OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS MINUTES

April 20, 1998

______________________________________________________________________________

Agenda

SEECO, LLC - VARIANCE FROM COMMERCIAL SIGN STANDARDS - SE CORNER OF 9TH STREET AND SEECO DRIVE, UNITS #7 AND #8

EDUCATIONAL COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION - VARIANCE FROM WALL SIGN REQUIREMENT - 1551 S. 9TH ST.

MILL CREEK APARTMENTS - SITE PLAN REVIEW - 20-UNIT APARTMENT BUILDING - 3080 MILL CREEK DRIVE

MAY, JOHN AND SVERI - VARIANCE FROM ACCESSORY BUILDING SETBACK - 7940 WEST N AVENUE

_____________________________________________________________________________

A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, April 20, 1998, commencing at approximately 3:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall, pursuant to notice.

MEMBERS PRESENT:

Brian Dylhoff, Chairperson
William Saunders
David Bushouse
Thomas Brodasky

MEMBERS ABSENT: Lara Meeuwse

Also present were Rebecca Harvey and Mike West on behalf of the Planning and Zoning Department, Scott Paddock, Ordinance Enforcement Officer, Patricia R. Mason, Township Attorney, and fourteen (14) other interested persons.

 

CALL TO ORDER

The Chairperson called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m.

 

MINUTES

The Board considered the minutes of the meeting of April 6, 1998.

Mr. Brodasky moved to approve the minutes as submitted, and Mr. Bushouse seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

It was noted that the applicant's attorney with regard to item #5 had requested that the item be moved up since he had another commitment. No disagreement being expressed by audience members, and the Board members being agreeable to the agenda change, it was determined that the item would be the next considered.

 

SEECO, LLC - VARIANCE FROM COMMERCIAL SIGN STANDARDS - SE CORNER OF 9TH STREET AND SEECO DRIVE, UNITS #7 AND #8

The next item was consideration of the application of Edward Annen, Jr., representing Mike Seelye of Seeco, LLC, for variance approval from the commercial sign requirements established by Section 76.125 of the Zoning Ordinance. The subject property is located on the southeast corner of 9th Street and Seeco Drive (Units #7 and #8 of the Seeco Commercial Park) and is within the "C" Local Business District Zoning classification.

The report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference.

Ms. Harvey noted that the Board would be considering two variances with regard to the proposed sign: (1) size, and (2) setback. It was noted that, under Ordinance standards, the site was entitled to two free-standing signs. The first sign could be a maximum of 60 sq. ft., 20' in height, located a minimum of 35' from South 9th Street right-of-way and 105' from the Seeco Drive right-of-way. The second sign was allowed to be a maximum of 30 sq. ft., 20' in height, and located 35' from the Seeco Drive right-of-way and 105' from the South 9th Street right-of-way. The applicant sought variances to allow for construction of a single 100-sq.-ft. free-standing sign, at a height of 18', to be located 25' from the South 9th Street right-of-way and 7' from the Seeco Drive right-of-way. Ms. Harvey noted that she had provided, with the report, minutes of the past decisions of the Board concerning similar sign variance requests. Some applications had been granted, and she felt that the Board should determine whether any of the same factors which had been utilized by the Board to justify those variances were present in the instance application so as to be consistent with past decisions.

Attorney Annen, on behalf of the applicant, stated that a "Township official" had told him that a free-standing sign could be placed at the site in compliance with the Ordinance in the "parking lot island." He maintained that the parking lot light poles would be placed in the "islands" and, therefore, the sign could not be placed in these locations. He noted that the applicant was seeking a 10' variance from the setback required from 9th Street. He maintained that the square footage of the proposed sign was in fact 80 sq. ft., not counting the "peak" of the sign. He stated that the sign would include "various squares" in which to advertise each tenant of the site. He felt that a 20 sq. ft. variance for size would increase the visibility of the sign. He noted that the applicant had already purchased the sign after a conversation with Jim Wiley about Ordinance requirements. He claimed that Mr. Wiley had indicated the setback would be 35' from the road center. Scott Paddock had later informed the applicant that the 35' setback was from the right-of-way line.

