MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2010

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

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

PRESENT:      Board Members - Green, Lichtenwald, Siemer and Steele

ABSENT:       Board Members - Higgins

OTHERS PRESENT:       Cindy Winland, Consulting Planner, Cheri King, Community Development Specialist and 1 other.

 

2.   APPROVAL OF MINUTES

It was moved by Siemer and supported by Lichtenwald to approve the minutes of the July 20, 2010 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.

 

      Since there are only four members of the Zoning Board of Appeals in attendance, Chairman Green gave the petitioner the opportunity to postpone the hearing until a full board is present.  The petitioner asked the Board to proceed as planned, with only four members.

 

a.      No. 10-04 – Toby Bridges, for a dimensional variance to permit splitting one lot into two lots.  The applicant is asking for a variance of 3,880 square feet to the required 12,000 minimum lot size in the RA-1 Residential district.  The property is located at 3410 Jefferson Avenue.

 

Background:  Cindy Winland showed an aerial photograph of the subject property.  The property is located at the corner of Jefferson, St. Andrews and Cambridge Street.  It contains a one family dwelling.  The applicant is requesting to divide this lot in half.  The zoning ordinance requires lots in the RA-1 zoning district to have 12,000 square feet.  The division of this lot, as proposed, would create two lots of 8,120 square feet.  It is a recorded lot of record at the present time.

 

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?    

 

The petitioner has responded that very few of the lots in the surrounding area meet this size requirement.  A home at this location would make the lot more conforming to other blocks in the surrounding area.  The subdivision ends one lot south of the lot in question tonight.  The property has been used as residential since it was platted in 1945.  Very few of the lots in the vicinity are 12,000 square feet, which is not surprising as this is a subdivision from 1945.  The current size of the lot is 77 feet by 139 feet.  There are some irregularly shaped, fairly large lots in this subdivision.  This lot is the narrowest of all the lots in this area and the division of this lot would create two narrow lots in this area.

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

 

If another house were to be built there, it is unlikely that it would have a negative impact on the area.  It would be possible to build another house comparable to others in the neighborhood.

 

(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 applicant has noted that allowing two lots of 8,120 square feet is the minimum request in this situation. 

 

(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. 

 

The petitioner has noted that the lot is very long, 190 feet.  Staff would say that the lot is unique to the area and to the subdivision.  However, it is unusual that the lot has three street frontages but that does not make it unusable.  It is consistent with the city’s master plan goals.

 

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

 

The Zoning Ordinance requires a lot much larger than other surrounding lots.  The existing house was built in 1890.  The lot lines shown were not drawn until 1945.  The lot split does not appear to be detrimental to the area.

 

No one spoke in opposition to this variance request.

 

            Questions from Board:

 

Mr. Green asked if the lot in question is the same size as the lot to the south of it.  Ms. Winland stated that it is not.  The lot in question is 56’ x 290’.  The lot to the south of it is 76’ x 290’. 

 

            This afternoon, the Planning Department received a letter in opposition to this request from a property owner at 3313 Cambridge Street.  They were opposed due to the narrow lot width and the resulting square footage of each lot. 

 

      Toby Bridges, 406 Ireland, Auburn, the petitioner, stated he has no problem building a house that meet the setbacks required by the city.  It will be a conforming house to the whole area.  There are three out of 12 lots that conform on the whole block.  None of the six lots on the east side of that block conform; in fact they are under 10,000 square feet.  His thought is that the current lot is disproportionate.  The city is paying to maintain all that sidewalk and curb.  There is a sewer lead already in place.  The water lead is very close.  There is already an address given to this lot, according to the Engineering Department.  The lot to the south, if anyone ever builds on that, they will have the same issue as the subject property. 

 

      Mr. Lichtenwald asked if Mr. Bridges owns that property or not.  Mr. Bridges stated he will own the property as of next Wednesday.  He is going to remodel the existing house and he will be the builder of the new house on the divided lot, if approved.   

 

      Mr. Steele asked that, if the purchase agreement falls apart, they have granted a variance to someone who has no interest in the property.  Ms. Winland explained that the variance goes with the land.  If the current owner chooses not to divide the lot, the opportunity to do so would remain with the property for any future owner.

 

      Mr. Green asked if the plan was to keep the existing house and build an additional structure.  Mr. Bridges answered “yes”.  Mr. Steele asked what the setback was currently from the house to the property line.  Mr. Bridges stated he was not sure, but he thought about five feet. 

 

      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 current lot is 56’ x 290’.

3.      The area was platted in 1945 and the home was built in 1890, as far as city records go.

4.      The current shed that is on the new lot will be removed if this is approved.

5.      The lot is located at 3410 Jefferson Avenue.

6.      The resulting two lots would be consistent with many currently in the neighborhood.

7.      The two lots would be usable properties for construction with appropriate setbacks.

8.      The building on the second lot would be consistent with the city’s master plan goals, to promote building in, providing neighborhood stability, and promoting efficient use of infrastructure.

9.      There is one written comment in opposition to this request.

10.  The petitioner, as of this time and date, does not have own or have title to the property.

11.  The lot is currently a legal non-conforming lot, but it is a legal lot of record.

 

      It was moved by Siemer and supported by Steele to approve Petition No. 10-04 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 3410 Jefferson Avenue, for a variance of 3,880 square feet to the required 12,000 minimum lot size in the RA-1 Residential district. 

 

            Mr. Lichtenwald stated he has some issues with the request.  The intended use of the lot, he cannot see why the lot cannot be used as it is.  It is residential.  Would it do substantial justice to the neighborhood?  What about the surrounding properties?  Is this the minimum requirement?  Sure.  It is a rectangular property, but the lot is not necessarily unique.  In his opinion, this is self-created.  The property has been used as residential and can continue to be used as residential property.

 

            Mr. Steele stated that, having lived on a lot that was 45’ x 300’.  The back part of that lot is useless.  The lot meets the neighborhood lot sizes.  There are lots that are larger and lots that are smaller than the proposed lots, were they to be split.  He thinks that the lot, as it sits, is under-utilized.  You certainly would not build a bigger house on the lot.  That would not conform to the neighborhood.  He feels this property is unique.  He does not have a problem with this. 

 

            Mr. Siemer stated that he checked the lots at 3405, 3409 and 3320 Jefferson and they are all roughly the same size as these lots would be, if they were to be split.  If this area were to be platted today, you would not see a lot of this shape or size.  It was platted in 1945, when conditions were different.  As it meets the standards they talked about earlier, he feels it meets all the criteria.

 

            Mr. Green stated he has a problem with the fact that it would or would not do substantial justice to the neighbors.  The property is unique, due to the size of the lot.  His biggest issue is granting a variance on a “conditional sale” of the property.  He has some question regarding the support of this variance.

             

            Voting on the motion.

            Green:  No

            Lichtenwald:  No

            Siemer:  Yes

            Steele:  Yes

            Higgins:  Absent

 

            The motion to approve Petition 10-04 was not approved by a vote of 2-2.

 

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

            None

 

5.   OLD BUSINESS

      None   

 

6.   NEW BUSINESS

            a.  2011 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting schedule

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

  1. 10-03 review Findings of Fact
  2. 10-01 recorded
  3. 10-02 recorded

 

8.   ADJOURNMENT

      Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:16 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Cynthia E. Winland, AICP

Contractual Planner