MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 2007

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

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

PRESENT:          Board Members -      Holthof, Lichtenwald, Pnacek, Siemer and                                                                      Steele

ABSENT:            Board Members –     Higgins & Green

OTHERS PRESENT:    Keith Baker, Director of Planning; Daryl Poprave, Deputy Director of Planning; Cheri Standfest, Community Development Specialist and 8 others.

 

2.   APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

On page 5, third paragraph from the bottom of the January 2007 minutes, Bill Waterman was here to give an update – not to represent the Real Estate Investment Association.  Change this paragraph to read “he spoke as a member of the Real Estate Investment Association. 

 

It was moved by Siemer and supported by Steele to approve the minutes of the January 16, 2007 meeting as corrected.  Motion was unanimously approved.

 

3.   PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

a.      No. 07-04 – Alpine Midland LLC on behalf of Marriott Hotel for an area/dimension variance to allow a wall sign above the third floor windows and additional wall sign area at 520 Joe Mann Boulevard.  

 

Mr. Poprave began his presentation with an aerial photograph of the subject property.  The property is located north of Joe Mann Boulevard.  There is a private road called T. Moore Drive.  The Wal-Mart store is to the west.  It is currently a green field site, surrounded by vacant land.  Our zoning ordinance identifies this property as being zoned RC - Regional Commercial.  The petitioner is looking to purchase and then split this parcel off of the greater parcel.  The nearest zoning district that is different from commercial is RB, where the Midland Evangelical Free Church is located.  This property is approximately ¼ mile north of US-10. 

 

Alpine Midland LLC is currently in the site plan approval process.  As part of that hotel, they have shown some signage that is outside of the parameters of the Zoning Ordinance.  They are looking for additional wall signage, as well as additional height of the signs.  The petitioner is asking that they be allowed to place two wall signs on this building 1) 150 sq. ft. sign on the west elevation and 2) 80 sq. ft. sign on the south elevation.  They would like to place both of the wall signs above the third floor window sills.  Section 8.5D of the zoning ordinance refers to the restriction of the height of all wall signs.  In addition, the property owner is asking for an 80 sq. ft. sign that is both above the window sill of the third story and exceeds the wall sign square footage.  They have chosen to use their entire allowance of 150 sq. ft. of signage on the front (west elevation) and then they desire an additional 80 sq. ft. of signage on the south side of the building.  The west elevation wall sign could be placed on the canopy or another part of the building that would not block egress points from the building or light entering the building.  The south side elevation is more than ¼ mile away from the freeway.  You will not get great visibility from the freeway, at 70 mph, even with this south sign on the side of the building.  There will eventually be other buildings built in front of this that will block the view from the freeway anyway.  This request is a 65 percent increase in the amount of wall signage allowed.  Staff recommends denial of this variance.

 

Holthof asked what the intent was of the way the wall signage part of the ordinance was written.  Mr. Poprave stated he does not know what the rationale was when this part of the ordinance was written.  There was significant signage reduction when the new ordinance was written.  We allowed larger signs and higher pole signs in the past that we do not have now.  The sign section of the ordinance does make reference to aesthetics and, obviously, a building that has windows the city felt it wanted to see the windows and not a sign. 

 

Darrell Herbruck, representing Alpine Midland LLC, 5520 E. Pickard, Mt. Pleasant, spoke on behalf of the petitioner.  They would like to have nice and adequate signage since they are some distance away from the freeway.  They will be doing a nicer building with nice landscaping instead of a bright orange building, trying to call attention to it.  The signage should be aesthetically pleasing.  Their site actually front on three roads and thus they are allowed two pylon signs because they front on three roads.  They would like the 150 sq. ft. appropriately placed on the building and the additional signage on the side.  Because they have so much frontage, they are also required to put 31 trees in their front yard and several years down the road, you will not be able to see the sign when the trees grow to full maturity.  They are willing to give up ground signage for additional wall signage on the building. 

 

Holthof asked how many pylon signs they intend to put up.  The petitioner stated they only want to put up one pylon sign of 50 sq. ft.  They are allowed two pylon signs of 150 sq. ft. each, plus one additional pylon sign of 75 sq. ft. due to their large amount of road frontage.  The petitioner showed a picture of the actual sign.  The smallest sign they have is 24 inches high and 23 feet long.  This would look lost on this building.  They could always put on a pitched roof and they could put a sign on the roof.  If they only get a variance for one sign, they would prefer to have the sign on the front of the building.  They could always put up a pylon sign in front of the side of the building.  They are not asking for more than 150 sq. ft. on the sign in the front of the building, and 80 sq. ft. on the south side.