Ms. Harvey outlined the appropriate procedure for the completion and submission of a sign permit application, along with the graphic of the sign and a plot plan showing its proposed location. After review, if the proposed sign is in compliance with Ordinance requirements, the sign permit is granted. She stated that, in this case, the applicant had submitted a permit application on March 17, 1998, and that, after review, the Township determined that the application was not in compliance with Ordinance requirements and the applicant was informed. The applicant's claims regarding inaccurate information related to an alleged verbal conversation with an employee of the Township prior to submission of the permit application.

Reference was made to the site plan drawing on which Township staff had indicated those areas in yellow where a free-standing sign could be placed in compliance with Ordinance standards along 9th Street and in blue the areas where a second free-standing sign could be placed in compliance with Ordinance standards to serve Seeco Drive.

In response to questioning by the Chairperson, it was noted that it was at the applicant's discretion that one sign rather than two was proposed. The applicant indicated that the parking lot islands would be "gravel." Light poles had already been established in the parking lot islands. There was discussion of the "second parking lot island" south of Seeco Drive. It was noted that this is a "large" island, and Mr. Brodasky opined that a sign could be placed in this island in compliance with Ordinance setback standards. The Chairperson stated that he agreed, noting that a sign in this location would be very visible. He felt this would be an ideal location in front of the building on the north side. There was discussion as to whether the existing light pole within the island would "wash out" the sign and reduce its visibility.

There was a discussion of the location of the light pole. Bob Larimer of West Michigan Neon, the sign contractor of the applicant, stated that there was sufficient room in the island to place the sign and locate it a sufficient distance from the existing light pole. He felt that the sign would be readable in this location. Mr. Annen expressed that the applicant was agreeable to placing a sign in this location if a size variance was granted.

Mr. Saunders noted that the site plan review for this proposed site had required compliance with Ordinance standards and approval through the permit process. He therefore felt that the applicant should have applied for and obtained a permit prior to purchase of the sign.

In response to questions, Ms. Harvey noted that Jim Wiley had been the Township's Ordinance Enforcement Officer and was now the Fire Inspector for the Township. Ms. Harvey stated that she had spoken with Mr. Wiley, who indicated he did not recall a conversation with the applicant regarding the sign.

There was a discussion of how the area of the sign should be calculated. Ms. Harvey noted that, with free-standing signs, in the past, the Board had included the area inside the sign frame and noted; for example, with regard to the Maple Hill Chrysler sign, the "star" on top of the sign was considered a part of the sign for determining its size. She felt that the Board should inquire of the applicant whether the "triangular design" on top was part of the sign frame, the way it would be attached and the material from which it was made. Mr. Larimer responded that it would be separate from and sit on top of the sign frame.

Mr. Annen departed at 3:30 p.m.

It was noted that the applicant's sign proposal indicated its size as 100 sq. ft. Mr. Brodasky was concerned as to how far some applicants might go in affixing items to the top of their sign to draw attention to a site if these items were not considered part of the sign for purposes of the size calculation.

In response to questioning by Mr. Bushouse, the applicant stated that the triangular piece would be illuminated with neon. With this information, Board members concurred that the triangular portion of the sign would be part of the sign for purposes of the calculation of its size.

Mr. Bushouse expressed concern that, since this was one of the first developments within the Seeco site condominium project, other lots within the project would also seek sign variances if this variance were granted. He also felt that it was important to note that the applicant was entitled to "a lot of wall signage." This wall signage would allow passers-by to identify tenants of the site. He was very concerned about setting an undesirable precedent.

There was no public comment offered, and the public hearing was closed.

Mr. Saunders moved to deny the setback variance with the following reasoning:

(1) That conformance was not unnecessarily burdensome. Reasonable use of the property exists even with denial of the variance in that a free-standing sign could be established at the site in the parking lot island in compliance with Ordinance setbacks. This fact had been confirmed by the applicant's own sign contractor.

(2) That substantial justice would not be served by granting the variance. In previous applications, the Board had only granted sign variance where there was an existing building and other existing site features which limited possible sign locations. In this case, a new development was involved.

