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OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP

PLANNING COMMISSION

January 27, 2000

 

DOMINION GROUP - SKETCH PLAN REVIEW - NORTH SIDE OF H AVENUE, WEST OF 9TH STREET (PARCEL NO. 3905-03-480-024)

HERITAGE SELECT, INC. REALTORS - SPECIAL EXCEPTION USE/SITE PLAN APPROVAL - 6221 WEST MAIN STREET (PARCEL NO. 3905-14-430-010)

TEXT AMENDMENT REQUEST - PUD PROVISIONS AND DENSITY LIMITATIONS

A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Planning Commission on Thursday, January 27, 2000, commencing at approximately 7:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall.

MEMBERS PRESENT:
Wilfred Dennie, Chairman
Marvin Block
Stanley Rakowski
Elizabeth Heiny-Cogswell
Neil Sikora
Ken Heisig
Ted Corakis

MEMBERS ABSENT:
None

Also present were Jodi Stefforia, Planning Director, Mary Lynn Bugge, Township Planner, and Patricia R. Mason, Township Attorney, and 18 other interested persons.

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m.

AGENDA

Ms. Bugge reported that the application of Message Express had been withdrawn by the applicant. She stated that the applicant was not planning at present to locate its equipment on the tower in question. Mr. Block moved to approve the Agenda as amended, and Mr. Heisig seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

MINUTES

The Planning Commission considered the minutes of January 13, 2000. Mr. Heisig moved to approve the minutes as submitted, and Mr. Sikora seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

DOMINION GROUP - SKETCH PLAN REVIEW - NORTH SIDE OF H AVENUE, WEST OF 9TH STREET (PARCEL NO. 3905-03-480-024)

The Planning Commission considered the application of Dominion Group for a sketch plan review of a proposed 103 dwelling unit residential site condominium project to be located on 60 acres at the north side of West H Avenue, between 6th Street and 9th Street. It was proposed that the project would utilize a community septic system. The subject property is located in the "AG" Agricultural-Rural Zoning District classification, and is Parcel No. 3905-03-480-024. The Report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference.

Ms. Bugge referenced an overhead depiction of the layout of the proposed condominium project. There would be 85 single family residences and 18 residential units which would be part of duplex homes. It was proposed that the project be constructed in three phases. Access would be provided from West H Avenue and consist of a public road loop and private cul-de-sacs extending therefrom. It was pointed out that the use of private cul-de-sacs in the development would require a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The design as proposed would permit future road connections to adjacent properties to the north, east and west. The project would be served by city water, and the developer was proposing a community sand filter septic system. This would be the first use of a community septic system in a residential subdivision within the Township, and would require approval by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Township Board before the proposal could go forward. Under state law, if the Township approves the use of the system, it would be required to assume responsibility for the system if the owner failed to properly operate and maintain it. However, the cost would be charged to the property owners by assessment or other means. The system as proposed could be incorporated into a municipal system when available. If the community system was not approved, the lot sizes would need to be increased to accommodate Zoning Ordinance and Health Department requirements.

The Chairperson questioned whether the applicant had considered developing under the Open Space Community provisions of the Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Bugge responded that she did not think this was possible given the density the developer desired.

It was noted that Richard Baxter, who had designed the community septic system, was present to answer questions.

Brandi Deaver, the Vice President of Dominion Group, stated that Tom Brown, Cora Brown and Joe Klingele were also present. Ms. Deaver stated that the applicant was excited about the proposed development, which she felt would be a benefit to the Township. In response to questioning by the Chairperson, Ms. Deaver illustrated the proposed phase lines. She stated that the topography of the property is gently rolling with some grades in excess of ten percent. Approximately 20 acres of open space had been provided at the site, which constituted 30 percent of the total project area. Part of the open space would be utilized for jogging/walking trials. The natural wetlands areas would be left undeveloped. Public water and utilities would be provided under ground. She, too, noted that public sewer was not available so a proposed state-of-the-art community system was suggested. As to the street system, she stated that the Kalamazoo County Road Commission had reviewed and approved the proposed layout, which contained a mixture of public and private roads. In her opinion, it was intended that the prices for the single family homes be in the range of $150,000, and for the two family homes in the range of $130,000. The road system was designed around a centrally located community center.