 

Having no further questions of the petitioner, the Chairman asked if there was anyone present who wished to speak in favor of the petition, hearing none, the Chairman asked if there was anyone present who wished to speak in opposition to the request.

 

Hearing no further public comments, the Chairman closed the public hearing and directed the Board to enter into findings of fact on the request.

 

            Findings of Fact:

1.      The request is for 150 sq. ft. wall signage on the west side of the structure and an 80 sq. ft. wall sign on the south of the structure, both above the third floor window sills.

2.      The property is located ¼ mile north of the highway.

3.      The property is zoned Regional Commercial.

4.      Traffic will primarily enter the property from the west, as stated by the petitioner.

5.      Speed limit is 30 mph on Joe Mann Boulevard.

6.      According to the petitioner, there is a 30 inch span between the top of the windows and the window sills on the next floor up.

7.      The petitioner only plans on one, 50 sq. ft., ground sign, although they can have more.  They are allowed two 100 sq. ft. pylon signs plus one other pylon sign if they wish.  1240 feet of road frontage gets them a number of ground signs.

8.      The petitioner could modify the design of the building and actually put these signs on the roof.

 

            It is moved by Holthof, supported by Steele, to approve Petition No. 07-04 based on the findings of fact for 150 sq. ft. sign above the third floor windows on the west side of the building and an 80 sq. ft. additional wall sign on the south side of the building at 520 Joe Mann Boulevard. 

 

            Holthof does not see any issues with this.  According to Section 8.05(d) in the zoning ordinance, he sees a problem in trying to squeeze this sign in the 30 inches between the top of the windows on the second floor and the window sills on the third floor.  He doesn’t know that the ordinance considered this type of structure when it was written.  Strict compliance would be unnecessary burdensome.  He thinks it is unnecessarily burdensome to have them get the sign down where the ordinance states it has to be.  This is very common to the way Springhill Suites does things.  He thinks the unique circumstances are the placement of the windows between the floors.  Compliance with the ordinance would create some safety issues in that the signs would block egress from the windows.

 

            Pnacek feels this is also unique. Due to life/safety issues with the windows for egress, the sign will be placed where it should be in this case. 

 

Steele would rather see something that is built into the building rather than a bunch of pylon signs out there. 

 

Siemer states this sign will be difficult to see as you are driving by.  This will be too high to see.  Something more at eye level would be much more noticeable. 

 

Lichtenwald feels that a 65 percent increase in wall signage is excessive.  He does think that trying to stick the sign between the windows on the second floor and the window sills on the second floor would not look aesthetically pleasing.

 

Voting on the motion:

            Holthof:  Yes

            Lichtenwald:  No

            Pnacek:   Yes

            Siemer:  No

Steele:  Yes

 

The motion to approve the Petition 07-04 was approved 3-2.

 

b.      No. 07-06 – Keith and Kara Malkowski for an area/dimension variance to allow an encroachment in their side yard setback to permit an attached mudroom and garage to be construction at 3217 Pomranky Road.

 

Mr. Poprave showed an aerial photo of the site.  This is residential property zoned RA-1, single family residential, totally surrounded on all sides by single-family residential.  The uniqueness of this property is that, surrounding this property is the 100-year flood plain.  The area on Pomranky Road and Vance Road is located in the 100-year flood plan.  The federal government regulates floodplain and the city regulates the building of structures in the floodplain.  The house is located in Zone X, which is the 500 year flood plain, where there are no floodplain building restrictions.  That is a particular uniqueness to this property.  The applicant presented a copy of the FEMA map showing the 100 year flood plain and the location of their property.

 

This variance would allow the petitioners to construct a 1,080 sq. ft. addition to their home including a garage and a mud-room.  Section 3.03(A)3 of the zoning ordinance states that if the additions, including a garage and mud-room, are attached to the house, they must meet the same setbacks as the principal dwelling.  This parcel of land is over an acre in size, which would normally be enough room to add an addition to a house.  Without the flood plain issues, this lot would have a lot of room to build a garage that would not encroach into the setback area.  However, due to the flood plain, this is not the case in this instance. 