(3) That there were no unique physical circumstances which prevented compliance with the Ordinance setback standards.

(4) That the hardship was self-created in that the location of the sign was at the discretion of the applicant. Design and construction of the site occurred in 1997 under current Ordinance standards.

(5) That the spirit and intent of the Ordinance would not be observed and the public health, safety and welfare would not be secured by granting the variance. A variance would set an undesirable precedent for this area, which is a new commercial site condominium project under development; if the variance were granted, it would be likely to lead to other variance applications for other building sites within the site condominium development. These building sites would be as entitled to variance as the subject site. Thus, signage in the area would be inconsistent with Ordinance standards.

Mr. Brodasky seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Brodasky moved to deny the size variance requested by the applicant with the following reasoning:

(1) That conformance was not unnecessarily burdensome in that the applicant had other reasonable options with regard to signage. The Ordinance allows the applicant two free-standing signs, as well as wall signage. The signage allotted by the Ordinance would be sufficient to provide the site with visibility.

(2) That substantial justice would not be observed by granting the variance. Only one sign size variance had been granted in the last 13 years. This application was not similar to that granted. Further, the amount of the variance requested by the applicant was substantial. Also, the applicant's reasoning, combining two signs into one, had been rejected by the Board in the Meijer application.

(3) That there were no unique physical circumstances with regard to the property which prevented compliance with the size limitations of the Ordinance.

(4) That the hardship was self-created in that the applicant should have applied for and obtained a sign permit prior to the purchase of the sign.

(5) That the spirit and intent of the Ordinance would not be observed and the public health, safety and welfare would not be secured if the variance were granted. Again, it was felt that this would set an undesirable precedent for a developing area and would lead to other similar applications for sites within the condominium development. This would lead to signage in the area which is inconsistent with current Ordinance standards.

Mr. Bushouse seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.

 

EDUCATIONAL COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION - VARIANCE FROM WALL SIGN REQUIREMENT - 1551 S. 9TH ST.

The next item was the application of the Educational Community Credit Union for variance approval from the wall sign requirements established by Section 76.135 of the Zoning Ordinance and its application to the "R-3" District. The subject property is located at 1551 S. 9th Street and is within the "R-3" Residence District Zoning classification.

The report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference.

In response to questioning by Mr. Brodasky, Ms. Harvey noted that wall signage is not allowed to nonresidential uses within the "R-3" District. The applicant was therefore requesting a variance to allow wall signage for the credit union use.

The applicant was present, represented by Tim Collia. He noted that the applicant is remodeling its 9th Street main office and wanted to place wall signage on the facia which would blend in with the surroundings. It was felt that this wall signage would facilitate "name recognition" of the building for patrons entering the property. There is one free-standing sign at the location. The applicant stated that the proposed wall sign would be established to on a building which is set back off 9th Street and is screened from the roadway by existing wooded areas. The size of the wall signage would conform to that permitted within the "C" District.

Mr. Brodasky questioned the applicant as to whether there was a problem with patrons confusing the administrative building for the main building, and the applicant indicated that there was no such confusion.

Mr. Bushouse questioned the applicant with regard to illumination of the sign, and the applicant stated that it would be illuminated 24 hours a day since the ATM use at the site would be utilized 24 hours a day. It was noted that the "24-hour" ATM sign was not considered wall signage subject to limitation by the Ordinance.

There was no public comment offered, and the public hearing was closed.

There was discussion of the fact that the applicant had had the option to petition the Township for change of the text of the Ordinance to allow for wall signage in the "R-3" District for nonresidential uses. The Board reasoned that the conformance was not unnecessarily burdensome in that the applicant had reasonable use of the site without wall signage. Free-standing signage served the use in question. As to substantial justice, the Board reasoned that, although it had not considered any similar applications in the past, the general character of the area would weigh against granting variance. There was no wall signage on existing uses in the area, and the area was largely residential in character. The Board also reasoned that there were no unique physical circumstances which placed limitations on the subject site and prevented compliance with Ordinance standards. The hardship was also self-created in that the sign design and placement were at the discretion of the applicant. There was also concern that the spirit and intent of the Ordinance and health, safety and welfare would not be served by granting a variance in that wall signage is not generally allowed in residential districts. Wall signage is allowed in Commercial and Industrial Districts.

