MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS,

TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2014

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

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.      ROLL CALL

PRESENT:     Board Members –Green, Higgins, Lichtenwald, Pnacek and Siemer

ABSENT:        Board Member – None

OTHERS PRESENT:  Brad Kaye, Director of Planning and Community Development; Grant Murschel, Community Development Planner and three (3) others.

 

2.    ELECTIONS

 

Green was nominated by Siemer for Chairman of the Board for the months of May and June.  The nomination was approved unanimously by the Board. 

 

Siemer was nominated by Lichtenwald for Vice Chairman, it was supported by Higgins.  The nomination was approved unanimously.      

 

3.    APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

It was moved by Siemer and supported by Lichtenwald to approve the meeting minutes of April 15, 2014.  The motion was approved unanimously. 

 

4.    PUBLIC HEARINGS

               

        a.    No. 14-03 – Meijer, Inc. for a dimensional variance to permit the construction of new wall signs for the existing Meijer store located at 7300 Eastman Avenue.  The application is requesting permission to place 6 wall signs totaling 326 square feet on the store.  This request is a variance of 176 square feet from the maximum permitted standard of 150 square feet and would permit 45 square feet more signage than exists on the site currently. 

 

Kaye presented the application including the explanation of the proposed variance.  The property is currently zoned RC Regional Commercial.  Kaye also explained the five criteria or standards that must be reviewed by the Board.  He explained staff’s response to the criteria as presented in the staff packet from April 15, 2014. 

 

Higgins wondered if the current signage was approved by variance.  Kaye explained that he is not aware of a current variance but knows that the building was developed under a previous ordinance.

 

Jennifer Bonney, of Meijer, Inc., presented for the application.  She apologized for the absence of Meijer representation at the previous meeting and explained that the current renovation is underway and as part of the renovation new signs are proposed.  She explained Meijer’s responses to the five criteria.

 

Higgins wondered how many linear feet is the building frontage.  It was suggested by Siemer and echoed by Bonney to be approximately 1,000 feet.  Higgins wondered if the applicant would be agreeable to 281 square feet of signage.  Bonney indicated that she is agreeable to what is being proposed as she is of the opinion that shrinking the signage further would look out of place given the size of the glass structures they will be placed on. 

 

Green wondered if what is proposed is typical of a Meijer store this size.  Bonney responded by saying that the store is of common size and that the signage is proportioned to fit the size of the store.

 

There were no comments in support of opposition of the petition.  The public hearing was closed.

 

Findings of Fact:

1.       Location is 7300 Eastman Avenue.

2.       Property is zoned RC Regional Commercial.

3.       The speed limit on Eastman Avenue is 45 mph.

4.       Eastman Avenue is 5 lanes wide; two northbound, two southbound and a center turn lane.

5.       Property is a corner lot with frontage on Joe Mann Boulevard and Eastman Avenue.

6.       Property is set back 835 feet from Eastman Avenue.

7.       The building frontage is approximately 1,000 ft.

8.       There is a total of 281 SF of existing signage.

9.       The variance request is for 176 square feet.

10.   The building was built in 1992.

11.   The site plan for renovations was approved administratively within the last month.

12.   The current signage was approved based off of the total linear feet of property frontage.

 

Discussion:

 

Higgins commented that the sign standards should be revised as this issue for big box stores seems to be common.

 

Motion:  It was moved by Higgins and seconded by Siemer to approve Petition No. 14-03 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 7300 Eastman Avenue to place 6 wall signs totaling 290 square feet on the store.   

 

Deliberation: 

 

Higgins commented that the site has been granted 281 SF of current signage, under a previous ordinance.  He believes that it is unnecessary and unfair that the site should be reduced to the current standard of 150 SF.  He suggested the 290 SF based off of what the store have now.

 

Lichtenwald agreed that the current sign ordinance should be reviewed.  He thinks the 290 SF is an arbitrary number which he is opposed to.

 

Pnacek explained that the need is there to review the sign ordinance because of this common issue on large retail stores. 

 

Siemer explained that an equitable situation should exist between Meijer and Walmart.  He also believes that the setback distance from Eastman Avenue warrants larger signage. 

 

Higgins explained that he disagrees that the distance from Eastman Avenue should influence the decision.  He believes that because Meijer has chosen to sell the out lots of their property which has blocked the view from Eastman Avenue. 

 

Kaye wanted to clarify the specifics of the approved variance for Walmart which is significantly larger than what is proposed this evening.  Additionally, he explained that precedence does not exist in a zoning board of appeals case and that it is the duty of the Board to rule on what is presented to them and not try to compromise.

 

Higgins and Siemer agreed to withdraw the motion in response to Kaye’s comments.  The following motion was withdrawn:

 

Motion:  It was moved by Higgins and seconded by Siemer to approve Petition No. 14-03 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 7300 Eastman Avenue to place 6 wall signs totaling 290 square feet on the store.   

 

Higgins and Siemer agreed to present the original request of the applicant but to amend the requested square feet of signage to be 290.

 

Motion:  It was moved by Higgins and seconded by Siemer to approve Petition No. 14-03 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 7300 Eastman Avenue to place 6 wall signs totaling 326 square feet on the store.   

 

Amending motion:  It was moved by Higgins and supported by Siemer to amend the motion to be for signage totaling 290 square feet rather than 326. 

