MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 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 ten (10) others.

 

2.    APPROVAL OF MINUTES

It was moved by Siemer and supported by Lichtenwald to approve the minutes of the May 21, 2013 meeting.  The motion was approved unanimously as presented.

 

3.    OLD BUSINESS

a.              No. 13-07 – Chemical Bank for two dimensional variances  (tabled May 21, 2013)

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.  (approved May 21, 2013)

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.

 

        Motion by Higgins and supported by Siemer to remove tabled item.  The motion was approved

        unanimously.

 

        Discussion: 

Ms. Winland stated that Chemical Bank, at the Circle branch, was granted a second sign at the last meeting.  Since the last meeting, the Chemical Bank representatives are coming back with a smaller sign than previously requested.  It is 63 square feet in size and 14’ high. 

 

Bob Stafford, 6020 Stonehaven Court, Midland, Community Bank President of Chemical Bank. 

Chemical Bank listened to the thoughts and concerns of the Board and hope  some of the modifications will be an arrangement that is worthy.  The intent of the Circle district is to make it more pedestrian friendly.  This is the reason to have signage lower so that it can be read walking and is easier to see.  They are proposing this sign to allow traffic on Saginaw Road in either direction to turn into the driveway in a safe manner.  They do not accept walk up transactions at a drive up window.  Citing Sign Line, Issue 51 of 2007, a sign industry publication, at 35 mph it is necessary to have 280 feet of distance in order to see the sign safely, read it and interpret it.  They are close to the edge of the Circle district and a lot of traffic coming through this area is going through a non Circle zoning area so there is a lot of signage. 

 

Mr. Higgins asked the height of the letters.  Jack Voss, Grand Haven, Michigan, Universal Signs.  The word “Bank” is 10” tall and “Chemical” is 13” high.  That balance equals a 9” letters. 

 

        Mr. Stafford stated that the proposed sign is roughly half the size of their first sign. 

 

Mr. Green asked about the Chemical Bank branch sign on Isabella Street.  Isabella Street (M-20) has a greater operating speed. Mr. Voss stated that the Isabella Street bank sign is 40 square feet and it is at ground level.  On Isabella Street you have wide vision lines.  The sign is not located by the egress point by the branch, it is at the center of the lawn verses in a inter city street area. 

 

Mr. Green asked if parking on Saginaw Road and a tree in the out lawn would mean that a sign closer to the ground under the tree canopy would give you the same visibility for your clientele as a taller, larger sign.  Mr. Voss stated that they reduced the sign size.  They need a sign in the air to be visible.

 

Mr. Siemer stated that he watched the area of the Chemical Bank Drive from Saginaw Road 90 minutes on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and no cars parked on the street blocking the drive or in the Independent Bank parking lot in front of what would be the sign location.  The other business in the area is Bully’s and they have off street parking.  On the other side of the street there is parking on the road that would not block the sign. 

 

Mr. Steele asked if the sign meets the setback requirements.   The dimensions of the proposed sign are 72” high by 127.5” wide.  The setback in the clear vision triangle is 10’.  We assume that the building department will ensure that the sign meets the setback requirements but we cannot tell from this proposal.

 

Mr. Higgins asked if they granted the height they asked for and made the sign smaller could they make it fit.  Mr. Voss stated that a smaller sign face would reduce the letter height to a point that it would force the letters to be smaller than the 9” minimum.  You would not see it to safely slow down and turn in. 

 

Mr. Green asked about Isabella Street and asked the size of the letters. Mr. Voss stated that yes they are in proportion to the height of the sign.

 

Findings of Fact:

1.       The property is in the Circle zoning district.

2.       Access to the property from two streets – Saginaw and Jefferson. 

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

4.       The bank is located on 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 to the petition.

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.

11.   Mr. Siemer spoke with the lead teller at the Circle branch and learned that the busiest time at the bank is on Fridays between noon and 3:00 p.m.