Mr. Brodasky expressed concern that, if variance were granted in this case, the next nonresidential use in the "R-3" District would have as good a case for variance allowing wall signage as the applicant. He felt that the "hardship" suffered by the applicant was very general and would be better addressed by consideration of a text amendment to allow wall signage in the "R-3" District. Mr. Bushouse emphasized that 9th Street is a residential area and that the intent of the "R-3" District was to allow limited nonresidential use which blends in with the residential use. He felt that adding wall signage would alter the character of the area and make it more "commercial."

Based on the preceding discussion and reasoning, Mr. Brodasky moved to deny the variance, and Mr. Saunders seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

 

MILL CREEK APARTMENTS - SITE PLAN REVIEW - 20-UNIT APARTMENT BUILDING - 3080 MILL CREEK DRIVE

The next application was that of Campbell Caron Group, LLC, representing Mill Creek Apartments, for site plan review for the construction of a 20-unit apartment building (Phase IV) of the existing Mill Creek Apartments. The subject property includes the site of Mill Creek Apartments (3080 Mill Creek Drive) and is within the "R-4" and "C" Districts.

The report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference.

Ms. Harvey noted that the applicant had developed a site plan which took into account and accommodated the variances previously granted to the site and which responded to the conceptual plan review for Phase IV.

Matt Weaver was present on behalf of the applicant and noted that the applicant had combined the three parcels which comprised the subject site into one parcel through a recorded document. This document would be provided to the Township. He noted that the site plan had been revised to address maneuverability for fire equipment in the south parking lot through cooperation with the Township Fire Department. A turnaround in that parking area had been added. He stated that the applicant was not requesting approval for garages or a carport at this time; however, at a later time, the applicant might seek approval for carports. As to dumpster screening, the applicant indicated that dumpsters are currently screened on three sides and that detail for the dumpsters to be added to the site would be provided to the Township when construction permits were sought. He noted that there was an error or oversight on the plan on the west end of the south parking lot in that it did not indicate the dumpster location. A revised site plan would be submitted to show this location.

As to lighting, there were certain specifications on the plan but the applicant agreed to submit further lighting detail in accord with Ordinance requirements. As to landscaping, the applicant indicated that a plan would be submitted but that guidance was sought from the Board as to the type and location.

There was no public comment offered, and the public hearing was closed.

The Chairperson expressed that he felt the applicant had done an excellent job with the proposed site plan. The applicant complimented the Planning and Zoning Department's assistance.

Mr. Bushouse questioned the applicant with regard to the fire lane, and the applicant indicated that snow removal of this area would be the same as for the remainder of the parking lot so as to maintain maneuverability for fire equipment during winter months. As to landscaping, it was generally agreed that, since the building would not be visible from the public right-of-way, landscaping should be similar to that for the existing buildings. There was discussion of the parking proposed.

Mr. Brodasky moved to approve the site plan with the following conditions, limitations and notations:

(1) That the existing access arrangement is not proposed to be altered.

(2) That parking was proposed in compliance with Ordinance standards and that the proposed parking lot layout is satisfactory. In addition to the 50 parking spaces proposed to serve the additional 20 units, six additional parking spaces had been proposed to be added to the north and south sides of building #1. All parking spaces were required to comply with dimensional standards of 10' x 20'.

(3) That all barrier-free parking is subject to ADA and Michigan Barrier-Free Guidelines and is to be designated by signage and pavement logo.

(4) That proposed building setbacks comply with Ordinance standards.

(5) That no outdoor storage had been proposed or approved.

(6) That carports were not proposed as part of Phase IV construction.

(7) That the dumpster arrangement as described by the applicant was satisfactory. Dumpster enclosure plans should be detailed and submitted to Township staff for review and approval.