Richard Baxter was introduced, and stated that he had more than 28 years of experience in water and waste water treatment systems. Mr. Baxter explained the proposed community system which he called, "somewhat unique", stating that it would operate by passing the waste water through sand/stone as a filtration four times. The waste water would then pass to a drain field. Mr. Baxter stated that by the time the water passes through the system four times, it is "ultra-clean". He stated that the system is very low maintenance. Pumps and gravity are used to circulate the water. The system has an automatic telephone notifying system which provides notice of any problem with the system operation. He stated that the project is based on a similar system constructed at the "Timbers", a condominium project in Frankenmuth. The system has been in operation for three (3) years with no problems. He stated that the system was designed for the instant project to handle 20,000 gallons per day. There would be a $12,000 per year operational cost. There was sufficient land area set aside to establish an additional system should the original system fail. Approximately 1-1/2 acres had been set aside.

The Chairperson and Ms. Heiny-Cogswell expressed concern that the plan appeared to set aside only a 1/4 of an acre for the system. The applicant stated that the drawing had not yet been fully engineered. Mr. Baxter said that the system would require a permit from the State of Michigan through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. This permit would be required prior to Township approval.

In response to questioning by Ms. Heiny-Cogswell, the applicant stated that the system requires about a fourth of the size of a standard drain field and can be established closer to the water table than a standard system. Mr. Baxter explained that the $12,000 per year operational cost could be assessed through Association fees. If the system were to fail and the Condominium Association go bankrupt, the Township could be required to take over the system and fund improvements and maintenance through special assessments.

Mr. Block questioned whether the entire system would be established in Phase I, and Mr. Baxter responded that it would be.

Ms. Stefforia had questions with regard to the amount of waste water estimated for each unit. Mr. Baxter stated that it was estimated there would be 225 gallons per day per unit. The usage would be metered, and the State would require an upgrade of the system if actual usage exceeded projections.

Mr. Rakowski questioned whether the applicant had any reporting requirements as to operation of the system, and Mr. Baxter responded that the MDEQ would require monthly reports.

As to the size of the "Timbers" project, it was indicated that it was 54 residential units plus a golf course and restaurant. The system was engineered to handle 10,000 gallons per day. However, the system was the same except for its design capacity.

In response to questioning by Mr. Rakowski, Mr. Baxter stated that there are many other similar systems throughout the State, but that many of them are on individual properties.

The Chairperson asked about the possibility of connection of the system to public sewer if available in the future. Mr. Baxter explained that the lift station could be used to pump the waste water out to H Avenue. He felt that this was a much more practical solution to attaching to future public sewer than if individual systems were established on each of the residential units.

Mr. Sikora questioned whether the Association or Mr. Baxter's organization would file monthly reports with the State. Mr. Baxter stated that the permit of MDEQ would require a licensed operator to maintain and operate the system. It was this licensed operator who would file the monthly reports. The system would be totally underground with a venting system, which included charcoal filtering, so that there were no problems with odors. The local Health Department was involved, and allowed to give input. However, they did not issue the permit in this instance.

The Chairperson pointed out to Ms. Deaver that generally the Township does not approve private streets. Again, it was noted that the project would require a variance from Ordinance provisions to allow for the private streets. Given the variance criteria, it was explained that it would be very difficult for the project to obtain a variance. Ms. Stefforia pointed out that the Kalamazoo County Road Commission was not likely to accept the cul-de-sacs as public roads. It was suggested that the project be redesigned to include only public roads, or redesigned as an open space community. Only 40 percent open space was required by Ordinance provisions. Ms. Stefforia felt that the project might be closer to the 40 percent requirement than believed because of the ability to include the green space areas around the cul-de-sacs.

Mr. Block expressed concern about the Township Board approving the common septic system. Ms. Stefforia stated that she felt it would be a better solution than requiring 103 individual systems. Each lot would be required to be 20,000 square feet if a common system were not accepted.

