OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS MINUTES

April 19, 1999

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Agenda

WEST POINTE CENTRE - VARIANCE - NE CORNER 10TH STREET & WEST MAIN

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A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, April 19, 1999, commencing at approximately 3:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall, pursuant to notice.

MEMBERS PRESENT:

Thomas Brodasky, Chairperson
William Saunders
Sharon Kuntzman
Millard Loy
David Bushouse

MEMBERS ABSENT: None

Also present were Jodi Stefforia, Township Planning Director, Mary Lynn Bugge, Township Planner, Patricia R. Mason, Township Attorney, and three (3) 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 5, 1999. The suggestions of the Planning and Zoning Department were noted.

Ms. Kuntzman moved to approve the minutes, and Mr. Saunders seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

WEST POINTE CENTRE - VARIANCE - NE CORNER 10TH STREET & WEST MAIN

The next item was the application of Harry Wierenga of LandTech, Inc., on behalf of West Pointe Development, LLC. The applicant requested a variance from Section 23.404(a) to allow a height of not to exceed 35’ for up to 11 office buildings within the proposed West Pointe Centre Office Park. Section 23.404 limits the height of office buildings in the "R-3" Residence District to 25’. The proposed office park is to be located at the northeast corner of 10th Street and West Main Street within the "R-3" Residence District Zoning classification.

The report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference. Ms. Stefforia noted that the applicant had revised its plans to propose only nine buildings. The definition of "height" in the Zoning Ordinance had been added in 1998 to provide that height is the vertical distance of a building measured from the average elevation of the adjacent finished grade to the highest point of the building.

Ms. Stefforia noted that she had randomly reviewed ten active residential building permits to determine an average residential building height. The single-story average height was approximately 2l’; two-story, approximately 31’; and bi-level, 28’. It was further noted that the single-story and walkout office buildings within the Walnut Woods Office Park across West Main Street are 21’ tall in the front and, in the rear, are 31’ from the adjacent grade. Ms. Stefforia said that research had been done into the height of various office buildings within the "R-3" District. All were under the 25’ height limitation with the exception of Bronson Medical Building. It could not be determined from Township records how the medical building had been approved. There were no two-story office buildings currently within the "R-3" Residence District.

There was a discussion by Ms. Stefforia and by the Township Attorney concerning the intent of the height restriction. The height restriction was intended to preserve the residential character of the "R-3" District so that the resulting office buildings would not have a negative impact on area residential development. It had been the intent of the Township to limit height but, at the same time, there had been discussion that it was the desire of the Township not to encourage construction of office buildings with flat rooftops.

The applicant, Mr. Wierenga, was present. He stated that, in his experience, a typical office building with a 5,000-sq.-ft. footprint is generally a two-story building. He stated that office buildings generally have on each story a 9’ floor-to-ceiling distance and a 3’ space between floors. A pitched roof of 3/12 pitch would result in a 12 10’-high roof, and a 4/12 pitch would result in a 10 12’-high roof. Therefore, the minimum office building of two stories would be 30’. He stated that this applicant would like some leeway to be architecturally innovative.

There was discussion of the character of the Walnut Woods office buildings across West Main, and Mr. Wierenga said he believed that these buildings were approximately 12,000 sq. ft. Mr. Wierenga stated that the developer did not intend to make every building 35’ in height. In response to questioning by the Chairperson, Mr. Wierenga stated that the four buildings proposed along 10th Street in the revised plan would be two-story buildings. He felt that reducing the buildings to one story would cause the building footprint to "spread." Mr. Wierenga said that the applicant could use some mansard roofs but that these types of roofs had down sides in terms of office applications.

Mr. Bushouse questioned the applicant regarding the distance between the property line and the buildings along 10th Street. Mr. Wierenga responded that this distance was approximately 144’, 40’ of which would be greenspace. Mr. Wierenga stated that the applicant was proposing to retain the trees in this area where possible.

Ms. Stefforia, responding to a question of Mr. Bushouse, said that the parking as proposed was adequate, even given the potential connections to the property to the north.

