MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2011

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

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

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

ABSENT:       Board Members – None

OTHERS PRESENT:       Cindy Winland, Consulting Planner, Cheri King, Community Development Specialist and 4 others.

 

2.   APPROVAL OF MINUTES

It was moved by Siemer and supported by Steele to approve the minutes of the April 19, 2011 meeting.  Motion was unanimously approved as presented.

 

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. 11-03 – 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.  This variance, if granted would permit splitting the lot into two equal size lots of 8,120 square feet each. The property is located at 3410 Jefferson Avenue. 

 

Background: 

Cindy Winland presented an aerial photograph of the subject property.  The property is surrounded by Jefferson, St. Andrews and Cambridge Street.  The zoning is consistent all the way around as Residential A-1.  The applicant was at the ZBA in April 2010 with the same request.  The variance was denied, in part, because the petitioner did not own the property at the time.  The petitioner now owns the property and a copy of the deed has been distributed to each member of the ZBA tonight.  Since conditions have changed and he now owns the property, he can come back to the Zoning Board of Appeals with the same request.  The minimum lot size in a Residential A-1 district is 12,000 sq. ft.  The variance would be for 3,880 square feet for both lots.  City staff consulted with the division at the state that oversees lot splits to make sure it does not violate any regulations regarding lot splits.

 

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 noted that very few of the lots in the surrounding area meet the 12,000 sq. ft. requirement.  A home at this location would make this block more conforming to other lots in the area.  The house on this lot was built in 1890, meaning that this area has been used for residential purposes for a long time.  The average lot size in this area is 77’ x 139’, or about 10,000 sq. ft.  The subdivision was platted in 1945.

 

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

 

      The petitioner has noted that the builder will be afforded the opportunity to provide a low income home to a resident of the City of Midland.  A new home in this area would create a consistent density in this area.  This is a corner lot and would only have one side yard facing another house.  It is possible to build a house on this lot that will meet all the setback requirements.  A new home in this area is likely to increase the value of surrounding properties.

 

(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.

 

      A variance of 3,880 sq. ft. would be the minimum needed to meet the 12,000 sq. ft. required in Residential A-1.  This is the only lot of its kind.  It was created, or remained as a result of several subdivisions being platted around it over time. 

 

(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.

 

      It has three street frontages.  Staff feels this lot is unique and it would foster at least three goals of the Master Plan:  It provides infill, neighborhood stability, and provides efficient use of infrastructure.

 

(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 provides a requirement for a much larger lot.  The lot is still usable because it is an existing lot.  The house was built in 1890.  The lot’s shape was created by a platting situation, and not by the applicant.  The dimensions are not self-created.  The request for the lot split is self-created but the uniqueness of this lot is not self-created.  Most of the lots in this area are non-conforming anyway because the Zoning Ordinance changed after they were platted.

 

      Staff has received four comments regarding this petition.  Two were in favor, one person was opposed and one person was neither in favor or opposed.  The neighbor that was opposed stated the lot was too narrow.

 

      Mr. Green asked about the need for two variances.  Mrs. Winland stated that if this lot is split, the ZBA would be creating two smaller lots so both of the lots would need a variance.  This parcel is 0.37 acres.  Two blocks away is another residence on a double fronting lot.

 

      Toby Bridges, 712 E. Indian Street, stated he is the petitioner.  On that side of the block, there are very few homes that meet the 12,000 sq. ft. minimum.  He believes everything to the south is zoned Office Service.  He thinks this could be a buffer area between the Office Service zoning and the Residential A-1.  There is a large variation in lot sizes.  He thinks it would meet the criteria for an RA-3 lot.  He states he would build a house similar in size to the existing houses in the area.  There are not many homes being built in Midland right now.  He thinks it will help out local contractors and supply stores in the Midland area.  The area variance of 8,120 is the minimum required.  The lot is under-utilized and makes for a lot of yard to mow.  Someone could build a large out-building on the existing lot and it would not be what the neighbors want.  Over the years the zoning has changed and each classification becomes stricter.