The Chairperson asked for public comment, and Mr. Kadir Mohmand expressed concern about the proposed septic field. He felt that manmade systems were not 100 percent infallible. He also felt that a system would work differently on site than in specifications. In his opinion, the system proposed was not "proven". He had concerns about contaminating ground water.

Marvin Darling questioned the location of the drain field. He was concerned that the Engineer had not actually walked in the area, which was very low and clay filled.

Ms. Deaver indicated that soil testing had been tested to a depth of ten feet. The soil test showed sandy loam, i.e., soils conducive to this type of application. Mr. Baxter stated that he had open cut rather than made soil borings, and the site included gravel throughout.

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

The Chairperson summarized the development proposal, indicating that the Planning Commission was to engage on sketch plan review. This provided an opportunity to give feedback to the developer concerning the major design elements. The Chairperson felt that the proposed project had the following major issues:

(1) street design; and

(2) use of the common septic system.

There was discussion of whether the Township could require a performance bond or escrow account or letter of credit to secure the operability of the common septic system.

The Chairperson felt that the amount of open space at the project was a favorable element. However, he felt that the developer should take advantage of the open space community provisions, particularly since they would allow for public and private streets.

Mr. Block commented that he was concerned that the project would have only one access point, but recognized that the proposed design would allow for access to interior properties.

The Chairperson had questions with regard to the existing single family dwelling, and Ms. Deaver indicated that it would maintain its own access to H Avenue and not access through the proposed public street for the project.

The Chairperson summarized the feedback of the Planning Commission to indicate support for the common septic system and recognized that the decision on the use of this type system rested with the Township Board. Further, it was felt that the project should be redesigned as an open space community or redesigned to accommodate an interior public road system.

HERITAGE SELECT, INC. REALTORS - SPECIAL EXCEPTION USE/SITE PLAN APPROVAL - 6221 WEST MAIN STREET (PARCEL NO. 3905-14-430-010)

The Planning Commission next discussed the application of Robert Asher and Catherine Gasper on behalf of Heritage Select, Inc. Realtors, for a special exception use approval and site plan review to allow the conversion of a house for office use at 6221 West Main Street (Parcel No. 3905-14-430-010). The subject property is located within the 9th Street Focus Area Overlay Zone with the underlying "R-2" Residential Zoning District classification. The Report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference.

It was noted that the subject property contains a 1,900 square foot house built in 1947. The property is 1.74 acres in area. It is a depth of 594 feet, and therefore, it is entirely within the 9th Street Focus Area Overlay Zone. The Overlay Zone extends to a depth of 880 feet from the south line of West Main Street. This was the first request the Planning Commission had received for office use in the Overlay Zone since the text was adopted in 1998.

It was noted that public sewer and water were not available to the property at present. Public utilities are approximately 1,000 feet from the property both to the east and the west. Therefore, a variance from the requirement of public utilities would be required. The proposed design would suggest service drive/internal street along the west property line intersecting with West Main Street. The Overlay Zone provisions allow for a temporary direct access to West Main until a permanent street system in compliance with the plan is established and available for access. It was indicated that the existing home is approximately seven feet from the west property line, which is the proposed edge of the right-of-way (or easement) for the future internal street. The Ordinance requires a 15-foot setback.

The applicants were present, stating that their office would be small with very minimal traffic. There would be ten realtors working with the business, but many have home offices and do not come to the office everyday.

Ms. Stefforia indicated that eight parking spaces would meet Ordinance requirements. The applicants estimated that a maximum of ten cars would be on the site at any one time. However, they indicated that at their current location only five to six spaces were in use at once.

The Chairperson suggested, with the addition of the new access point, that the existing access be closed. He recognized that there were few exterior changes, mainly the parking lot and compliance with ADA requirements.

In response to questioning from the Chairperson, the applicant indicated that the rear entrance of the home would be utilized. The parking lot would be to the back.

Mr. Rakowski asked about signage, and the applicants stated that they would meet Ordinance requirements and place a sign in the front.

