OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP

PLANNING COMMISSION

 

March 10, 2005

Agenda

VAN DAM (D & R SPORTS CENTER) - REZONING REQUEST - PUBLIC HEARING - 8178 AND 8128 WEST MAIN STREET - (PARCEL NOS. 3905-16-280-012 AND 3905-16-280-015)

PRIVATE STREETS - WORK ITEM

A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Planning Commission on Thursday, March 10, 2005, commencing at approximately 7:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall.

MEMBERS PRESENT: James Turcott, Chairman
Deborah L. Everett
Lee Larson
Mike Smith
Fred Gould
Terry Schley

MEMBERS ABSENT: Kathleen Garland-Rike

Also present were Jodi Stefforia, Planning Director; James W. Porter, Township Attorney; and approximately four other interested persons.

CALL TO ORDER

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

AGENDA

The Chairman asked if there were any changes to the Agenda. Ms. Stefforia said that she would provide the Commission with an update under "Other Business", but had no proposed changes to the Agenda. Ms. Everett made a motion to approve the Agenda as submitted. Mr. Gould seconded the motion. The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, and the motion passed unanimously.

MINUTES

The Chairman indicated that the next item on the Agenda was approval of the minutes of February 10, 2005. Mr. Larson made a motion to approve the minutes as submitted. The motion was seconded by Mr. Schley. The Chairman called for discussion, and hearing none, called for a vote on the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

VAN DAM (D & R SPORTS CENTER) - REZONING REQUEST - PUBLIC HEARING - 8178 AND 8128 WEST MAIN STREET - (PARCEL NOS. 3905-16-280-012 AND 3905-16-280-015)

The Chairman said the next item for consideration was the public hearing on D & R Sports Center's request to rezone the rear of two abutting parcels from "RR" Rural Residential to "C" Local Business District, leaving the northern 117 feet in "RR" Rural Residential as a buffer. He said the subject properties were located at 8178 and 8128 West Main Street, Parcel Nos. 3905-16-280-012 and 3905-16-280-015. The Chairman asked for a report from the Planning Department.

Ms. Stefforia presented her report dated March 10, 2005, which is incorporated herein by reference. She explained to the Planning Commission that Randy Van Dam, owner of D & R Sports Center, was requesting the rezoning of a portion of two of his properties from "RR" Rural Residential to "C" Local Business District. She said the subject properties were in two different zoning districts, with the front 660 feet of both properties zoned "C" Local Business District and the rear 557 feet of the western parcel and 140 feet of the eastern parcel being zoned "RR" Rural Residential District.

Ms. Stefforia said that D & R Sports Center is located on the western parcel, which received formal site plan approval in 1985. She said outdoor display was added in 1987 as a special exception use and expanded in 1988 and 1994. She said that the subject properties have been zoned "C" Local Business since 1973. Ms. Stefforia then provided an analysis of the surrounding property. She said to the north and east was "AG" Agricultural and to the south and west was "RR" Rural Residential.

Ms. Stefforia then took the Commissioners through the criteria for rezoning. Ms. Stefforia first asked whether the proposed zoning was supported by the Master Land Use Plan. She said neither the current zoning nor the proposed rezoning were consistent with the Master Land Use Plan. However, she did note certain excerpts from Chapter 5 of the Master Land Use Plan which referenced the right of such activities to continue in their present locations, but that future rezoning decisions would discourage continuation of the establishment of "scattered, unplanned business locations."

However, given the current zoning and the number of commercial businesses in the area, Ms. Stefforia asked the Commission whether this particular stretch of West Main Street (which is made up of several businesses zoned commercial), could be considered a "scattered" development. She also pointed out that in 2002 the Township had approved commercial rezoning of the eastern half of a small property on the south side of the road in the immediate vicinity.

Ms. Stefforia next asked whether the proposed rezoning would severely impact traffic, public facilities and the natural characteristics of the surrounding area or significantly change population density. Ms. Stefforia said that, given the capacity of West Main Street, the existing traffic, and existing characteristics of the area, the rezoning would not be detrimental.

Ms. Stefforia then asked the Planning Commission whether the proposed rezoning would constitute a spot zone granting a special privilege to one land owner not available to others. Ms. Stefforia noted that half the property in the area was zoned "C" Local Business District and that there were other Local Business District properties to the west and southwest across West Main Street. She concluded that the rezoning would not be considered a spot zone if approved.

Ms. Stefforia asked whether the proposed rezoning was contrary to the established land use pattern. Ms. Stefforia said, given the established land use pattern in the area, which contained a mixture of uses, she did not believe that the rezoning would be contrary to the existing land use in the area.