 

Vote:  

Green:  No

Higgins:  Yes                                                            

Lichtenwald:  No

Pnacek:  No

Siemer:  No

 

The amending motion was denied by a vote of 4-1.

 

Higgins commented that the petitioner ought to know that if the next motion is denied, they will walk away with no variance. 

 

Chairman Green called for a vote on the original motion, as moved by Higgins and seconded by Siemer to approve Petition No. 14-03 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 7300 Eastman Avenue to place 6 wall signs totaling 326 square feet on the store.   

 

Vote:  

Green:  Yes                

Higgins:  No                                                             

Lichtenwald:  Yes

Pnacek:  Yes

Siemer:  Yes

 

The motion was approved by a vote of 4-1.

b.    No. 14-04 – Gary DeShano for a dimensional variance to permit a reduction in the number of required parking spaces for a senior housing facility to be constructed at 4124 Waldo Avenue.  The application is requesting permission to reduce the number of required parking spaces for a 44 bed senior housing facility from 73 to 43, for a variance of 30 parking spaces less than currently required.

 

Kaye presented the application on behalf of staff.  He explained the extent of the variance request.  The site is currently zoned RB Residential.  The site plan was approved by City Council in the end of January.  Kaye explained the response of staff for the five criteria as outlined in the staff report dated May 14.  He explained that research has led staff to understand that the City of Midland does require a higher number of parking spaces for this type of use compared to other communities. 

 

Pnacek wondered about the staff response to the last criterion.  Kaye explained that the position on this requirement was derived from research by staff. 

 

Higgins wondered if Washington Woods had a similar number of parking spaces to what is currently required by ordinance.  Kaye explained that he understands Washington Woods would not meet the current standard for parking spaces required.

 

Neil DeShano, joint owner of the facility, and Janet Baker, a perspective employee, presented for the petitioner.  DeShano presented a handout to the Board of other senior housing developments and the number of parking spaces provided at each.   DeShano explained the petitioner’s responses to the five criteria.  He believes that eliminating the parking would not offend the neighbors.  The removal of this parking would allow for more green space on the site.

 

Pnacek wondered why 43 spaces was chosen.  DeShano explained that 43 resulted from simply removing the parking area to the east of the facility, as shown on the approved site plan.

 

DeShano presented a recent approved site plan from Shields.  He explained that the requirement in this jurisdiction is 1 space per 4 beds.

 

Higgins wondered about the nature of the facility.  DeShano explained that the facility is not fully assisted living but that three meals a day would be provided to the residents.  Higgins commented that the parking should be able to handle parking for parties and holidays.

 

DeShano explained that memory care will be in roughly a quarter of the facility; residents of this area will not be able to drive.  Baker explained that the target resident will be someone who does not drive and that Dial-A-Ride access will be provided.  Some of the apartments will have a kitchen and living areas while others will simply be a room.

 

Siemer explained that he believes that those who will be living in the apartments with the kitchen and living areas will be more prone to driving their own vehicle.

 

Lichtenwald wondered why a variance wasn’t pursued prior to site plan approval.  DeShano did not have a specific reason for this decision but that it was determined that the amount of parking required seems excessive.   

 

Green wondered about what the site would look like with the subject parking removed.

 

There were no comments in support or opposition of petition.  The public hearing was closed. 

 

Findings of Fact:

1.       The property is located at 4124 Waldo Road.

2.       The property is zoned RB Residential.

3.       The facility will have 44 beds for senior housing.

4.       The facility will serve three (3) meals per day to residents.

5.       There are 12 memory care units within the facility.

6.       The area surrounding is mainly single-family residential.

7.       A site plan was approved showing compliance with the parking standards of the zoning ordinance.

 

Motion:  It was moved by Siemer and seconded by Pnacek to approve Petition No. 14-04 based on the findings of fact for an area/dimension variance at 4124 Waldo Avenue to permit a reduction in the number of required parking spaces for a senior housing facility. 

 

Deliberation: 

 

Siemer explained his rational for reasoning that currently 1.7 spaces are required per bed.  He compared that to other facilities that have been presented which average 0.7 spaces per bed.

 

Higgins explained that the zoning ordinance should separate between senior living and assisted living.  He believes that the nature of each facility requires vastly different amounts of parking.  He believes that there are too many parking places required but he does not know what the target number should be. 

 

Pnacek explained his familiarity with Bickford Cottage in the city.  He explained that Monday through Friday the spaces are not full; however, on the weekends or holidays the spaces are completely full.  He understands that parking should be in place for the time of highest demand.

 

Lichtenwald believes the applicant has demonstrated that compliance with the ordinance could be attained through the approval of the applicant’s site plan.  Green agreed with Lichtenwald.

 

Chairman Green asked for a roll-call vote on the motion by Siemer and seconded by Pnacek.

 

Vote:  

Green:  No

Higgins:  No                                                             

Lichtenwald:  No

Pnacek:  No

Siemer:  Yes

The motion was denied by a vote of 4-1.

 

5.    OLD BUSINESS 

 

None

 

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

       

        None

7.    NEW BUSINESS

 

None

 

8.   DECISION SHEET SIGNATURES

 

a. 14-01 Recorded

 

9.   ADJOURNMENT

 

It was moved by Higgins and supported by Siemer to adjourn the meeting.

 

Hearing no further business, the Chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:59 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

C. Bradley Kaye, AICP, CFM

Director of Planning and Community Development