garage with a parking pad on the south side.

 

            It is moved by Higgins, seconded by Green, to approve Petition No. 06-10 based on the findings of fact, provided that the fence not exceed 5 feet 9 inches in height above the pad except in the front 30 feet, where it should not exceed 42 inches above the pad.

 

            Jack Higgins said that the 8-1/2 foot drop off presented a liability and/or a safety issue.  It appears that the petitioner did attempt to stay within the ordinance except for the front part.  He also felt that the gully and drop off make the property unique, as well as make a fence a necessity.

 

            Roy Green agreed with Jack, but thought that a final criterion was not met.  The way the house was built created the problem.  He also felt that there were other safety issues, one being the fact that the retaining was still accessible to be walked on.

 

Jon Steele felt there is a major safety issue about someone falling off the retaining wall rather than walking along the side of it.

 

Shawn Pnacek agrees with John, especially in the back where there is an 8-1/2 foot drop.

 

Tim Lichtenwald brought up the fact that a legitimate guardrail is only 42” high, yet if the fence has to come down he can see bigger problems.  He thinks this is a unique situation.

 

Motion by Lichtenwald, seconded by Higgins to amend the motion to limit the height of the fence to 42 inches above the pad for the entire linear length of the fence around the pad.

 

Vote on the amendment to the motion:

Green:  Yes

Higgins:   Yes

Pnacek:  No 

Lichtenwald:  Yes

Steele:  No

 

Vote on amended motion:

Green:  Yes

Higgins:  Yes

Pnacek:  Yes

Lichtenwald:  Yes

Steele:  Yes

 

The motion to approve the Amended Petition 06-10 was approved 5 - 0.

 

      b.  No. 06-11 – Battalion Chief, John Haag, on behalf of the Midland Fire Department, requests an area/dimension variance to permit a 1,200 square foot detached storage building to be constructed behind Fire Station Number Three located at 1717 North Saginaw Road.

 

            Ms. Standfest showed a location map indicating Fire Station Three.  It is located on the south side of N. Saginaw Road, across from the Northwest Plaza.  It is zoned Residential B, which allows multi-family dwellings.  It is surrounded to the north and east by Regional Commercial, to the south and east by Office Service and to the west by Residential A-1. 

 

            The petitioner would like to construct a 1,200 sq. ft. detached storage garage behind fire Station #3, to house a hazardous material response trailer and a rescue boat with trailer.  The petitioner states in his letter that, due to equipment overcrowding issues, he would like to construct this building on Station Three’s property because it has the most space (the lot size is one and one-half acres).  This space would house the hazardous materials response vehicle and water rescue equipment which are not utilized on a daily basis.  As noted in the petitioner’s application letter, the station currently has a 140 sq. ft. shed located in the rear yard behind the fire station.

 

            Section 3.03(b)3 of the Midland Zoning Ordinance states “Accessory buildings in rear yards shall not occupy more than thirty-five percent (35%) of the required rear yard.”  It also states that, “Any accessory building whether detached or attached, may not have more than eight hundred (800) sq. ft. of gross floor area.  The total floor of all accessory buildings, including garages, shall not exceed the usable residential floor area of the ground floor of the principal building.  For land parcels greater than two acres, the area of the accessory buildings shall not exceed the gross floor area of the ground floor of the dwelling structure.” 

 

Fire Station Number Three’s living quarters (excluding the truck bays ) is 2,107 sq. ft. and the proposed storage building and existing shed are less than this figure (1,340 sq. ft. combined), thus the sole authorization being requested from the Zoning Board of Appeals is whether or not it is appropriate to permit a detached accessory building greater than 800 sq. ft. to be constructed on this property.  They are asking for 400 additional sq. ft.  They have 1-1/2 acres.  If they had two acres, they could go to the equivalent of the ground floor structure (2,107 sq. ft.).  They are allowed multiple storage buildings on the site as they are zoned Residential-B.  The storage building will be heated, but there will be no water to it.  They will match the existing building in color.  Station 3 provided photos showing the crowded conditions at stations 1 and 2, as well as photos showing that station 3 has the most space available for storing said equipment.

 

            One letter in support was received for this petition from Robert Hart, at 4614 Arbor Drive.  They have no objections to the construction of a storage garage behind Fire Station #3, with the conditions that they use the dark siding and dark roof shingles, and that the building not be sited closer to their property than indicated on the drawing, as described in the letter from John Haag, dated July 24, 2006.  They would also like to see the planting of evergreens or other shrubbery on the west side of the building.  They are asking for 1,200 sq. ft. of detached storage garage in addition to an existing 140 sq. ft. shed, where a maximum of 800 sq. ft. is allowed.

 

            An affirmative vote of a majority of ZBA members is necessary to approve this variance request.

 

Chief Leonardo Garcia or 4308 Congress St. and Battalion Chief Haag of 2701 Gary St. were present representing Station 3.  They stated that zoning allows for them to have 800 square feet for an accessory building, and their proposed building has 1,200 sq. ft.  The station is on an acre and a half, and the proposed structure would be well within the required setbacks for the property.  They plan on matching the main building in siding color, shingles, etc., as well as providing screening. 

