MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2013

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 Member – None

OTHERS PRESENT:  Cindy Winland, Consulting Planner, Debbie Marquardt, Technical Secretary and three others.

 

2.    APPROVAL OF MINUTES

It was moved by Siemer and supported by Lichtenwald to approve the minutes of the April 24, 2013 meeting as corrected.  The motion was approved unanimously 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 Board of Appeals decision criteria in the Zoning Ordinance. The variance is legally recorded with the property and is not transferrable to another parcel. 

 

a.      No. 13-07 – Chemical Bank for two dimensional variances  

A.    To permit construction of a second sign for the bank located at 2910 Jefferson Avenue.  One sign is permitted per parcel in the Circle zoning district.

B.    If variance A. is granted, the second variance request is to permit a ground mounted sign that exceeds the height and size permitted in the Circle zoning district.  The applicant is requesting a variance of 57.9 square feet to the size and 11’11” to the height.  Table 8.2 of the City of Midland Zoning Ordinance permits one sign, 40 square feet, 8 feet high and must be of monument design.

 

Background: 

Ms. Winland presented the background information stating that the bank has frontage on both South Saginaw Road and Jefferson Avenue.  The first request is for a second sign on an unusual shaped lot.   

 

(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 or render conformity unnecessarily burdensome?

 

Petitioner: The ordinance does not allow for a sign to be placed on the South Saginaw Road frontage and the bank cannot operate.

Staff: The circle has a lot of unusually shaped lots.  Lack of identification is unnecessarily burdensome for this use.

 

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

 

            Petitioner: There is a need to identify ingress and egress properly.

Staff:  A second sign will permit reasonable identification for Chemical Bank and will not impede any other property owners. 

 

(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.

       

Petitioner: The request for a second sign is the minimum necessary.

Staff:   We agree that this is the minimum request necessary because one sign is what is being requested.

 

(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.

 

Petitioner: The amount of street frontage includes Bayliss, Saginaw Road and Jefferson Avenue and is 1 ½ acres in size.

Staff:  This is a very unique shaped lot and the principal use is not visible from the driveway.

 

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

       

Petitioner: This is not self created but created by the ordinance.

Staff:  This is an unusual lot and there has been a sign there for a long time identifying where to drive in from Saginaw Road.

 

Discussion:  Mr. Higgins stated that the property has entrances on two streets and has a sign on both streets.  The diamond shape of the property doesn’t come together so why doesn’t the ordinance allow two signs?  If you are located on a corner lot or a through lot, you are allowed two signs. 

 

Presenting Petitioner:  Bob Stafford, 6020 Stonehaven Court, Midland, Michigan, Community President for Chemical Bank.  He concurs with everything staff said.  They are in the process of redoing signage for all their branches.  They have a new logo and it is a bit more up to date.  Some of the old signage has been there for 40 plus years.  This site is like having two locations because of the configuration on both Saginaw and Jefferson.  It is important to have visibility on both Jefferson Avenue and the Saginaw Road side.

 

Mr. Higgins stated that the ordinance allows you to have identification for the driveway.  He asked if that is enough?  Mr. Stafford understands that it cannot be any identification with no name or logo just an entrance and exit.  It would not identify the location to a traveling Saginaw Road customer. 

 

Mr. Green asked if the people who use the access on Saginaw Road are basically drive-through customers who use that access.  Mr. Stafford stated that people use the Saginaw Road access because of how difficult it is to go around and thread through to the Jefferson Avenue entrance.  With the consolidation of the two branches of Chemical bank (meaning the closure of the one on S. Saginaw Rd.), more customers are coming from the south east. 

 

Findings of Fact:

1.       Circle zoning district.

2.       Access to the property from two streets.

3.       The Jefferson Street sign is not visible from Saginaw Road.

4.       It is an unusually shaped lot.

5.       There are no other properties like this in the zoning district.

6.       The sign replaces an existing sign.

7.       There have been no other communications in favor or in opposition.

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

9.       Saginaw Road has four lanes of traffic with a center turn lane.

10.   This location is just south of one of the most confusing intersections in the city of Midland.

 

Motion: It was moved by Higgins and supported by Siemer to approve Petition No. 13-07A based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 2910 Jefferson Avenue to permit construction of a second sign on Saginaw Road. 

 

Deliberation: Mr. Higgins, Mr. Siemer, Mr. Steele and Mr. Lichtenwald agree with the staff comments. 

 

Jack Voss, Grand Haven, Michigan, Universal Signs. If the bank is not identified, it will be hard to have a bank that is successful there.  Without identification the bank would not be successful long term.

 

Vote:   

Green:                          Yes

Higgins:                       Yes

Lichtenwald:             Yes

Siemer                         Yes

Steele:                          Yes

 

The motion to approve Petition 13-07A was approved by a vote of 5-0. 