(8) That all outdoor lighting must comply with the lighting guidelines of Section 78.700 and a detailed lighting proposal submitted to Township staff for review and approval pursuant to Section 78.700(g).

(9) That no additional signage had been proposed or approved.

(10) That landscaping consistent with existing landscaping at the site was satisfactory, and a landscaping plan must be submitted to Township staff for review and approval.

(11) That screening is not required.

(12) That further variance approval had not been requested.

(13) That approval is subject to the review and approval of the Township Fire Department and Township Engineer.

(14) That issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy is contingent on final inspections/ approvals from the Building, Mechanical, Electrical, Fire, Planning and Zoning Departments to insure compliance with applicable standards and conditions.

(15) That the recorded instrument representing the combination of all three parcels must be submitted and on file with the Township.

Mr. Bushouse seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.

 

MAY, JOHN AND SVERI - VARIANCE FROM ACCESSORY BUILDING SETBACK - 7940 WEST N AVENUE

The next item was the application of John and Sveri May, requesting variance approval from the accessory building setback requirement of Section 64.200 of the Zoning Ordinance. The subject site is located at 7940 West N Avenue and is within the "AG"-Rural District Zoning classification.

The report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference. It was noted that this was the first variance request considered by the Board since the adoption of the recent change to the setback provisions of the Ordinance with regard to accessory buildings. Current Ordinance language, adopted in 1996, requires accessory buildings to be set back 10' or the height of the accessory building at its highest point. There was a discussion of the intent/history behind this recent amendment.

The applicant was present, stating that he sought to add to an existing accessory building. He noted that his property included sufficient area to allow him to move the building to the east so as to comply with setback requirements. However, he felt that the addition would be more aesthetically pleasing to himself and the neighboring property if the addition was in line with the existing building.

The Chairperson noted that setback variances had been granted in the past where the variance would allow for continuation of the line of an existing building where the line of the existing building was nonconforming. In this case, the existing garage is set back 13' from the adjacent property line and, since the existing building is 18' in height, it would require an 18' setback. Once the addition were added, the accessory building would be 26' high at its peak. Therefore, a 26' setback would be required.

Mr. Brodasky expressed concern that, in this case, even though the addition would extend in line with the existing building, because of the height increase, a 50% variance would be required.

The applicant indicated that the neighboring property owners did not have a "problem" with his proposed variance.

Mr. Saunders questioned the applicant as to whether he could change the configuration of the building to conform to setback requirements. The applicant noted that he could but that he felt this would "not look good."

Mr. Saunders agreed with Mr. Brodasky's earlier comments that, in this case, the applicant was doing more than merely adding length to the building. He felt it was significant that height was being added so as to "change the entire building profile."

There was no public comment offered, and the public hearing was closed.

Mr. Saunders expressed concern that, in this case, unlike past applications where variance had been granted, the Board was not dealing with property constraints which prevented an addition in compliance with Ordinance requirements. He felt that, if this application were granted, it would pave the way for many more variance requests and approvals.

Mr. Saunders reasoned:

(1) That conformance was not unnecessarily burdensome in that the applicant had many other reasonable options for addition to the accessory building, or establishment of another accessory building, in conformance with Ordinance standards.

(2) That it was felt that substantial justice would not weigh in favor of granting the variance in that the applicant was not seeking merely to add length to the existing line of the building but was increasing its height and changing the entire building profile. He noted that, in other applications which had been granted, the roofline of the building had remained the same.

(3) That there were no unique physical circumstances preventing compliance with Ordinance standards. The accessory building addition could be placed in conformance with Ordinance requirements.

(4) That the hardship was self-created in that the location was at the discretion of the applicant.

(5) That the variance would be contrary to the spirit and intent of the Ordinance and contrary to public health, safety and welfare in that variance would result in a 50% variance from present Ordinance requirements. At this time, the existing accessory building is only nonconforming by approximately 30%. Thus, variance would alter and increase the degree of nonconformity.

The motion was seconded by Mr. Brodasky and carried unanimously.

 

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 4:58 p.m.

Minutes Prepared:
April 22, 1998

Minutes Approved:
May 4, 1998