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OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP

PLANNING COMMISSION

March 28, 2002

Revised Pursuant to Planning Commission - April 11, 2002

Agenda

SOUTH 9TH STREET - REZONING PUBLIC HEARING - (PARCEL NO. 3905-14-355-011)

PAUL BROWN - SPECIAL EXCEPTION USE/SITE PLAN REVIEW: AUTOMOBILE SALES LOT - 8410 WEST MAIN STREET - (PARCEL NO. 3905-16-255-020)

A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Planning Commission on Thursday, March 28, 2002, commencing at approximately 7:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Neil G. Sikora, Chairperson
Stanley Rakowski
Deborah L. Everett
Elizabeth Heiny-Cogswell
James Turcott
Kathleen Garland-Rike
Mike Ahrens

MEMBERS ABSENT: None

Also present were Jodi Stefforia, Planning Director; Mary Lynn Bugge, Township Planner; Patricia R. Mason, Township Attorney; and approximately 40 other interested persons.

CALL TO ORDER

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

AGENDA

Ms. Stefforia noted that she had received a request from Kalamazoo Center for Healing Arts, which she would like to discuss under "Other Business". Mr. Rakowski moved to approve the Agenda as amended, and Mr. Ahrens seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

MINUTES

The Planning Commission considered the minutes of the meeting of March 14, 2002. The Chairperson suggested a change to page 3 in the third paragraph to state "There was discussion of whether it is necessary to regulate the number of unrelated people that can be in a house, and it is necessary to decide what is reasonable." The Chairperson also suggested a change to page 4 with reference to the "task force" to identify it as the "Rural Residential task force". Mr. Rakowski moved to approve the minutes as amended, and Mr. Ahrens seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

SOUTH 9TH STREET - REZONING PUBLIC HEARING - (PARCEL NO. 3905-14-355-011)

The Planning Commission considered the application for a rezoning of 2.96 acres of land from the "R-2" Residence District to the "C" Local Business District zoning classification. The Planning Commission would also consider amendment of the Master Land Use Plan to reclassify the property from the 9th Street Focus Area to the Commercial land use classification. The subject property is located on the west side of South 9th Street in the 100 block and is Parcel No. 3905-14-355-011.

The Chairperson reminded those present that the Planning Commission was considering rezoning and not a site plan for any particular use. He stated that the Planning Commission could not consider the specific use when considering the rezoning, but had to consider all uses which were allowed in the District requested. The Chairperson asked for the Planning Department's Report on the item. The Report is incorporated herein by reference.

Ms. Stefforia stated that the applicant was requesting that the northern 2.96 acres of a 7.41 acre acquisition be rezoned from "R-2" Residence to the "C" Local Business District. The area would be developed with the abutting 20.83 acres to the north already located in the "C" District. Therefore, the final development site would be approximately 28 acres. The applicant proposed that the 28 acres would be used for a Wal-Mart store with a future planned expansion to include a grocery element. Ms. Stefforia stated that the initial store could be accommodated on the acreage already zoned "C", but that the applicant was seeking the additional acreage be rezoned to accommodate the future expansion. Ms. Stefforia reminded the Planning Commission that it had not expanded the area under consideration beyond that requested by the applicant.

Ms. Stefforia stated that the property to the north of the subject site is zoned "C" Local Business and includes mixed uses, vacant acreage, car wash/detail shop, storage buildings and a car dealership. To the east and south, the property is zoned "R-2" Residence District. There is vacant land, an office park to the northeast and a developing plat to the southeast. To the west is agriculturally-zoned property with single-family residences.

Under the Master Land Use Plan, the Future Land Use Map shows a "square" of Commercial at the four corners of the 9th Street and West Main Street area. The four corners of that area are currently zoned Commercial consistent with the Future Land Use Map. The block of Commercial to the north of West Main has been in place since the 1960's, and the southern side was zoned Commercial in 1970. The Master Land Use Plan described the area south of the existing Commercial node as within the 9th Street Focus Area. The 9th Street Focus Area envisions a "place in which a sense of community is fostered by quality businesses and quality residence living and working harmoniously together". Further, it is stated that "development would be encouraged to include single and multi-family residences, office and commercial establishments as well as protect existing contiguous residential neighborhoods".

The 9th Street Focus Area Overlay Zone was created to implement the 9th Street Focus Area Development Plan, and it had been applied to a depth of 880 feet south of West Main and north of KL Avenue, east of 9th Street. Office buildings are permitted in this Overlay Zone.