 

Background: 

B.    Having granted Variance A., the second variance request is to permit a ground mounted sign that exceeds the height and size permitted in the Circle zoning district.  The applicant is requesting a variance of 57.9 square feet to the size and 11’11” to the height.  Table 8.2 of the City of Midland Zoning Ordinance permits one sign, 40 square feet, 8 feet high and must be of monument design. The requested final sign size would be 97.7 square feet in size and 19 feet tall.  The new sign is smaller than the older sign.

                       

(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 or render conformity unnecessarily burdensome?

 

            Petitioner:  The existing sign extends over the right of way.  A large sign is necessary to be visible over the height of autos and to be similar in size to other signs on Saginaw Road.

            Staff:  A second sign that conforms to the ordinance has less visibility than a larger sign and may be blocked for short periods of time by other vehicles.  The ordinance was written to create a pedestrian oriented neighborhood feel in the Circle district and that is why signs are required to be lower.

 

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

           

            Petitioner:  A larger, taller pole sign will permit more visibility and make the entrance to the bank as easy to see as other business location signs in the area.

            Staff:  The applicant will have one of the first, small signs in the district.  All other signs will eventually be reduced to the same sign.

 

(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.

           

            Petitioner: The sign will decrease the nonconformity of the current sign.  The height and size are the minimum necessary to be visible and equal to other signs in the district.

            Staff:   The slow speed of traffic and the ability to use a left turn lane on Saginaw Road to turn into the driveway contribute to the ability to see the sign at an adequate distance to find the driveway with a conforming sign. 

 

(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.

 

            Petitioner: This is the second entrance to the bank, located in the vicinity of other banks and uses with larger signs. 

            Staff:  This second sign has the purpose of identifying the driveway to the bank.

 

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

           

            Petitioner:  The problem has been created by strict compliance.

            Staff: The problem has been created by strict compliance with the ordinance but it appears that the function of the sign will not be impaired if it is constructed to ordinance standards.

 

Discussion:  Mr. Higgins asked what the height is of the Independent Bank sign?  Mr. Stafford stated it is about 10 or 12 feet.  The building next door has a sign roughly the same size they are asking. Mr. Siemer stated it would be similar in size to the sign they are requesting.

 

Presenting Petitioner: Bob Stafford, 6020 Stonehaven Court, Midland, Michigan, Community President, Chemical Bank.  The location of this entrance off of Saginaw Road sits right next to Independent Bank.  There is a Comerica Bank to the south and to the east a Fifth Third Bank.  In looking at the competitor signs from the location, there is probably some merit that a shorter sign would be advantageous.  The other sign on the location is going to be conforming 100%. They are close enough to the end of the district with three competitors in a short distance.  This is one of their busiest locations and they would like to continue to make it easier to get into the office.

 

Jeff Voss, 1282 Hoffman Drive, Grand Haven, Michigan, Universal Signs.  The required 20’ clear vision area at the entrance to the driveway will set the sign back 10 to 15 feet back from the sidewalk.  If a car parks in the parking lot to the north, the sign will not be visible going from the west to the east.

 

John Scholten, 756 Ruth Ave, Holland Michigan, Chemical Bank Director of Facilities.  Snow piled in the lot to the north or along the sidewalk could impede visibility if the sign stays low to the ground.  The sign has all LED lighting and it is not wasteful and uses very little energy.  They would like to have a sign that is high enough to be visible.  They will have one of the first small signs in the district.  They would like to get the bottom of the sign up above a vehicle.

 

Mr. Higgins asked if Chemical Bank was present when the City approved the Circle zoning district designation.  The problem with the sign size and height should have been brought up at the time the Zoning Ordinance was changed.  They should go to City Council to ask to have the ordinance changed. 

 

Mr. Stafford liked what they (Chemical Bank) is hearing with this discussion and now would like to come back to a later meeting with a proposed sign size and height that is more balanced. They would like to ask to have the item tabled and to come back with some additional information. 

 

Motion: It was moved Higgins and support by Siemer to table Petition No. 13-07B. 

 

Vote: 

Green:                          Yes

Higgins:       Yes

Lichtenwald:             Yes

Siemer                         Yes

Steele:                          Yes

 

        The motion to table Petition 13-07B was approved by a vote of 5-0. 

 

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

        None

 

5.    OLD BUSINESS

        None

 

6.    NEW BUSINESS

        a.    Zoning Ordinance change suggestions:  There were several suggests regarding changes to the Zoning Ordinance as a result of this discussion:

·         Amortize all nonconforming signs so that everyone must come into compliance after a specified period of time.

·         Find a way to have consistent signage on both sides of the road in a commercial area.

·         Change the way signs are measured to permit the actual square footage to be only the actual sign structure instead of a geometric shape around a sign structure. 

 

b.      Nominating Officers: The nominating committee to select new officers will be Tim Lichtenwald and Roy Green.  They will report back next month.   

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

a. 13-05 Review Findings of Fact

b. 13-06 Review Findings of Fact

c. 13-04 Recorded

 

8.   ADJOURNMENT

      Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 8:20 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Cynthia E. Winland, AICP

Consulting Planner