 

Jack Higgins asked if they could remove the existing storage building.  Battalion Chief Haag explained that they could relocate the existing 140 sq. ft. building to Station One.   He explained that they would want the building to go back slightly further than indicated on drawing to allow trucks to be able to drive in, turn left, and back the vehicles into the storage garage.  Mr. Higgins asked if they would have a problem with going back to 30’ from property line.  Chief Haag indicated that they would not.  Mr. Higgins also stated he would like to see some screening, and Chief Haag agreed.

 

Roy Green asked for clarification about a fence along the back of the property and Chief Haag told him that belonged to the assisted living facility behind the fire station.

 

Jon Steele asked how high the building would be.  Chief Haag said it would have the appearance of a residential garage; a one-story building, dark siding and shingles, a peaked roof, with a 2-foot overhang.

 

No one spoke in favor of or in opposition to the request. 

 

Findings of Fact:

1.   The property is zoned Residential B.

2.   The subject parcel is bordered by Residential A–1 and Office Service zoning..

3.   The lot size is approximately 1-1/2 acres.

            4.   There is an existing 140 sq. ft. shed in the rear yard.

            5.   The proposed structure will sit directly behind existing fire station.

            6.   There is one letter in support for the project.

            7.   The color of the proposed building will match the existing building with dark colored siding and a dark roof.

 

It is moved by Green and supported by Steele to approve Petition No. 06-11 based on the findings of fact, to permit a 30’ x 40’ detached storage building to be constructed behind Fire Station Number Three located at 1717 North Saginaw Road.

 

Higgins asked for a friendly amendment to motion to limit accessory buildings to 1,200 sq. ft., forcing them to move the 140 sq. ft. existing building, and provide screening on the south and west sides in accordance with zoning ordinance 6.02 (e).  This friendly amendment was accepted by Green and Steele.

 

Roy Green thinks the existing storage building should be removed so that as minimal a variance as possible was needed, and that proper screening should be provided.  He also thought this was a unique situation as the over-crowding and excess of equipment was in the interest of public safety and the service that the station provides to the citizens of the entire community.  Because of this fact, he can support the variance.

 

Jon Steele stated he also can support this variance.

 

Jack Higgins agreed with Roy.  Strict compliance is unnecessarily burdensome.  The need for more storage space is for the public protection and, therefore, is a community need.

 

Shawn Pnacek agreed.  He can also support this variance.

 

Tim Lichtenwald agreed and felt all the criteria were met.

 

Voting on the motion:

Green:  Yes

Higgins:   Yes

Pnacek:  Yes

Lichtenwald:  Yes

Steele:  Yes

 

The motion to approve Petition 06-11 was approved 5 - 0.

 

c.       No. 06-12 – Midway Signs, on behalf of Feeny Chrysler, for an area/dimension variance to permit building wall signage to be increased to 258 square feet at 7400 Eastman Avenue.

 

      Ms. Standfest showed a location map indicating the Feeny Chrysler Dealer.  It is located to the north of the Meijers store on Eastman Avenue.  She pointed out that this is not a corner lot, although there is a private drive dunning between the Meijers and the Feeny properties.  The zoning map indicates this property is zoned Regional Commercial with Industrial property to the northeast and Community zoning across the street for the fairgrounds and City Forest.  The land use plan indicates this property is surrounded by Regional Commercial uses, with the public space zoning across the street at the Fairgrounds and Public Parks and Recreation across the street to the north, for the City Forest. 

 

      Feeny Chrysler is asking for a variance for four (4) additional wall signs at this location, which would bring the total number of wall signs to four (4) after the removal of three (3) wall signs at the time of installation.  This would also raise the square footage from the allowed 150 sq. ft. to 258 sq. ft, an increase of 108 sq. ft.

 

      Presently, the building has 193 sq. ft. of wall signage (one 79 sq. ft. sign on the north side, one 30 sq. ft. sign on the north side of the building, and one 29 sq. ft., one 18 sq. ft. and one 46 sq. ft. wall sign on the west side of the building).  This signage is in addition to one 150 sq. ft. ground sign at the entrance to the dealership.

 

      In 2005, the new zoning ordinance took effect and the total permitted sign square footage throughout the City was decreased.  As a result, the signage at this location is nonconforming.  Table 8.2 of the Zoning Ordinance limits the total wall signage in the Regional Commercial District to 150 sq. ft.  Footnotes “d” and “e” do not apply to this site as there are not multiple independent businesses at this location.

 

      They put up 193 sq. ft. of signage under the old zoning ordinance.  The new ordinance says they can have a maximum of 150 sq. ft. of signage.  They also have a 150 sq. ft. ground sign.  Under the new ordinance, we allow 100 sq. ft.  They can take the 193 sq. ft. they have now and reconfigure it as there is no “intent to abandon” the property.  They are not on a corner lot.  The driveway to the south side is a private drive between their property and Meijer.