Ms. Stefforia reported that there are 321 parcels in the Township which are within one of the four Commercial Districts of the Township; 161 of them are vacant or used residentially, i.e., 50%; 195 of the 321 parcels, or 61%, are within either the "C" or "C-1" Local Business District; 73 of the 195 parcels are vacant or used residentially, i.e., 37%. Ms. Stefforia also noted that Maple Hill Mall is 55% vacant and that West Main Mall has additional development potential.

Ms. Stefforia reviewed the criteria related to rezoning requests.

As to whether the proposed rezoning is supported by the adopted Master Land Use Plan, she noted that a previous Planning Commission had interpreted that the Future Land Use Plan Map identifies the subject parcel as within the 9th Street Focus Area, and that the Commercial land use classification does not extend this far south of West Main Street. Further, she noted Master Land Use Plan policies concerning Commercial land use. At page 61, the Master Land Use Plan required compatibility with adjoining land uses, and emphasized that the size and configuration of Commercial centers be maintained so that they do not result in strip Commercial development. Additionally, the Master Land Use Plan made reference to "Community" Commercial and Regional Commercial. A Regional Commercial area is shown on the Future Land Use Map at West Main/Drake Road with Community Commercial areas at West Main/9th Street and segments of Stadium Drive.

As to whether the proposed rezoning would severely impact traffic, public facilities and natural characteristics of the surrounding area, Ms. Stefforia suggested that the Planning Commission consider the impact, given the 20 acres of vacant Commercial already zoned in the area.

As to whether the rezoning would constitute a spot zone, Ms. Stefforia felt that the Planning Commission should consider the existing boundaries of Commercial zoning. She noted that the existing land use pattern was a mixture of uses.

Ms. Stefforia felt that the proposed rezoning would have the probable effect of stimulating similar rezonings in the vicinity. Therefore, the Planning Commission should consider the new boundaries for Commercial zoning, if rezoning is appropriate for the subject property, and consider those boundaries for both sides of 9th Street and north and south of West Main.

As to whether there had been a change in conditions since the entire parcel had been considered for rezoning, it was noted that the Planning Commission and the Township Board in 1999 had voted unanimously to deny the request for the reason that the Master Land Use Plan did not support the rezoning, the residential character of 8th Street would be impacted, the PUD process would better serve the proposed project, the rezoning would stimulate a domino effect and extend Commercial zoning south down 9th Street, adequate sites were available elsewhere to accommodate the project, and other similar requests had been denied.

It was noted that there were other adequate sites available elsewhere in the Township in that there are other Commercial parcels which could be combined to accommodate the subject use.

The Chairperson asked for the applicant's comments. David Oakes stated that he is with CESO, a civil engineer representing Wal-Mart. He recognized that the rezoning request was not "use specific", but he stated that the reason for requesting the rezoning was to accommodate a future expansion which might possibly be placed at the site. Wal-Mart did not wish to acquire the site if it could not accommodate the expansion of a standard Wal-Mart to a Super Wal-Mart store.

Mr. Oakes stated that the applicant was seeking to extend Commercial zoning in a 100-foot strip to the south. There would still be a 150 feet of buffer area between the subject site and adjacent properties which would remain "R-2". The 100 feet that would be rezoned would be utilized for future expansion of the building and parking lot.

Mr. Oakes commented that a traffic study had been performed, particularly with regard to the intersection of 9th Street and M-43. The traffic study called for major improvements to the intersection including dual left turns and widening of the street south to the site.

The Chairperson questioned Mr. Oakes, and it was clarified that the initial development would not require the additional land for which rezoning was being sought. The future Super Store may or may not ultimately be developed. It was noted, therefore, that the future expansion was speculative.

In response to questions by Mr. Ahrens, Mr. Oakes stated that the stormwater detention area would be constructed between the buffer and the future expansion area. The applicant would be consolidating some of the stormwater from the Store n Lock site and the car dealership.

The Chairperson asked for public comment, and he cautioned the audience about commenting on this specific use. He noted that, once rezoning was granted, the property could be used for any "use" allowed in the district.

Shashin Kothawala, owner of the Crystal Car Wash, had questions about the expansion of South 9th Street. Ms. Stefforia stated that the right-of-way in that area is 100 feet, and therefore, 9th Street could be expanded within the existing right-of-way, and no additional property would need to be taken from the adjacent parcels.

