MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2009

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

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

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

ABSENT:       Board Members – Higgins

OTHERS PRESENT:    Cindy Winland, Consulting Planner, Keith Baker, Planning Director, Cheri King, Community Development Specialist, and 7 others.

 

Keith Baker introduced Cindy Winland, Consulting Planner, who will now be the staff liaison for the Zoning Board of Appeals, due to the departure of Daryl Poprave from city employment.  Cindy spent many years in the planning field.

                                                                                                            

2.   APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

It was moved by Steele and supported by Pnacek to approve the minutes of the November 18, 2008 meeting as corrected by adding the word “said” in the last paragraph on page 5, following Roy Green’s name.  Motion was unanimously approved.

 

3.   PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

The Chairman explained the public hearing procedures and how the Board decides if the variance request is approved based on the five Zoning Ordinance criteria.  Mr. Green reinforced that the variance goes with the property and not with the property owner.

 

a.      No. 09-01 – Kirk Dittenber for an area/dimension variance to build a 1,080 square foot storage structure at 1911 East Wheeler Street.

 

Cindy Winland presented an aerial photograph of the subject property.  To the north is Westbury Court.  The subject property is 120’ x 300’.  The existing land use is single family residential.  The surrounding properties are the same zoning.  The zoning map shows this as RA-1 residential and the surrounding properties are also RA-1, except across the street is RA-3.  The future land use map shows these same property classifications.

 

The petition is to build an accessory structure in the back yard.  The ordinance allows an 800 sq. ft. accessory structure in this zoning district.  The petitioner is asking to add an additional 280 sq. ft. strictly for storage, not for vehicle storage.  Ms. Winland showed several photographs of the subject property.  It is 0.8 acres, which is fairly large for a city lot.  The applicant has answered the five criteria regarding his petition.  The owner feels that limiting the building to 800 square feet it makes storing combustibles difficult.  He has several home maintenance tools as well as a boat.  The petitioner feels the extra 280 square feet will make the area much more visually appealing, as it will get the yard tools, boat, wheel barrow, camper and lawn furniture out of sight.  There is fairly heavy tree cover around the back of the fence.  The lot is abnormally large, however, Ms. Winland does not see anything particularly unique about this lot.   An affirmative vote would allow the petitioner to add an additional 280 sq. ft. to the allowable storage area. 

 

Strict interpretation of the rules for granting a variance would indicate that the variance should not be approved.  However, this lot is significantly larger than most lots in the city that are zoned RA-1 and can accommodate a structure of the proposed size without having a negative impact on neighboring property owners. The proposed detached structure conforms to all of the required setbacks for the RA-1 district. The proposed structure does not exceed the maximum lot coverage area for the RA-1 district.  Ms. Winland also noted that the Board had granted a variance for a storage building in a yard under similar circumstances.

 

Mr. Holthof stated that in the Bailey Bridge Road case, No. 07-12, was different in that the property had recently been annexed to the city so the applicant had not had to conform to city zoning regulations.

 

Kirk Dittenber, 1911 E. Wheeler Street, is the petitioner and he will answer questions.  Mr. Steele asked if he considered adding to his garage rather than adding such a large accessory building.  Mr. Dittenber stated he worries more about gasoline storage in his attached garage.  Mr. Lichtenwald asked what criteria he used to determine how big this structure needed to be.  Mr. Dittenber stated that he took all his tools and equipment and gave himself some room to be able to walk around. 

 

Mr. Green asked about the height of the structure.  Mr. Dittenber stated he is allowed 16 feet to the point of the peak.  He will have electricity out there, similar to a garage.  It is a very large yard and they like the big lot.  Mr. and Mrs. Dittenber have lived there for two years in August.

 

Ann Fletcher, 1904 Westbury Court, lives directly behind, just to the left of Dittenber’s property.  Her concerns include the coverage of the trees.  Nine of the 12 months of the year there is no coverage from the trees and she can see the Dittenber’s house from her home.  If there was a fire with the trees, it would be closer to the house than permitted.  Ms. Fletcher has some concern about the property values as she knows of another case in the city that had a larger structure than normally allowed and the neighbors’ property values decreased.  She thought perhaps the building might be used for some type of business purposes but she decided she is not actually against the size.