12.   Mr. Siemer observed traffic flow between 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Friday, May 24th from the lot next to Bill’s Tobacco.  During this time,

a.    40 vehicles utilized the bank’s drive-through.

b.    15 of those vehicles entered from Saginaw Road (37.5%).

c.    Of those 15 vehicles, 9 (60%) were north bound and turned left, having passed competitors banks.

d.    No vehicles parked on Saginaw Road that would obscure a sign.

e.    No vehicles parked in lots which might obscure a bank sign.

 

 

 

Motion:

It was moved by Higgins and supported by Green to approve Petition No. 13-07B based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 2910 Jefferson Avenue to permit a ground mounted sign that exceeds the height and size permitted in the Circle zoning district. 

 

Deliberation:

Mr. Higgins stated that the City Council changed the sign ordinance for the Circle district and he doesn’t think they would need a sign that big.  They can live with the 40 square feet and at ground level.

 

Mr. Green stated that they have to address how this situation is unique.  Having a sign that is 40 square feet sign would work since they have one on Isabella.  Being lower to the ground would have some advantages.  He doesn’t think they are unique in a way that merits a larger sign.  What is fair for one has to be fair for the others in the district.

 

Mr. Lichtenwald is in agreement with what Jack and Roy have expressed.

 

Mr. Siemer agrees and if you drive north past this site there are other banks with monument signs.  He cannot find justification for providing this.

 

Mr. Steele has some concerns and he would encourage that the building department allow them the closer to the road the better because he is concerned on how far back they would be placed.  He believes the City should establish an amortization plan for all nonconforming signs so there should be a point where everybody has to play by the same rules.

 

Vote:  

Green:                          No

Higgins:                       No

Lichtenwald:             No

Siemer                         No

Steele:                          No

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

 

4.    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. 13-08 – Walter and Glinda Knutson for a dimensional variance to permit construction of a carport within the required side yard.  The property is located at 2006 East Ashman Street.  The applicant is requesting a variance of 2’10” to the required 8’ side yard.  Table 26.01 of the City of Midland Zoning Ordinance requires a minimum 8’ side yard in the RA-2 zoning district. 

 

Background: 

Ms. Winland stated that this petition is located at 2006 East Ashman Street.  This property is zoned RA-2 single family.  The applicant is requesting for a side yard setback for a carport located on the west side. 

(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: They could still use their home but with the carport it makes it more accessible and makes it better resale.

 

Staff: The property could still be used as single family residence without the variance.

 

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

 

            Petitioner:   It would be an improvement to the premises.

 

Staff:  This carport is the only one on the block at this time.  There are a variety of garage and storage configurations in the neighborhood. It is possible that other people could construction carports in the future.

 

(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 carport could not be less than 12 feet wide or his car would not fit.

 

Staff:   The request is the minimum necessary to install a carport that will house a car.

 

(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: Their vehicles are new and need to be kept out of the weather during the time the garage is being used for repairing furniture and keeping busy with their hobby. 

 

Staff:  There are no unique circumstances.  This is a fairly typical resident lot in this district.

 

(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 important to us and gives us something to do.  The concrete pad is already there.

 

Staff:  It is self created to put an addition on an existing lot.

 

                    We have received a number of letters.  Five letters for the request and two letters in

                    opposition.  Winland showed a map of the location of the people who have submitted letters.

 

Discussion: 

Mr. Higgins how close is the garage to the property line?  Mr. Knutson, 2006 East Ashman Street, the garage is 17 feet from the property line.  The pad goes from the garage to 12’ west of the edge of the garage.  From the end of the pad it is 5 feet to the property line.  The carport would be attached to the garage.  The concrete pad has been there for ten years.  The vegetation will stay there.  The posts would be between the concrete pad and the trees.  The roof would come right down to the trees.  Run off would go to the trees.  He would put a gutter on the carport.  The carport would have a pitched roof.  The lowest part of the carport roof would be 6 ½ feet.  The east side of the property is has an 8 foot setback.  They have lived there since 2002.