 

      Based on the lot sizes in the area, a zoning district of RA-3 would be more appropriate.  It would require a minimum of 7,200 sq. ft.  It appears that the RA-1 zoning district is too strict in that the six lots on the east side are under 10,000 sq. ft.  Five of them are under 9,000 sq. ft.  He does not believe this is self-created.  It is all due to the requirements of the RA-1 zoning.  Six of the homes on that side of the street would only comply with the RA-3 zoning in size. 

 

      Mr. Steele asked about the out-building.  Would Mr. Bridges remove the out-building?  Mr.  Bridges stated in his original petition last year that he would remove the out-building.  He now thinks that it might not be in the best interest to remove the out-building.  It might be needed for storage in the future.  He did remodel the existing house and he currently uses it as a rental.  There is a need for new homes of that size in Midland.  He believes he would build a house and sell it.

 

      Dave Carlson, 3408 Jefferson Avenue.  He purchased his house in 2003.  He was in Midland a couple years before that.  His property goes all the way back to Cambridge Street.  He is not looking for more lawn to mow.  The neighbor adjacent to that property purchased the other lot on Cambridge Street behind his house.  He is happy with what is being discussed tonight.  He would not mind having someone there to take care of that piece of property.  He is pleased with what he sees.

 

      No one from the public spoke either in favor of or in opposition to this petition.

 

      Findings of Fact:

1.      Located at 3410 Jefferson.

2.      Built in 1890, and subdivided in 1945.

3.      Zoned RA-1.

4.      Corner lot is bounded by E. St. Andrews Road, Jefferson Avenue, and Cambridge Street.

5.      Dividing the lot would be consistent with 4 goals of the city’s Master Plan.

6.      The subdivided lot could be built upon consistent with the current setback requirements.

7.      Two written comments in favor, one in opposition, and one person spoke in favor of the lot split at the meeting.

8.      It is a long, narrow lot.

9.      The current lot is 16,240 sq. ft.

10.  The applicant wishes to divide the lot into two equal portions.

11.  The petitioner commented that if this were zoned RA-3, the land division would be legal.

12.  Many of the lots on Cambridge are smaller than that required by RA-1 zoning.

13.  Six houses on the west side of Cambridge are on non-conforming lots.

     

      It was moved by Higgins and supported by Siemer to approve Petition No. 11-03 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 requested 12,000 minimum lot size in the RA-1 residential district. 

 

      Mr. Higgins stated that he agrees with all the comments made in the petition and he will vote in favor of the petition.  Mr. Steele stated he agreed with Mr. Higgins.  He used to live on a small lot and he would support the petitioner’s comments.  The petitioner certainly did not cause the problem.  Mr. Steele stated there are lots all over that are not dissimilar to this lot.  It will not be the smallest lot in the area.

 

      Mr. Lichtenwald does not feel the criteria are met.  The property can be used for its intended purpose and it is self-created.  Mr. Green stated that there are other houses in this area that are smaller than that required by the Zoning Ordinance.  This is an even smaller lot than most of the other ones on the street.

 

      Mr. Siemer stated that it is consistent with the city’s Master Plan goals.  It is consistent with other lot sizes in the neighborhood.  It would not be a detriment to the neighborhood.  A good portion of the lot would have no use at all if it is left in its current configuration.  He will support the motion.

 

      Vote on the motion:

      Steele:  Yes

      Lichtenwald:  No

      Green:  No

      Higgins:  Yes

      Siemer:  Yes

      The motion to approve Petition 11-03 was approved by a vote of 3-2. 

 

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

            None

 

5.   OLD BUSINESS

            None

 

6.   NEW BUSINESS

a.   Officers:  Mr. Green has finished his third year.  The ZBA’s Rules of Procedure states that no person can hold any office for more than three years.  Mr. Green appointed Jon Steele and Tim Lichtenwald as the Nominating Committee.  They will bring nominations for officers to the next ZBA meeting.

 

b.      July meeting:  The deadline for applications for the July ZBA meeting is this Friday and the Planning Department has not received any petitions to date.

 

c:  Rules of Procedure:   Motion to change Section 2.8 of the Zoning Board of Appeals Rules of Procedure from Stephenson’s Rules of Order to Roberts Rules of Order by Mr. Higgins, seconded by Mr. Siemer.  Motion passed unanimously.

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

      a.  11-01 Review Finds of Fact

 

8.   ADJOURNMENT

      Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Cynthia E. Winland, AICP

Consulting Planner