 

Tom Marcellis, 1018 Westbury Court, stated he has concerns about a fire risk.  The building will be much further off the street and closer to the neighbor’s homes in the back.  This would make it much more difficult for fire fighters to fight a fire should one occur.  This structure will be almost as big as his home.  His home is about 1080 sq. ft.  The neighbors will definitely see this structure behind his home.  This will be a very large building that will be viewed by all his neighbors to the rear.

 

Mr. Holthof asked the petitioner why he wanted to build so far back on the property.  Mr. Dittenber stated his garden is between the home and the garage.  Mr. Pnacek stated he is not encroaching into any of the setbacks required by the Zoning Ordinance.  Mr. Green asked how he would get the boat and utility trailers back to this structure.  Mr. Dittenber stated there is a 12’ gate that allows access to the back yard. 

 

The Chairman closed the public hearing and directed the ZBA to enter into findings of fact.

 

Findings of Fact:

 

1.      It is zoned RA-1.

2.      The lot is 120’ wide by 300’ deep.

3.      Directly across the street is RA-3 residential.

4.      The future land use map shows the property remaining in the RA-1 zoning.

5.      The lot is 36,000 sq. ft. or 0.8 acres.

6.      The building will be enclosed in the fenced in yard.

7.      The building will be 36’ x 30’ or 280 sq. ft. larger than allowed by the ordinance.

8.      The proposed building will be in accordance with all required setbacks.

9.      The proposed building has a shielded area about 45’ deep of trees currently.

 

      It was moved by Steele and supported by Holthof to approve Petition No. 09-01 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 1911 East Wheeler Street to build a detached garage to exceed 800 square feet in gross area.

 

      Mr. Pnacek stated that whether it is 1080 sq. ft. or 800 sq. ft., they are allowed to put a building in the same location.  Mr. Steele asked about the ratio of garage size to house size.  Mr. Baker stated that, under Section 3.03, the total floor area of all detached structures shall not exceed 800 square feet of gross floor area unless they are located on parcels with greater than two acres of land.  Mr. Steele stated they could add space to the garage and reduce the fire risk with several sheets of drywall.  He thinks they could make a larger garage.  Mr. Holthof stated he is struggling with this.  He cannot get by the criteria that strict compliance will unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property for a permitted purpose.  Mr. Lichtenwald said that he feels only one of the criteria is met and that is that this would do substantial justice to the applicant.  There is nothing unique about this property.  There are a lot of large lots in this area.  The tree line is not unique.  He does not see anything that would sway him to allow this large of a structure.  Mr. Green agrees with Mr. Holthof and Mr. Lichtenwald.  It would be nice to be able to have a larger structure, however, this lot is not unique and he does not see a need for the additional size.

           


 

      Voting on the motion.

      Green:  No

      Holthof:  No

      Lichtenwald:  No

      Pnacek:  Yes

      Steele:  No

 

      The motion to approve Petition 09-01 was denied by a vote of 1-4. 

 

b.      No. 09-02 – Mark Larsen for an area/dimension variance for a renovation to extend behind the front of the detached garage at 2209 Hillgrove Parkway.

 

Cindy Winland presented an aerial photograph of the subject property.  It is one house off the corner of E. Sugnet and Hillgrove Parkway.  The existing land use is single-family as is all the surrounding land use.  The zoning is RA-1, as is all the surrounding land use.  The future land use is low-density residential, so it is consistent throughout.  Looking at the house from the front, the proposal is to add an addition to the back of the house.  The existing attached garage is three feet from the property line.  If the addition is permitted on the back of the house, the garage will be located partially in the rear yard and partially in the side yard.  The existing rear yard is from the house to the back of the property.  The new rear yard will be from the addition to the rear yard.  With this addition, the garage would now need to be eight feet from the property line instead of the existing three feet to meet the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance.  The addition meets all the yard requirements.  The garage is not going to move. 

