MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2008

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

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

PRESENT:          Board Members -      Green, Higgins, Holthof, Siemer, and

Steele

ABSENT:            Board Members – Lichtenwald

OTHERS PRESENT:    Daryl Poprave, Cheri King, and 7 others.

 

2.   APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

It was moved by Higgins and supported by Siemer to approve the minutes of the December 18, 2007 meeting as presented.  Motion was unanimously approved.

 

The Chairman explained the public hearing procedures and how the Board decides if the variance request is approved based on the five ordinance criteria.

 

3.   PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

a.      No. 08-01 – George Swaney on behalf of Amish Reflections, Inc. for an area/dimension variance to exceed the maximum allowable square footage for a wall sign at 54 Ashman Circle.

 

Mr. Poprave showed an aerial photograph of the circle area.  The property is located east of Jefferson and northeast of N. Saginaw Road.  East Ashman is to the north, bounded on the north side by Cambridge.  It is in the Circle zoning district.  This property is surrounded on the east by multi-family residential and single-family residential.  Down S. Saginaw Road there is some Community Commercial zoning.  All across the street and around it on the other side is the Circle district.  The prior tenants were Ken’s Crafts and Miller Furniture.  Ken’s Crafts also had signs on several sides of the building including some awnings containing the name of Ken’s Crafts.  If approved, this area-dimension variance will allow the erection of one, 15 sq. ft. wall sign and one, 80 sq. ft. wall sign.  The zoning ordinance allows 40 sq. ft. of signage in the Circle zoning district.  This is the same signage that the downtown businesses are allowed.  The last sign the City has a permit for is 49 sq. ft.  The applicant feels he is entitled to at least the 49 sq. ft. sign Ken’s Crafts but the applicant willingly took the sign down and it no longer exists. 

 

Higgins asked about the additional 15 sq. ft. of signage that has been proposed.  There is no picture of that sign in the ZBA packet.  They are allowed 40 sq. ft. of signage.  It is up to the business how they want to divide that up and where they want to place that signage.  Mr. Poprave showed what an 80 sq. ft. sign will look like on the building. 

 

George Swaney, 2727 W. North Union, is the petitioner.  They are requesting to increase the size of their sign from 40 sq. ft. to 80 sq. ft. and then add an additional 15 sq. ft. on the rear of the building.  If they box in the signage, they are looking at in excess of 120 sq. ft. of sign.  On the back side, all the signs were in place when they purchased the building.  There was a total of 66.5 sq. ft. of signage on the back of the building.  Add that to the signage on the front of the building and they are in excess of 200 sq. ft.  Looking around the Circle, Mr. Swaney sees many businesses that have in excess of 40 sq. ft. of signage.  They have the largest building on the Circle.  It was the opinion of the sign company that a 49 sq. ft. sign was not in proportion to the building, nor would it provide the visibility they needed for their business.  They went from 10” letters to 12” letters.  They also put together a sign that was 106 sq. ft. and one that was 120 sq. ft. that fit the current sign area.  Mr. Swaney felt these signs were much too big.  They would like to have letters across their canopy in the rear of the store. 

 

Green asked Petitioner to review his responses to the five criteria.  The Petitioner stated strict compliance with the ordinance does not provide the visibility they think they need for that building at that location.  The variance will do substantial justice to the owner as well as the Circle business area in Midland.  The variance requested is the minimum variance needed to provide the visibility needed due to the uniqueness of the circle area itself.  The unique circumstances are the fact that it is the circle area.  In the Downtown you have a lot of foot traffic and the speed limit is 25 mph.  The Circle area has a much faster speed limit and you do not have the foot traffic that you do downtown.  They are asking for only 15 sq. ft. of signage for the back of the building, much less than the prior tenant had.

 

Higgins asked what is so unique about their situation that they need a much larger sign than allowed in the Circle district.  Mr. Swaney stated that, because they have the largest building on the circle, they should be allowed to have a larger sign.  Higgins stated that there is no where in the ordinance that bases the amount of signage on the size of the building. 

 

The Chairman asked if there was anyone who wished to speak in favor of the petitioner’s request:

 

Richard McCredie, 601 S. Saginaw Road, owns a business on S. Saginaw Road.  He was not aware of how restrictive the Circle Business District made their signage when the ordinance was revised.  This is the first major improvement with local dollars in that circle area in the past 20 years.  This business will have a significant investment in this business.  Some of the signs in downtown are not too desirable.  If you cut this building up into four or five businesses, each business would be allowed to have their own signage.  Mr. McCredie feels their request is very reasonable considering the investment they have in this property.  You cannot read the signage from Saginaw Road.  Saginaw Road is about 230 feet wide and the speed limit is 35 mph.  Sometimes, downtown, you can only do 10 mph.  It is more like a mall than a main street.  No store downtown is the size of this business.  Every store out there needs larger signs than they have in the circle district.  For the amount of money these people are investing, he feels we should bend over backwards to accommodate these people. 

