MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2009

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

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

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

ABSENT:       Board Members – None

OTHERS PRESENT:       Cindy Winland, Consulting Planner, Cheri King, Community Development Specialist and 3 others.

 

2.   APPROVAL OF MINUTES

There was discussion regarding the accuracy of the minutes. It was determined that while the information was conflicting, it was what was said by the applicant.  It was moved by Higgins and supported by Holthof to approve the minutes of the November 17, 2009 meeting.  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. 09-10 – Cleveland Manor for a dimensional variance to permit placement of two permitted wall signs greater than 6’ high on the wall.  One sign would be placed 13’ high on the wall and the other would be placed 10’ high on the wall.  The parcel is located at 2200 Cleveland Avenue. 

 

Background:  Cindy Winland showed an aerial photograph of the subject property.  The only input received on this case was from a member of the public, who was not either in favor of or in opposition to this request.  Cleveland Manor’s entrance is from two public streets, Eastlawn Drive and E. Haley Street.  The maximum height of a sign permitted on a wall at the current time is 6’.  This facility has a ground sign that is approximately 10 square feet.  They are asking for a wall sign at both entrances to their facility, one being 13’ high and one being 10’ high.  The property is zoned RB, as is the entire block.  RA-4 is located to the southwest, and there is a parcel of OS on the northeast corner of East Haley and Jefferson and a little piece of NC on the southeast corner of East Haley and Jefferson.

 

Jim Schroeder, representing Cleveland Manor Board, stated there is more competition for senior housing has due to decreasing demand. There are continuous vacancies in Cleveland Manor I for the past several years.  They want the proposed signs to make the property more visible.  Access to the property is from East Haley Street from the south and from Eastlawn Drive to the north.  The proposed locations of the signs would be facing Eastlawn Drive to the north and Haley to the south.  As you are coming in from East Haley Street to the south, the sign directing people to the office is not visible to people coming into the property.  As you are coming into the property from East Haley Street, there is a drop in the property from between four to six feet.  If the sign were put at six feet, with vehicles parking between the entrance and the building, you would not be able to see the sign.  On the south side of the building, if the sign was at the six foot height, cars parked in the lot would obscure the sign all together. 


 

Criteria for granting a variance: 

(1)   Will strict compliance with restrictions governing area, setback, frontage, height, bulk, density or other non-use matters unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property for a permitted purpose? 

 

Ms. Winland stated the applicant is certainly not prevented from using the property for a permitted purpose as they have been doing so for a number of years. 

 

Mr. Schroeder stated the ordinance is particularly burdensome on the south side of the building.  It would be obscured as people are approaching the building from the south.

 

(2)   The variance will do substantial justice to the applicant as well as to other property owners. 

 

The proposed locations of the signs are to face the access drives so people coming to the site can see where it is.  It will have no impact on neighbors as it will be a wall sign and will not be illuminated.

 

Mr. Schroeder does not think it will have any impact on the neighbors either positive or negative.  The closest house is at the corner of the extension of Maple and Cleveland.  There are vacant lots at the end of Maple Street that has never been developed.  There is a fence along the west side of Cleveland Manor and the surrounding properties to the west.

 

(3)   The variance requested is the minimum variance to provide substantial relief to the applicant and/or be consistent with justice to other property owners. 

 

The desirable variance would provide the minimum signage needed to be able to identify this complex.  The applicant could have chosen to have a ground sign on the north side. 

 

Mr. Schroeder stated they feel the desired height fits into the minimum variance needed. 

 

(4)   The need for the variance is due to the unique characteristics of the property not generally applicable in the area or to other properties in the same zoning district. 

 

There are currently no signs on the structure. Off premise signs are not permitted at the street entrance.

 

One of the unique features of this property is that it does not front onto a major street.  You have to drive back into the property in order to see the facility.  As you go north from East Haley Street, there is a drop of about three feet to the facility itself.

 

(5)   The problem and resulting need for the variance has been created by strict compliance with the Zoning Ordinance and not the applicant. 

           

They are allowed to have a wall sign so the desire to have a wall sign is not a self-created issue but the height request could be considered self created.