 

Addressing the review criteria, the petitioner states the current layout of the buildings prevents him from reasonably adding living space to his house due to the fact that there is no space to add on in the back yard.  Strict compliance with the ordinance would prevent the petitioner from ever adding on to the back of his house.  The applicant noted the variance will allow him to add a master bedroom suite to his house without compromising the curb appearance of the neighborhood.  By adding onto the house in the back yard, this is the minimum disturbance of the area while still allowing the addition to the house.    The petitioner feels the property is unique due to the detached garage which is unusual in the area which prohibits the home addition into the back yard without the variance.  Staff noted that not only does the addition not compromise the curb appeal, but there is no change in the view of the property or in the operation of the property from the side for which the variance is being requested.  On the side where the addition is proposed the applicant will have a view of the neighbor’s garage.

 

Staff recommends that the variance request be approved due to the following reasons:

1)      The structure and condition for which the variance is needed is an existing structure on the property.

2)      The immediate adjacent use of the northwestern adjacent property is a garage.

3)      The proposed addition does not create any other nonconformity on the property.

4)      The proposed addition will meet all required setbacks for the RA-1 district.

5)      The addition does not cause the maximum lot coverage to be exceeded.

 

      Mr. Holthof asked Ms. Winland what the dimension is between the front of the garage and the side property line.  The dimension is only given at the rear of the garage.  Ms. Winland stated she did not know.  Mr. Green asked if the property line went straight back, how far the existing garage would be from the side lot line.   The existing garage may be closer to 7-8 feet from the property line at the front of the structure but we do not know according to Ms. Winland.

 

      Mark Larsen, 2209 Hillgrove Parkway, stated if this property were rectangular shaped, they probably would not be there.  Coming out the front of the house with the addition is not a good idea.  Adding on six feet to the entire side of the house did not get them what they wanted to add to the house without disturbing the neighbors.  The existing garage is on a slab – not on a foundation. 

 

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

      the public hearing and directed the ZBA to enter into findings of fact.

 

Findings of Fact:

 

1.      The property is zoned RA-1.

2.      The future land use shows the same zoning.

3.      They are requesting the minimum variance.

4.      There are 4 letters of support in the packet.

5.      The existing garage is 3’ off the property line, parallel to the property line.

6.      The property is irregularly shaped.

7.      The addition would be 350 sq. ft.

8.      No one spoke either in favor of or in opposition to the request at the public hearing.

9.      The neighbor’s garage is 3’ off the property line and apparently in the side yard.

10.  The neighbor’s garage extends in front of the front of Larsen’s house.

 

      It was moved by Pnacek and supported by Lichtenwald to approve Petition No. 09-02 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 2209 Hillgrove Parkway to allow a detached garage to be located within the required side yard.

 

      Mr. Lichtenwald feels the criteria in this petition are met.  It will do substantial justice to the property owner and to the neighbors.  It would be burdensome to adjust the garage to comply.  Mr. Holthof thinks this property is unique the way it is laid out and the location of the garage.  The way the garage next door is set on the property, it is almost a detriment to this house.  Mr. Pnacek feels this design would fit the lot well.  Mr. Steele stated it is a “quirky” situation and he feels the criteria are all met.  Mr. Green stated that he is in favor with this request and that all the criteria have been met.

 

      Voting on the motion.

      Green:  yes

      Holthof:  yes

      Lichtenwald:  yes

      Pnacek:   yes

      Steele:  yes

 

      The motion to approve Petition 09-02 was approved by a vote of 5-0. 

 

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

 

            None

 

5.   OLD BUSINESS

 

The Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals training is on Saturday, March 28th, from 8:30 a.m. to about 1:00 p.m. with lunch being provided.

 

6.   NEW BUSINESS

 

      None

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

 

  1. 08-16 review Findings of Fact
  2. 08-14 and 08-15 recorded

     

8.   ADJOURNMENT

 

Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:41 p.m.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Cindy Winland

Consultant Planner