In response to questions from Mr. Block, the applicants recognized that they would tie into the public water and sewer system once it was extended to their property.

The Chairperson asked for public comment, and Kimberly Linton commented that she felt that the temporary road would not be detrimental to the area. She felt that the proposed development would not disturb natural features or the habitat. In her opinion, the traffic from the area should not be directed to KL Avenue and 9th Street. She stated that there were 33 accidents within two years on KL Avenue between 11th and 9th Streets.

The public hearing was closed. The Chairperson summarized the application. It was pointed out that the major issue involved the transportation objectives of the Overlay Zone and 9th Street Focus Area Plan. It was the original concept of the plan to encourage an interior road network with one access to West Main and one access to KL Avenue. Individual curb cuts on these roads were to be discouraged.

The Chairperson reviewed Section 50.500 and the Master Land Use Plan at page 118. Although the house was seven feet from the property line, and the Ordinance required 15 feet, the Chairperson felt that the placement of the proposed temporary service drive/internal street along the west property line would be the most advantageous placement for the street at this time so as to allow cross access and shared access with the property to the west. The location of this street could be examined in the future to determine whether it should be a permanent access point to West Main under the plan. However, closure of the existing drive should be required. It was also felt consistent with the plan, that the parking would be located to the back of the home. With regard to the access point, it was pointed out that the owner of the property to the west, Mr. Hamilton, had offered an easement to allow shared use. It was recognized that the access point could possibly provide access to Parcel No. 430-071 to the south.

The provisions of Section 82.800 were reviewed. It was noted that, at this time, no exterior lighting was proposed, but that any lighting should meet the requirements of Section 78.700. Although public sewer and water are not available, Planning Commission Members felt that approval of a variance should be supported on a temporary basis, until public utilities are available to the site.

The Planning Commission reviewed the provisions of Section 60.100 as to special exception use. The Planning Commission discussed whether the proposed use was compatible with other uses expressly permitted within the 9th Street Focus Area Overlay District. It was their opinion that the house, which is existing, is compatible in character with nearby land uses. Further, since the parking would be located behind the house, a residential character would be maintained. The Overlay Zone permits office buildings up to 10,000 square feet, and the subject building footprint is less than 1,300 square feet. Mr. Heisig commented that it was important to remember that, if any additional building were proposed for the site, an amendment to the approval would be required.

Planning Commission Members concluded that the proposed use would not be detrimental or injurious to the use or development of adjacent properties or to the general public, particularly given surrounding land uses. It was felt that it would be beneficial to surrounding properties to share access, and that the use of the existing structure was appropriate.

The Planning Commission considered whether the proposed use would promote public health, safety and welfare. The Chairperson felt that the site was so far away from the Country Club Plat, that it was unlikely that any impact would be felt from the minor changes to the exterior, such as the establishment of the parking lot. Mr. Rakowski felt that the location of the temporary shared drive/street would promote public health, safety and welfare. Mr. Rakowski had questions with regard to the type of dumpster which would be used, and the applicants indicated that a residential herby-curby style dumpster would be sufficient.

It was concluded that the proposed use would encourage use of the land in accord with its character and adaptability, given that an existing structure would be used, and there would be little disturbance of the site otherwise. Further, it was felt that common and shared access was in accord with its character.

The Planning Commission reviewed the provisions of Section 50.600. It was felt that the access could be temporary, and that the development would accommodate the establishment of the future interior road network either at the location of the temporary street or at another location. Further, the applicant was agreeable to connection to public utilities when available. It was felt that the proposed use would generate minimal traffic. Further, the existing structure was in character with residential buildings, particularly since parking would be established behind the building. Ms. Heiny-Cogswell pointed out the need for a specific parking lot layout, including landscaping details.

Mr. Rakowski moved to approve the special exception use, concluding that, based on the preceding discussion, the use met the criteria of Section 60.100 and Section 50.600 of the Ordinance. The following conditions, limitations and notations were imposed:

(1) That an amendment to the approval would be required if any additional buildings were proposed for the site.