 

The need for the variance is a result of strict compliance with the Zoning Ordinance.  They have been spending more money trying to attract people to Cleveland Manor.  They feel the sign would make this facility more visible to the community.  Cleveland Manor does not have a public street going past their facility. 

 

            Questions from Board:

 

      Mr. Higgins asked why they did not decide to put a ground pole sign on the property.  Mr. Schroeder stated they felt that a sign on the building would be more appealing on the facility.  Mr. Higgins asked about the height of the lettering.  Mr. Schroeder stated they are 15 inch letters that will be used on the sign.  The sign will be 21 square feet at the north entrance.  The height of the text area of the sign is 38 inches.  The existing ground sign would be converted to a directional sign, and made smaller. 

 

      Mr. Holthof stated that the purpose of the signs is not really intended to make the property visible from Eastlawn or East Haley Street.  You would not see the sign from the major streets.  In Mr. Schroeder’s picture of the south entrance, the bushes shown are about five feet high. 

 

      Trudy Laufer, Manager of Cleveland Manor, stated she is in favor of this request.

 

      Mr. Higgins stated he has known Mr. Schroeder for years in Kiwanis but that this will not affect his ability to make an unbiased decision tonight.

 

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

 

Findings of Fact:

1.         There is no public input.

2.         The property is zoned RB.

3.         It is a senior housing apartment complex with two entrances, one off Eastlawn Drive to the north and one off East Haley to the south. 

4.         The complex is located at the end of two streets, both named Cleveland Avenue. 

5.         From the south side, there is a rise in the ground level of 2-3 feet from the parking lot and from the north side, a similar drop to grade level at the bottom of the building.

6.         There is an apparent elevation change from the parking lot to the building.

7.         The petitioner stated cars located in the parking lot would have a tendency to obstruct the view of the sign on the building.  As you are approaching the building from the south side, headed north up Cleveland Avenue, there is a drop of between two and three feet.

8.         The area of sign text is around 38 inches high. 

9.         The petitioner has agreed to make the current sign a directional sign, according to the ordinance.

10.     There was one person present who was in support of this variance.

11.     Cleveland Manor is not visible when driving down either Eastlawn Drive or East Haley Street.

 

      It was moved by Higgins and supported by Holthof to approve Petition No. 09-10 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 2200 Cleveland Avenue, that the top of the north side sign will be 10 feet above grade and the top of the south side sign will be 13 feet above grade.

 

            Mr. Higgins stated that criteria (a) is met as it will allow people to identify the complex.  Criteria (b) is met.  He found that that property is hard to see and the higher sign will make it a lot easier to see the property.  The property is unique and it is in the middle to two streets.  They have been complying with the ordinance without having a sign there.  He guesses that the property needs to be identified with a higher sign. 

 

            Mr. Steele stated that putting a sign on the building would make it much easier to see than a ground sign.  On the south side, you are elevated and you will see all the south wall.  The height is a little bit higher than he thinks they need but it does not concern him too much.

 

            Mr. Holthof agrees with Mr. Higgins.  Although, if he looks at the variance request, he does not feel the variance is the minimum needed to satisfy their purpose.  He thinks 10 feet would be adequate on the south side.

 

            Mr. Lichtenwald stated that after listening to the petitioner, all five of the criteria have been met.  The issue of the height on the south side is more aesthetic.

 

            Mr. Green stated that the property could still be used for a permitted purpose without these signs.  However, they want people to see the structure when they are approaching it.  He has no problem supporting the petition at this time.

 

            Voting on the motion.

            Green:  Yes

            Higgins:  Yes

            Holthof:  Yes

            Lichtenwald:  Yes

            Steele:  Yes

            The motion to approve Petition 09-10 was approved by a vote of 5-0.

 

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

            None

 

5.   OLD BUSINESS

      The Board asked for some clarifications in the Zoning Ordinance regarding how to measure the height of a sign, where the measurements are to and the height of a wall sign.  Ms. Winland will take these suggestions back to the Planning Department.

 

6.   NEW BUSINESS

             None

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

  1. 09-09 review Findings of Fact
  2. 09-07 recorded

 

8.   ADJOURNMENT

      Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:40 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Cynthia E. Winland, AICP

Consulting Planner