 

Mr. Knutson showed pictures of what the carport might look like. Copies will be entered into the record.

 

Ms. Winland stated that the carport can project into the yard and because it is not enclosed and is considered an open porch.

 

Findings of Fact:

1.       It is in the Residential A2 zoning district.

2.       Five letters in support and 2 letters in opposition have been submitted.

3.       The garage is 17 feet from the property line.

4.       The concrete pad is 5 feet from property line.

5.       The concrete pad touches garage. 

6.       The pad is approximately 10 years old.

7.       The vegetation in the picture is in the petitioner’s lot.

8.       The carport would be attached to the garage.

9.       The side yard on the east side is 6 feet, according to the petitioner.

10.   The carport would slope away from the house.

11.   The carport will not be an extension of the gable of the house and will be separate from the house is design.

12.   Water would be directed away from the property.

13.   The petitioner stated that gutters would be added.

 

Motion: It was moved by Higgins and supported by Siemer to approve Petition No. 13-08 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 2006 East Ashman Street to permit construction of a carport within the required side yard with the condition that a gutter is installed.

 

Deliberation:  Mr. Higgins agrees with staff’s comments in the staff report.

 

Mr. Green stated that based on the criteria there is nothing unique about the property.  He is concerned that with additional construction there is always an issue with water runoff, even with a gutter. 

 

Mr. Lichtenwald agrees with Green.  It sounds like the garage isn’t used as a garage so the need for the carport is self created.

 

Mr. Siemer concurs.  He stopped by the property and he would like to compliment them on their gardening and the appearance of their house.  The property is well tended and cared for.

 

Mr. Steele stated that they have to be concerned about setting a precedent for carports. It would be nice to have but it would not be a good thing. 

 

Vote:   

Green:                          No

Higgins:                       No

Lichtenwald:             No

Siemer                         No

Steele:                          No

The motion to approve Petition 13-08 was denied by a vote of 5-0. 

 

b.    No. 13-09 – McArdle GMC Cadillac for a variance to permit a third driveway on Saginaw Road.  The property is located at 2400 North Saginaw Road.  The applicant is requesting a variance to the maximum number of driveways on a commercial parcel.  Sec. 3.10.C permits two driveways on a parcel of this size and specifies the spacing between drives.

 

Mr. Lichtenwald has a professional relationship with one of the speakers tonight.  He doesn’t think that would affect his decision making process.

 

Background:  Ms. Winland showed the aerial view of the property.  The petitioner is requesting an additional driveway on Saginaw Road.  The ordinance permits three driveways on this site.  The petitioner has four driveways. 

                       

(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:  Locating a full-access drive where prescribed by the ordinance will restrict on site traffic flow.

 

            Staff:  The property has been operating as a dealership for a very long time.

 

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

           

            Petitioner:  There are new car and used car sales and service.  Each will have its own designated access.

 

            Staff:  During the administration site plan review stage staff approved the site plan without the driveway. 

 

(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 variance will provide for more efficient on-site traffic flow patterns and would likely improve traffic patterns on North Saginaw Road.

 

            Staff:  If a driveway was closed on Saginaw Road, a new one could be installed.

 

(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 traffic signal at North Saginaw Road restricts the access to the site due to vehicle stacking.

 

            Staff:  The western existing driveway is 170’ from Orchard Drive.  The stacking length necessary to block this drive with cars waiting for the light would require approximately 14 cars in each lane.  Staff does not think this is an issue.

 

(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 ordinance restricts spacing of access drives that is not consistent with efficient traffic flow patterns on the site.

 

            Staff:   The addition has caused this but they could move the driveway on Saginaw Road to the proposed location or remove the driveway entirely and use the drives on Campau.

 

            One letter of opposition was submitted.