Ms. Stefforia questioned whether the proposed rezoning, if approved, would stimulate similar rezoning requests in the vicinity. She said, while it was possible that property owners with some limited commercial zoning might seek rezoning of the balance of their properties, that could occur regardless of whether the present request was approved or not. She also noted that there were limited parcels in this area which are similarly situated and that each request would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Ms. Stefforia asked the Planning Commission if there had been a change in conditions which would support the proposed rezoning. She then noted that there was a recent expansion at Leader's Marine and opined as to whether this could be considered a change in conditions supporting the rezoning. She said, similarly, that a multi-tenant commercial building next to Leader's had been completed in recent years. She then added it was unlikely that any commercial property in this West Main Street location would be used in a manner other than for business. Therefore, she thought that the Planning Commission should consider the rezoning of some of the rear acreage, given the fact that it has been zoned commercial for more than 30 years and not likely to ever come into compliance with the Master Land Use Plan.

Lastly, Ms. Stefforia asked the Planning Commission to consider whether there were adequate sites available elsewhere to accommodate the proposed use. Ms. Stefforia noted that there were not many, if any, commercial properties available in the Township that would satisfy the building and outdoor display needs of the applicant.

The Chairman asked if the Planning Commissioners had any questions of Ms. Stefforia. Hearing none, the Chairman asked to hear from the applicant, Randy Van Dam.

Mr. Van Dam introduced himself to the Planning Commission. He began by explaining that he had met with one of his closest neighbors, the Applegates, and discussed with them the proposed buffer of 117 feet. He said he had not arrived at that figure based on any specific formula. Therefore, he said he would like to request that the buffer area be expanded to 200 feet so as to be more compatible with his neighbors to the north and east. Mr. Van Dam explained that the property had been commercial since 1973, and that while he was not requesting any increase in his frontage, he did need additional display area for his boats.

The Chairman asked if there was any comments from the audience. Mrs. Amy Applegate explained to the Commission that she owns the property surrounding the subject property. She said, while she would like to keep the property Rural Residential, she was, at the same time, realistic and appreciated Mr. Van Dam's offer for an increase in the buffer area. She said she thought such a buffer was necessary due to the fact that her property is higher in elevation than the D & R Sports Center property, and that they could see much of which occurred on the subject property. She said if the subject property remained boat storage, she thought that would be far superior than seeing additional buildings built on site and necessary to provide additional protection for her property.

The Chairman asked if there was anything further from the public, and hearing none, closed the public portion of the meeting and called for deliberations among the Planning Commission members. The Chairman said that Ms. Stefforia had taken the Commission through the items they needed to consider and asked if the Commission wanted to discuss those items one by one. Ms. Everett indicated that she did want to discuss each item. The Chairman said they would proceed accordingly.

Item 1. The Chairman asked the question of whether the proposed rezoning was supported by the Master Land Use Plan. The Chairman then noted that the Planning Commission had agreed not to open up the Master Land Use Plan at this time, but consider each rezoning on a case-by-case basis. The Planning Commissioners agreed.

Item 2. The Chairman asked whether the rezoning would severely impact traffic, public facilities or the natural characteristics of the surrounding area. The Chairman said that he agreed with the Planning Director's comments as set forth in her report. The Planning Commission members agreed.

Item 3. The Chairman asked whether the proposed rezoning would constitute a spot zone. The Chairman said he did not believe this would constitute a spot zone. The Planning Commission members agreed.

Item 4. The Chairman said that the fourth item was whether the proposed rezoning was contrary to the established land use pattern. It was the consensus of the Planning Commission members that the proposed rezoning was consistent with the mix of uses in the area.

Item 5. The Chairman asked, if the rezoning was approved, whether it would stimulate similar rezoning requests and whether it would constitute a precedent. Attorney Porter said, to the extent that there are similarly-situated properties, the approval of this request would likely constitute a precedent. He did note, however, that if the Planning Commission could distinguish other properties from the subject property, they would likely only have to allow commercial rezoning within the current confines of the existing commercial area. He said he thought their greatest strength was in not allowing the commercial to move further east or further west, but within those confines, he thought that the change could provide a precedent for similarly-situated properties.

Mr. Smith said he thought it would be naive to think that other properties in the area would not want to rezone to commercial. He said he thought the best that they could do is deal with it and establish buffers similar to the one proposed by the applicant.

Mr. Schley said he thought they would have to look at this area in the future under the Township Master Land Use Plan. He said he thought the best that the Planning Commission could do would be to treat this as a node of commercial property which was already quite well defined.

Ms. Everett said her concern was that the citizens did not want to see West Main Street turn into another Westnedge. She said, while there was not a large number of people from the public at this hearing, she still thought that the citizens had expressed an intent to limit the commercial zoning further out on West Main. She said that, while she did not believe the Planning Commission could take a hard line on this, they could look at each case individually and at least keep it to a commercial node as suggested by Mr. Schley.