 

               Due to the fact this property is in the flood plain, staff recommends approval of this variance as it is not desirable to have structures built within the 100-year flood plain.  This house was built in 1939, and the flood plain was not delineated in Midland until 1984.  This does provide uniqueness to this property.

 

               Keith Malkowski of 3217 Pomranky Road is requesting the variance due to the flood plain issue.  The other consideration is, on the map where the entrance to the house is located; they would lose a lot of light and ventilation due to a large window on the east side of the house.  Accessing the back yard from the garage would still be possible in this location.  They have issues with their septic field on the west side of their property and in relation to the flood plain is also a concern.  They do not want to be driving over the septic field or in the flood plain.  The nearest residence is quite a distance to the east. 

 

               There is a split-rail fence that runs along the property to the east.  Pnacek asked if he were to move the east wall of the garage two feet to the west, making it a 24’ wide garage.  Lichtenwald asked if a 25’ garage and a 7’ mud-room would meet their needs and, therefore, they would not need this variance.  The petitioner stated they want to be able to get their car doors open without dinging the car next to it.  Siemer asked if they move the garage forward six inches so that it would be in front of the east/west property line, there would not be a problem.  The garage could be moved forward but not the mud-room as the mud-room comes right up to a window on the south side of the house. 

 

               Kara Malkowski of 3217 Pomranky Road is the wife of the petitioner and she spoke about the floor plan that they have designed now.  They would like to make the mud-room and the back of the garage even.  Moving the garage up and not the mud-room would not work as it is currently designed.  They purposely put the mud-room where it is so it would not block their only window on the east side of the house.

 

Having no further questions of the petitioner, the Chairman asked if there was anyone present who wished to speak in favor of the petition.

 

               Gloria Smith of 3201 Pomranky Road stated she has absolutely no objection to the two-foot variance.  It does not affect her in any way and she is the east side neighbor.

 

               Jim Kimbrue of 3200 Pomranky Road state that he is on the opposite side of the road from where the flood plain is.  He has no objections to this variance.

 

The Chairman asked if there was anyone present who wished to speak in opposition to the request.  Hearing no further public comments, the Chairman closed the public hearing and directed the Board to enter into findings of fact on the request.

 

            Findings of Fact:

           

1.      This property is zoned RA-1 Residential.

2.      The property is located at 3217 Pomranky Road and is located in the 500 year flood plain.

3.      Portions of the lot are in the 100 year floodplain.

4.      On the west side of the property is a septic field and well which would prevent the garage from being placed on that side.

5.      The lot is 1.71 acres.

6.      The first floor of the house is 1512 sq. ft. and the proposed garage is 780 sq. ft.

7.      The dwelling is approximately 200 yards from their nearest neighbor to the east.

8.      The mud room is 300 sq. ft.

9.      There is one letter in support and two neighbors spoke in favor of this variance.

 

            It is moved by Siemer, supported by Steele, to approve Petition No. 07-06 based on the findings of fact for a 2 ft. side yard setback reduction to permit an attached mudroom and garage addition to be constructed at 3217 Pomranky Road based on the findings of fact.

 

            Holthof feels the petitioner did a very good job of addressing all the criteria.  The floodplain limits where they can build the structure and the petitioner has done a good job of showing that moving things one way or another would not prove fruitful.

 

            Pnacek thinks there are ways around this, but the circumstances with the floodplain; he finds this would be acceptable.  Siemer and Steele concur.  Lichtenwald stated the petition also meets all the criteria in this case.

 

            Voting on the motion:

Holthof:  Yes

Lichtenwald:  Yes

Pnacek:  Yes

Siemer:  Yes

Steele:  Yes

 

The motion to approve the Petition 07-06 was approved 5 - 0.

 

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

 

            None

 

5.      OLD BUSINESS

 

      None

 

6.   NEW BUSINESS

 

1.   Introduction of new Planning Director, Keith Baker.   Mr. Baker stated Mr. Poprave will continue to be the staff liaison with the Zoning Board of Appeals but he is available also as a resource.

 

2.   Planning Commission/Zoning Board of Appeals Retreat – We have not had a retreat since 2005.  We try to do some in-house training with the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals without requiring the Board to travel out of town or take time off work.  Mr. Poprave reviewed the proposed agenda for the retreat.  The training retreat will be held on Saturday, April 14, 2007 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Midland Community Center.

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

 

  1. 07-02 approval of findings of fact

     

8.   ADJOURNMENT

 

Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 8:22 p.m.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Daryl Poprave

Deputy Director of Planning & Community Development