 

      No public comments received in favor of or in opposition to this petition.  An affirmative vote of a majority of ZBA members is necessary to approve this variance request.

 

      Bob Feeny, of 2319 Deer Valley, explained that they needed more signage so that their business is visible to people driving down Eastman Avenue. He also added that they are building a new $1.5 million body shop on the property and that signage is needed advertise this fact to current and potential customers.

 

      Roy Green asked Mr. Feeny if he felt strongly that the success or failure of his $1.5 million endeavor really depended on increasing the signage on his building.  Mr. Feeny said that he is moving his existing body shop from its current S. Saginaw Rd. location to the Eastman Ave. location so that everything is located in one place.  He said that there may be people who do not know this unless there is some type of sign to advertise that fact, and they may believe that service is still off-premises. 

 

      Chuck Crump, of 322 Commerce Center Dr., Saginaw, MI spoke for Midway Signs.  He said that they’re talking strictly about wall signs on the building.  The current logos on the building need to be changed.   Plymouth is no longer produced or sold at the location so that sign has been removed.   The Dodge logo has changed, the Chrysler logo has changed, and the color of the “Parts and Service” signage has changed from blue to black.  He also said that the corporate preference is the dealer’s name on the front of the building, with an increase of letter size from the 24” they have now, to 30”.

 

      Once the new body shop signage is added, there will be a total of 153.9 sq. ft. on the front of the building and 104.1 sq. ft. on the side that faces Meijer, for a total of 258 sq. ft.  He explained that each sign represents a service or product that they sell.  The Dodge, Chrysler, Used Cars, Body Shop, and Parts & Service signs will help direct customers where they need to go within the dealership.  Neither the size nor the location of the pylon sign will change.  They also feel that the larger lettering is needed for better visibility from Meijer’s parking lot and from Eastman Ave. 

 

      Jack Higgins questioned a letter written in support that specified a total, after variance, of four signs.  The committee counted five, petitioner described six.  Mr. Crump explained that the Body Shop had not been planned at the time the letter was written.

 

      Mr. Higgins asked why Feeny should be allowed more signage than any other business in the community.  Mr. Crump felt that they had the least signage of any auto dealership in the area.

 

      Roy Green pointed out that they already have 193 sq. ft. of signage, which is more than what the current variance allows, and asked if they had looked at other ways to utilize that space.  Did they really feel that they still needed more?  Mr. Crump said yes, they feel the speed at which traffic travels down Eastman does not provide for adequate visibility. 

 

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

 

Findings of Fact:

 

1.   The property is zoned Regional Commercial.

2.   A new body shop is being erected at this location.  This shop is being moved from a site on S. Saginaw Road to consolidate operations.

3.   Current wall signage is 193 sq. ft, which can be kept without a variance.

4.   The speed limit is 45 mph on Eastman Ave.

5.   The road to the south of the building or property is a private drive into Meijers’ property. 

6.   No correspondence was received in favor of or in opposition to this request.

7.   The facility is located on the east side of Eastman Ave. and has direct visual contact with Joe Mann Blvd.

 

It is moved by Higgins and supported by Steele to approve Petition No. 06-12 based on the findings of fact, to permit building wall signage to be increased to 258 square feet.

 

Higgins said that Feeny does not sit that far back from Eastman Ave.  He feels that the products and services they say they need to advertise are those that one would expect a dealership to offer.  When he made his site visit, he said that he could see the name ‘Feeny’ perfectly from the Meijer parking lot; therefore he felt that there really isn’t a need to increase the lettering from 24 to 30”, which saves some sign space.  He also pointed out that Feeny’s existing signage is already 93 sq. ft. great than what is allowed under the current zoning ordinance.

 

Steele and Pnacek agreed.

 

Lichtenwald agreed and felt all the criteria have not been met.  He said they already have more signage than the ordinance allows.  That 193 sq. ft. can be divided among the new signs.

 

Voting support of the motion:

Green:  No

Higgins:  No  

Pnacek:  No 

Lichtenwald:  No

Steele:  No

 

The motion to approve Petition 06-12 was denied 0 - 5.

 

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

 

None

 

7.   OLD BUSINESS

 

None

 

8.   NEW BUSINESS

 

a.       September 19, 2006 ZBA meeting – There will be a September Zoning Board of Appeals meeting as we already have one case submitted. 

b.      A new roster was placed in members’ packets to include the new ZBA members.

c.       October 11 –14th there is the Michigan Association of Planning conference in Detroit.  If a member would be interested in attending, contact Daryl.  Green said that he attended previously and would highly recommend it. 

 

9.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

 

a. 06-07 approval of findings of fact.

Modified to 18 sq ft not 36 sq ft

      b. 06-05 approval of findings of fact.

                        Left out a motion; the amendment was voted on and not the entire motion.

      c. 06-08 approval of findings of fact

      d. 06-09 approval of findings of fact.

                        Higgins – on a, should be duplex not triplex

 

10.   ADJOURNMENT.

 

The Chairman adjourned the meeting at 8:44 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Cheri Standfest

Community Development Specialist