The Chairperson sought public comment, and none was offered. The public hearing was closed.

The Chairperson observed that the homes on 10th Street across from this property were single-family ranch homes with peaked roofs. The Township Attorney stated that the Board could consider the character of the area with regard to the substantial justice criterion of the nonuse variance analysis. For example, the height of Walnut Woods buildings would be important since they were located adjacent to the site, across West Main Street.

Mr. Bushouse felt it was important that the typical two-story home exceeded 25’. Further, the office buildings by Holiday West were in excess of 25’. He noted Bronson Place and other developments across U.S. 131 were in excess of 25’. Additionally, Walnut Woods was approximately 31’; and he felt that these buildings were residential in character. Mr. Bushouse stated that he would prefer a smaller footprint and a two-story building. In his opinion, this would present a more residential character than a larger-footprint one-story building. Mr. Bushouse said he believed that if the development were established with screening the buildings would not be visible to the homes across the street. Mr. Bushouse felt that this location would be a logical one given the adjacent U.S. 131 highway and the Walnut Woods commercial development.

The Chairperson expressed that he felt the Planning Commission should revisit this issue and determine whether there was any justification for amending the text to allow for more than 25’ in height. Other Board members agreed. Mr. Bushouse wondered whether the applicant could work with the finished grade so as to fit within a 31’ height. There was discussion of whether possibly a 31’ height might be in keeping with the character of the area given the area of the Walnut Woods buildings. Mr. Wierenga stated that 31’ would not be acceptable to the applicant.

Mr. Loy stated that he recalled discussion by the Planning Commission regarding the 25’ height limitation, and he felt that the Planning Commission had intended to allow walkout two-story buildings with two stories in the back and one story in the front. He was concerned about setting an undesirable precedent. He said he felt that a variance could not be granted to the applicant just to accommodate their design.

Mr. Saunders agreed, stating that, in his opinion, the Planning Commission should consider the 25’ height. He believed that this would only be feasible if the intent was to limit office buildings to one story. Ms. Kuntzman said that she would not like to see flat-roofed buildings. However, it was noted that the Planning Commission would review such office buildings in the "R-3" District as special exception uses and would have to consider whether a flat-top building was in keeping with the criteria necessary for granting such a permit.

Mr. Loy expressed his concern about keeping the office development within the character of a residential area. He felt that such office buildings should be limited to single story except where walkouts were possible, in which case two stories on the back side would be allowed. He felt that single-story offices were more in character with a residential zone. Mr. Saunders expressed concern about setting a precedent for this area given the other "R-3" zoning.

The applicant expressed concern that the Planning Commission review of the text would make this development impossible because of the sewer and road projects.

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

(1) That conformance was not unnecessarily burdensome in that the applicant had other options for office building development. Offices could be established at the site within the 25’ height limitation. The applicant had the option of establishing single-story office buildings or becoming innovative with roof types.

(2) That substantial justice would weigh in favor of denying the variance in that no previous variances of this type had been granted and that most approved offices within the "R-3" District conformed with the height restriction. No basis for denial of any other application to exceed the 25’ height would exist, and granting the variance would establish an undesirable precedent.

(3) That there were no unique physical circumstances justifying the variance, and the hardship was self-created in that the design was at the discretion of the applicant.

(4) As to the spirit and intent of the Ordinance, Mr. Saunders stated that many two-story homes exceed; however, he felt it was important that the homes adjacent to the property across the street were not in excess of 25’ in height.

Mr. Loy seconded the motion, and the motion carried 4:1 with Mr. Bushouse voting in opposition.

OTHER BUSINESS

Mr. Bushouse reiterated that he felt the Planning Commission should review the "R-3" text to determine whether it should be revised. He felt that if the 25’ height limitation were continued the text should explicitly state that only a single-story structure is allowed.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 4:05 p.m.

Minutes Prepared:
April 21, 1999

Minutes Approved:
May 3, 1999