 

Presenting Petitioner:  Jay Wheeler, William A. Kibbe Associates, Inc.  GM dealerships across the country are being told by GM that if they want to keep their dealership they have to update their facility.  They are adding customer service facilities with this addition. .  They would like to have the existing drive become a one way in and a service entrance only.  For patrons who are there for other than service, the second drive will access these uses.  They have a lot of people coming in at the same time dropping their vehicles off so a dedicated drive is valuable.  Simply trading drives does not address the issue.  This would create efficient traffic movement.

 

Mr. Lichtenwald asked where is the existing service bay?  There will be overhead doors.  Scott LaVasseur, Sugar Construction.  Right now the service writers are just inside the door and that creates congestion.  The customers are in the service area and he can only fit one in for a service record at a time. 

 

Mr. Lichtenwald asked about combining the two drives.  Would that be an efficient means of getting in and out of the property.  Mr. Wheeler stated that the way it is now traffic is crossing each other in the lot.  They can sign the driveway and hope people will follow the direction.  They can design by intent and hope people coming for service will go in that drive. 

 

Findings of Fact:

1.       The speed limit is 45 mph.

2.       The existing drive is 170 feet from the traffic light at Orchard Drive.

3.       There is one letter in opposition.

4.       The zoning is Regional Commercial.

5.       They are trying to reconfigure the site so that the second drive being proposed is for people who are there looking for cars.

6.       The existing drive is one way in only and for cars going in for service.

7.       The site plan was approved by administrative site review.  The additional driveway was not approved by the administrative site plan review.

8.       The new drive will be 26’ wide.

9.        The existing Saginaw Road is four lanes with two way traffic and with center turn lane. 

 

Motion: It was moved Siemer and support by Green to approve Petition No. 13-09 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 2400 North Saginaw Road to permit a third driveway on Saginaw Road. 

 

Discussion:  Mr. Green stating that looking at the criteria it is not burdensome to have one driveway.  There is nothing unique about the property and it is a self created situation by the applicant.  There is a lot of traffic and curb cuts already on Saginaw Road.

 

Mr. Higgins stated that there are already too many curb cuts. 

 

Mr. Siemer would concur.  They need to minimize curb cuts on busy roads.  If they engineer a single

major access point and have appropriate signs, they could solve their need.

 

Mr. Lichtenwald agrees with the fellow commissioners.  A third drive in and out would be a major

headache.  It makes sense that maybe a double ingress off of Saginaw and egress off the east side on Campau would work.

 

Mr. Steele states that there will be a confusion factor and too many curb cuts causes a problem. 

 

Vote: 

Green:                          No

Higgins:                       No

Lichtenwald:             No

Siemer                         No

Steele:                          No

The motion to approve Petition 13-09 was denied by a vote of 5-0. 

 

c.    No. 13-10 – Eastman Ten Development, LLC for a variance to permit additional square footage for a sign in the Office Service district located at 5100 Eastman Avenue.  The applicant is requesting a variance of 9.75 square feet to the permitted 12 square feet.

 

Background: 

 

Ms. Winland showed the site of 5108 Eastman Avenue, which includes several addresses.  There are two structures on this lot.  This parcel is zoned Office Service.  They would like to use the bottom panel of an existing sign for additional signage.  The purpose of the request is that there are five separate tenants, each of whom would like signage on Eastman road.   Each tenant is allowed to have a wall 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:  They need signage for the fifth tenant.

 

            Staff:  Not all tenants have signage on Eastman at this time. 

 

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

           

            Petitioner:  This will allow the tenant to advertise their business and helps negotiate a lease.

 

            Staff:  There is a vacant panel that could be used for a sign, but it is not an entitlement to fill this space.

 

(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: Only four of the five office spaces in the building are currently utilizing the free standing signage available to the parcel.  They ask for the ability to utilize the bottom panel of one of the existing free standing signs by the fifth tenant.