(2) That a temporary shared drive/interior street be established as proposed along the west line of the property and on the neighboring property, and that an easement for use of the drive/street by the public be executed, recorded and on file with the Township.

(3) That temporary access/street be closed, and the property connected to the interior street network of the 9th Street Focus Area Overlay District once established. It was further required that the existing curb cut serving the property be closed.

(4) That it was recommended that a variance be granted to the property to allow it to be utilized prior to connection to public utilities on the condition that it be connected to public utilities once available.

(5) That parking for up to ten (10) vehicles to the rear of the existing home be established and submitted to Township staff for review and approval.

The motion was seconded by Mr. Heisig. There was no public comment. Upon a vote on the motion, the motion carried unanimously.

Ms. Heiny-Cogswell moved to approve the site plan with the following conditions, limitations and notations:

(1) That the temporary access arrangement proposed by the applicant was approved conditioned upon the closure of the existing access point serving the property. It was further required that this access be shared with the property to the west for its use when developed. Further, an easement for public use of the access point must be recorded and on file with the Township. It was required that the subject site connect to the interior street system of the Overlay Zone once established if it was determined in the future that the temporary access point would not be the permanent link to West Main utilized in the Overlay Zone area.

(2) That up to ten (10) parking spaces be established to the rear of the existing building subject to Township staff review and approval. Landscaping details should be included in the proposed parking plan consistent with the provisions of Section 50.000(G).

(3) That all site lighting must comply with the requirements of Sections 78.700 and 50.000 of the Zoning Ordinance.

(4) That the site plan approval is subject to the review and approval of the Fire Department.

(5) That the site plan approval is subject to the applicants satisfying the storm water management provisions of the Zoning Ordinance.

(6) That a Hazardous Substance Reporting form and Environmental Protection Checklist must be completed and submitted to Township staff by the applicants.

(7) That the subject site is required to connect to public utilities once reasonably available to the property.

Mr. Block seconded the motion. Upon a vote on the motion, the motion carried unanimously.

TEXT AMENDMENT REQUEST - PUD PROVISIONS AND DENSITY LIMITATIONS

The Planning Commission next discussed the application of Granger Planning and Development Company for a text amendment to the Zoning Ordinance. The applicant requested that the Township consider a text amendment to provide flexibility in the PUD provisions with regard to deviation from the density restrictions of the underlying zoning district. The Report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference.

Ms. Stefforia noted that, in many communities, PUD provisions did not require a mix of residential with non-residential uses. It was noted that while Oshtemo's PUD provisions do not require a mix of uses, a mix of uses was allowed.

With regard to the density limitations, the Chairperson stated that he felt that density limits should be dependent upon the underlying district because of the need for the development to be in character with the adjacent properties and the general neighborhood.

Mr. Corakis stated that he was also satisfied with the existing provisions.

Mr. Block was concerned that excessive density should not be allowed.

Ms. Heiny Cogswell concurred, stating that, if the development occurs in a particular area, it should be in keeping with that area.

There was some discussion of amending the Ordinance to allow for the entire site to be used to compute density rather than just the residential portion. However, Planning Commission members ultimately concluded that there was no support for changing the existing provisions to allow for a higher density, or to allow deviation to increase density at the discretion of the Planning Commission on a case-by-case basis.

In that the applicant had a right to public hearing if it should so choose, the Planning Commission, despite its conclusion, determined that it would discuss a draft of proposed text amendment at the meeting of March 9, 2000. Ms. Stefforia stated that she would report back to the applicant on the opinions of Planning Commission Members and that the applicant may withdraw its application after receiving this feedback.

PLANNING COMMISSIONER COMMENTS

There were no Planning Commissioner comments.

OTHER BUSINESS

It was reported that, at the preceding Township Board meeting, the proposed text amendment regarding adult regulated uses had been set for second reading, and that the proposed amendment to the tower provision had been set for first reading. A joint meeting with the Township Board was scheduled for February 29, 2000.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to come before the Planning Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 10:05 p.m.

Minutes prepared:
February 3, 2000

Minutes approved:
February 10, 2000