 

Andrew Halldorson, 4315 Forestview, owns the Sleepy Hollow Bookshop.  He is delighted that these people have come to the Circle.  He is in strong support of allowing the additional signage at the Amish Reflections location.  He feels we have a very one-sided sign ordinance.  It was not made with the Circle businesses in mind.  For the most part, the circle businesses are not aware of the existing ordinance.  The Circle Business Association just officially formed about four or five years ago.

 

Hearing no further comments in favor of the petitioner’s request, the Chairman asked if there was anyone present who wished to speak in opposition to this request:

 

Mr. John Quast, owner of 86 Ashman Circle, The Material Mart, stated that Six months ago there was a hearing here about the Diamond Factory.  Mr. Quast spoke on behalf of the CBA at that time.  It was the unanimous position of the CBA members to be in opposition of that sign.  At their last meeting, there were six businesses in favor of this signage and he was the lone vote against.  Mr. Quast agrees that the ordinance needs to be changed.  There are a lot of other businesses on the Circle that would also like to have additional signage.  It is not fair that some have to comply with the ordinance and some businesses do not.  He feels the ordinance needs to be changed so they all can increase their amount of signage.

 

Hearing no further public comment the Chairman closed the public hearing and directed the Board to enter findings of fact on this request.

 

Findings of Fact:

 

1.      The structure is located at 54 Ashman Circle.

2.      The structure is the largest building on the Circle.

3.      The area is zoned “C” and is called the Circle District.

4.      The area abuts RC and CC where the signage is 150 sq. ft.

5.      The area was changed to the Circle District in 2005.

6.      The building previously had a larger sign than is currently being requested. (It was approximately 240 sq. ft.)

7.      There is no frontage for a ground sign.

8.      The speed on South Saginaw Road is 35 mph.

9.      You can only see this sign if you are traveling southeast on S. Saginaw Road.

10.  There were 20 letters in support of this request and two people spoke in support of this variance and one person spoke in opposition to this variance.

11.  The city has records to support having 49 sq. ft. of signage by the prior owner.

12.  The building faces the Circle area as well as Cambridge Street.

13.  The South Saginaw Road right of way width is 120 feet.

 

            It is moved by Higgins and supported by Siemer to approve Petition No. 08-01 based on the findings of fact to allow the construction of 95 sq. ft. of wall signage at 54 Ashman Circle.

 

Higgins stated this would make it unnecessarily burdensome if they could have the larger sign.  They sit back quite a ways from Saginaw Road.  The rear sign is going to end up being quite small at they intend to use 80 feet for the front sign.  It does substantial justice to this business.  Higgins is having a little trouble saying this is the minimum variance needed in order to conduct their business.  He agrees that criteria A, B, and C can be met but his having trouble with D, and E.  He cannot get by the uniqueness of the property.  He feels there is nothing unique about this building.  Business owners in this area have had ample opportunity to comment on these ordinance changes.  He is going to have to vote no on this variance as he cannot get by criteria C and D.  Size of the building has never been a factor in the amount of signage allowed.

 

Steele states he can see the uniqueness of the Circle area.  He does have a challenge with E, resulting from their predecessors.  Siemer agrees with A, B, and C.  He found that the angle at which the business faces the traffic flow makes this property unique, along with the area and the distance of the buildings from the traffic flow. 

 

Holthof stated the sticky point is criteria D.  The Circle area is the same zoning district.  They all have the same problem so what is unique about this area? Holthof feels this building is unique as it is an “anchor building” to the Circle district.  This building is unique due to its size.  All the rest of the business owners have about the same size buildings.  These properties do not have ground signs available to them as the majority of them are built right up to the property line.  Strict compliance with the ordinance becomes difficult because they cannot have a ground sign.  It is difficult to get back to Cambridge Street unless you live here.  People from out of town will have a difficult time finding this business and being able to access it.

 

Green stated that the building is unique by its location.  They do have limited visibility.  By the time someone actually sees this business; they have already passed the location.  However, there is a procedure established and he feels it is the responsibility of the ZBA needs to uphold the ordinance as much as possible.

 

Voting on the motion:

            Green:  No

Higgins:    No

Holthof:  Yes

            Siemer:  Yes

            Steele:  Yes

 

The motion to approve the Petition 08-01 was approved 3-2.

 

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

 

            None

 

5.      OLD BUSINESS

 

None

 

6.   NEW BUSINESS

 

The Planning Commission/Zoning Board of Appeals training session will be April 12, 2008.  LSL Planning will be there to discuss the creation of an Access Management Ordinance and this topic will be discussed at the training.  The location is still to be determined.  The City Manager will also probably be speaking on some of the budget challenges the city will be facing in the coming year.  The City Attorney will also be speaking.

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

 

  1. 07-13 and 07-14 recorded
  2. 07-15 review of findings of fact

     

8.   ADJOURNMENT

 

Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:56 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Daryl Poprave

Deputy Planning Director