 

            Staff:  The applicant is asking to use a portion of the existing structure so this is the minimum space and size sign that would be visible. 

 

(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:   Five spaces are leased in this structure and four of the offices have free standing tenants.  Future tenants would need signage.

 

            Staff:  There is nothing unique about the property or circumstances in this location.

 

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

           

            Petitioner:  Strict compliance with the zoning ordinance does not allow all of their tenants of the office building usage of the existing free standing signs. 

 

            Staff: They could reconfigure existing ground mounted signage to allow signage for all tenants. 

 

            Mr. Higgins asked if they can have both street signs and wall signs.  Staff stated that they can.  It appears that the tenants could each have a wall sign and divide that total up among the five tenants so each could have a wall sign. 

 

            Mr. Green asked the size of the Simmons sign size.  It is 11.86 square feet.  12 square feet is permitted in an Office Service district.

 

Presenting Petitioner:  Valerie Kuehne, Office Manager from East Ten, 1419 West Midland Road in Auburn.  They had a long term tenant previously who they didn’t need signage on Eastman.  Every tenant looking at the space is requesting signage on Eastman Avenue.  In order to advertise the location of their business they would like to be able to use that bottom portion of the sign.  The drive into the building is on Pheasant Ridge. Wall signage isn’t visible from Eastman Avenue.  They have had four potential tenants look at the space and turn it down because their office would not be visible.

 

            Mr. Higgins stated that they have the ability to list the tenants on one sign.  Is this a possibility?  Valerie Kuehne stated that the signs were purchased by the tenants before Eastman Ten purchased the building.  Eastman Ten has owned the building for ten years.  The signs were there when they purchased the building.  In their leases it says that you can erect the sign if you following the zoning ordinance of the City of Midland. 

 

Findings of fact:

1.       The zoning is Office Service.

2.       Eastman Avenue is a four lane road with a center turn lane and a speed limited of 45 mph.

3.       The current monument sign is owned by a tenant.

4.       The sign was erected before 2004.

5.       The lease by the current owner allows the tenant to erect a sign per City ordinance only.

6.       There are two structures on this particular lot and they are not connected.

7.       The existing signage is legal and nonconforming.

8.       The facility in question has five tenants and four are occupied.

9.       The variance request is for 9.75 square feet.

10.   The existing sign is 12 square feet.

 

Motion: It was moved Higgins and supported by Lichtenwald to approve Petition No. 13-10 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 5100 Eastman Avenue to permit additional square footage for a sign in the Office Service district.

 

Mr. Higgins said it appears that the business could change the lease to require that signs are removed and that sign be shared by the tenants.  There is an allowance to put wall signs on the building.  Wall signs are preferable in Office Service. 

 

Mr. Green stated that the sign is owned by somebody else.  He wants to be consistent.  There are

ways to solve the problem.

 

Mr. Siemer agrees that they have to purchase wall signs that would identify the new tenant and

their location.

 

Mr. Lichtenwald agrees with what has been said.

 

Mr. Steele stated that it seems like you should have the same kind of signs on both sides of the

 street.  He cannot come up with enough yeses on the five criteria. 

 

Vote: 

Green:                          No

Higgins:                       No

Lichtenwald:             No

Siemer                         No

Steele:                          No

The motion to approve Petition 13-10 was denied by a vote of 5-0. 

 

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

        None

 

6.    NEW BUSINESS

        Nominating Officers: The nominating committee to select new officers is be Tim Lichtenwald and Roy Green.  Mr. Lichtenwald moved to re-elect Jon Steele as Chairman and Roy Green as Vice Chair for the coming year.  Mr. Higgins seconded the motion.  Motion passed unanimously. 

 

7.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

a. 13-05 Recorded

b. 13-06 Recorded

 

8.   ADJOURNMENT

      Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 9:15 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Cynthia E. Winland, AICP

Consulting Planner