The Chairman said what he did not want to see in the area was a bunch of strip malls dotting the landscape.

Mr. Larson said he thought there was some principle upon which they had limited the commercial zoning to 660 feet. While he could not recall what that was, he thought it was important at the time and thought that rezoning to a greater depth would prompt other commercial owners in the area to request a similar rezoning.

The Chairman asked what the Overlay Zone was. Ms. Stefforia said the depth is 880 feet.

Mr. Gould asked if the Applegates requested rezoning whether they should be rezoned to "C" Local Business District. Attorney Porter noted that it would depend on whether or not they saw the D & R property as the east end of the commercial node in the area.

Lynne Applegate introduced herself to the Commission and reminded the Planning Commission that their land was higher than the D & R property, and they, again, would like to see a substantial buffer put in place in order to deal with the disparity in topography. Mr. Van Dam said that was why he was willing to extend the buffer to 200 feet and that he was planning on putting in a berm with some plantings.

Ms. Everett asked, if only a part of the Hanley property was rezoned and the rear portion left in Rural Residential, whether that would constitute a taking. Attorney Porter said it would not constitute a taking if enough land was left on the rear portion of the property to actually be developed as Rural Residential.

Mr. Schley said he thought there was a sufficient rationale to base the east/west limits of the commercial node, as he saw it. However, he said the more difficult issue is defining the north/south parameters of the commercial area. He said he thought it would be difficult to allow one property owner to develop further into their property, while denying the same consideration to an adjoining property owner.

Ms. Stefforia said perhaps they could distinguish the property based upon the length of time that one party had used their property for commercial versus a neighboring property. In addition, Ms. Stefforia added that the Hanleys' use was not a commercial use unlike the other operations in the vicinity.

Mrs. Applegate asked the Planning Commission if Leader's Marine could extend their business. Ms. Stefforia said they certainly would be entitled to make that request. Ms. Everett pointed out that, if they did, the Commission would likely require a buffer similar to that imposed on D & R Sports. She also noted that a portion of that property is closer to many more residents than the D & R property.

Item 6. The Chairman asked if there had been a change in conditions in the surrounding area which would support the zoning . The Chairman said that he thought the change in Leader's property, as well as the property on the south side of M-43 were relevant considerations. The Commission concurred.

Item 7. The Chairman asked if there were adequate sites properly zoned or available elsewhere to accommodate the proposed use. It was the consensus of the Planning Commission that there was not sufficient commercial property suitable for the proposed use.

The Chairman called for further discussion of the Commission. Hearing none, he said he would entertain a motion. Mr. Larson made a motion to rezone the subject properties with the exception of the north 200 feet which would remain "RR" Rural Residential, based upon the fact that the property had been zoned for commercial business for over 30 years and that the business had been on site since 1982, and it was justifiable to allow the business to expand without necessarily setting a precedent, and for the reasons set forth in the Planning Department's report and agreed to by the Planning Commission members. The motion was seconded by Mr. Gould. The Chairman asked if there was further discussion of the Commission. Hearing none, he called for further public comment, and again hearing none, called for a vote on the motion. The motion passed unanimously, 6-to-0.

PRIVATE STREETS - WORK ITEM

The Chairman indicated that the next item for consideration was a review and outline of a proposed amendment to allow private streets. Ms. Stefforia presented her report on private streets dated March 1, 2005, and the same is incorporated herein by reference. Ms. Stefforia, after presenting her report to the Planning Commission, indicated that she was seeking direction from the Commission.

The Chairman stated that the first item to consider was whether the Township would want to acquire an easement or a right-of-way, dedicated to the Township, as a means of exercising control over the private street.

The Chairman said he thought that cross-access was a big concern. Mr. Schley said he thought it was very strong concern of the Planning Department Staff. Mr. Larson said he favored acquiring a street right-of-way versus an easement. The Chairman said that would allow the Township to maintain control. Ms. Stefforia pointed out that the Township requires a right-of-way in open space developments for ingress and egress.

The Chairman asked if attaining such a right-of-way would be for further public acquisition. Ms. Stefforia said not really; it was more for purposes of maintaining the quality of design.

Mr. Smith asked if the Township would take over the private roads in the future. Ms. Stefforia said she did not believe that they would.

Ms. Everett asked who would trigger the repairs. Attorney Porter indicated that repairs on private roads are typically triggered by the property owners through a petition seeking a special assessment for repairs.

Mr. Schley asked what the difference was between an easement and a right-of-way. Ms. Stefforia said that easements are typically private and that right-of-ways are generally public. She said that in smaller areas not needing connectivity, the Township might only want to obtain an easement over the area in question, rather than a public right-of-way. Mr. Schley said he would probably lean more toward just obtaining an easement rather than a right-of-way. At that point, Attorney Porter pointed out the difficulty that the Township is having with Phase 2 storm water requirements and the possibility that the Township might not be interested in obtaining a public right-of-way for fear that it would trigger more involvement in the Phase 2 storm water review process.

The Chairman said that the second item for consideration was whether it would be appropriate to have a sliding scale on street design/construction, depending upon the number of properties served. Mr. Larson said he thought it would be appropriate to consider those factors, but he thought the Commission should also consider the type of traffic, as well. The Chairman said he thought that average daily traffic counts would be important in determining the type of street design required. Ms. Stefforia said she thought the Planning Commission could do that, and perhaps develop a more equitable system for street design requirements.

The third question was whether the Commission would like a preliminary review where no development is shown to consider the feasibility of cross-access without the limitations imposed by the developer's design. Ms. Stefforia pointed out that sometimes it is easy to lose focus when reviewing a site plan; whereas, if you are looking at a blank slate or an undeveloped piece of property, you can more easily see the need for cross-access and connectivity. Ms. Everett said she would strongly favor preliminary review and thought it would save re-doing the development if connectivity or cross-access was needed. Mr. Larson said he thought it made a great deal of sense to look at it prior to site plan development. It was a consensus of the Commission that Item 3 was an excellent proposal.

The fourth item was to consider if it would be appropriate to require a second private street connection to an abutting public street when more than a certain number of sites were served, or street length is achieved. Mr. Schley said he thought that the proposal was eminently reasonable. The Chairman said he thought it was a reasonable proposal, and the other members of the Commission concurred.

The fifth item is to discuss if the Ordinance should require storm water to be handled through natural means without creation of ponds unless absolutely necessary. Mr. Schley thought that the Planning Commission needed to have a consistent position on this issue. He said, if they were lessening the street requirements so as to limit the solid surface, he thought the Township should not allow the property to then be over- developed with buildings and parking areas. Ms. Stefforia said they could develop a proposal based upon a percentage of coverage of the site. Attorney Porter indicated he thought that was possible, but again, expressed some concern about the Federal Phase 2 storm water retention requirements. Mr. Schley said that it only made sense that, if you were going to allow smaller roads with less storm water, that the Township put limitations on the developer to not pave over and cover an excessive amount of the area with other types of improvements. He said he thought in this way, it would be a fair trade.

Future Land Use Map Amendment - Discussion Item

Ms. Stefforia said, with the Township Board's recent decision regarding sewer along H Avenue, she wondered if the Commission should consider changing the zoning along H Avenue from "R-2" to "RR". Ms. Everett said she thought a private developer would pay for bringing that type of infrastructure if the property was developed. Mr. Schley said that a private developer could pay for such improvement, but he was not sure that was the issue the Planning Department was asking. Ms. Everett asked what the difference would be between developing the property as "RR" versus "R-2". Ms. Stefforia pointed out that, with water and septic, a person could develop 15,000 square foot lots; whereas, if it was "RR", a density of one and one-half dwelling units per acre would be allowed.

Mr. Larson said he thought it was appropriate to reduce the density of that area. Ms. Everett said that this would certainly be more in keeping with the rural character of the Township in that area. Mr. Larson said that, by making it less dense, it would decrease the demand on services in the area such as sewer and water. Ms. Everett said not requiring those services would be consistent with the desires of the homeowners in that area.

Mr. Schley asked, if the property was unlikely to develop as "R-2" Residential, whether it was worth the trouble of having a public hearing to change the Master Land Use Plan or rezone the property. Mr. Schley said he thought it would be interesting to see what the owners thought, and he was also concerned about whether anyone had purchased subsequent to the change to the "R-2" zoning. Mr. Gould said he thought, if the zoning was changed, it would limit growth. Ms. Everett said she thought it was more in the nature of managing growth as opposed to limiting growth. Mr. Larson said, as part of a planned community, he thought it was appropriate for them to set density in accordance with what public utilities were available to the area.

Mr. Schley said he would support the change so long as no one had invested in that property, anticipating development in accordance with the "R-2" zoning classification.

Mr. Larson said he thought, after the recent hearing in front of the Commission, that it would show good faith on the Township's part to change the Master Land Use Plan and the zone the property back to "RR" Rural Residential. Ms. Everett said she thought the Land Use Plan would support a change to Rural Residential.

Other Business

Ms. Everett informed the Planning Commission of the proposal raised at the Township Board level regarding the repeal of the Ordinance provisions regarding flag pole height.

Ms. Stefforia also explained that Maple Hill Auto was looking at some property on Stadium Drive and might be proposing some type of contract zoning for property in that area.

Adjournment

There being no other business, the meeting at approximately 8:55 p.m.

OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP
PLANNING COMMISSION

By:
Acting Secretary
Minutes prepared:
March 15, 2005

Minutes approved:
, 2005