Helen Brodasky stated that she was a 34-year resident of the Township. Ms. Brodasky stated that she lives in the Buckham Highlands Plat and had been a longtime advocate of keeping West Main Street "uncluttered". She noted that it was the concern of many Township residents that West Main Street not resemble South Westnedge. Ms. Brodasky commented that, when Meijer was developed, it had been emphasized by the Township that the four corners of the Commercial node had been zoned Commercial for a long time. Township residents had depended upon Township assurances that no additional Commercial zoning would be added to the node. She felt that the Commercial node is of a sufficient size currently, and there was no need to expand it given existing commercially-zoned property which is vacant. Ms. Brodasky noted that residents in the recent opinion survey had again stated that there was ample Commercial zoning in the Township in their opinion. Further, she was concerned that approval of the proposed rezoning would establish a precedent leading to future rezonings and a "domino effect". She felt, therefore, that the rezoning would have a serious effect on Buckham Highlands, which is located on South 9th Street to the southeast of the subject property. In her opinion, Wal-Mart should recycle existing Commercial sites, such as the Ward site at the Maple Hill Mall. She also proposed that perhaps property could be acquired from Hamilton Landings site. She urged the Planning Commission to reject the rezoning.

Ed Sharp, a resident of the Country Club Plat, noted that an individual had made a request for rezoning of this property some years before, and it had been turned down emphatically by the Township. Further, others in the area had been denied Commercial zoning because such zoning would be a "spot". Mr. Sharp was concerned that a "big money" applicant was now asking for rezoning, and he felt that they should be denied as the individual had been denied. Mr. Sharp noted that the 9th Street Focus Area emphasis was on residential and rural atmosphere. In his opinion, a super store would not be in character with this area of the Township. He recommended denial of the extension of Commercial zoning south of the existing Commercial node. He felt that granting the three-acre rezoning would set a precedent for granting rezonings to other applicants. In his opinion, the Township should not have different standards for rezoning based on the type of applicant.

Millard Loy stated that he had served on the 9th Street Focus Area Committee, and that the Committee had many times indicated that it wished to restrict Commercial zoning to the existing node. In his opinion, expansion of Commercial zone would constitute spot zoning because it would be made to accommodate one user. Further, he was concerned that rezoning would open the door to expansion of all four corners of the Commercial node. In his opinion, 8th Street residents and 9th Street residents should be protected by holding the line on Commercial zoning. Further, he felt that this applicant, like the previous applicant for this property should be denied.

Gloria Ham, a resident of Kalamazoo, indicated that she was impressed by the comments of Helen Brodasky. She also felt that there were other sites that could accommodate the proposed super store. In her opinion, there was a good location for Wal-Mart on East Main.

Pam Larson, of North 8th Street, stated that the residents in the area are aware of the four corners of the Commercial node, and she was concerned about the impact of the existing Commercial property on her home and the other residences of 8th Street. She noted the bright lights from Menards and the noise from the Meijer's site. In her opinion, Commercial zoning should not be expanded. She felt that there should be as much buffer as possible between the existing Commercial property and the 8th Street residents.

Jim Byer, the Buckham Highlands developer, was concerned with the prospective buyers in his development, and the impact that additional Commercial zoning would have on the viability of his project. He stated that he would hate to see Commercial zoning creep toward his development, stating that it would have a very negative effect. He would like to see more residential development in the area.

Brian Maloney note that "R-2" zoning allows for PUD's. Therefore, there was a possibility of Commercial use of the subject property even if not rezoned.

April Pashby, a North 8th Street resident, was concerned that her drive would be about 125 feet from the back of the Wal-Mart building. She felt that the future expansion of the building would change its size significantly, and that the Commercial rezoning should be denied.

Lee Larson noted that the area south of the existing Commercial node drops dramatically and is a wildlife habitat. In his opinion, extending Commercial zoning into the additional area would have a drastic impact on the wetlands and natural features of the area. He was also concerned that it would be detrimental to drainage and stormwater controls.

Anna Disbrow was against the rezoning, stating that, if this property were rezoned, what would stop future rezonings in the area? In her opinion, the whole atmosphere of the area would be impacted by the continuing rezoning of property along 9th Street to a Commercial district. She felt that there would be an adverse effect in noise pollution, light pollution, etc. She felt Commercial zoning should stop where it is.

Dennis Mulder stated that Wal-Mart should seek to buy property to its north which is already commercially zoned.

Steve Ryan was concerned about setting a precedent, stating that he felt there was no support in the community for the rezoning.

Jeff Buckham stated that, although he did not want a Westnedge look for South 9th Street, he was concerned about Township residents having to drive to Westnedge for Commercial uses. He believes that the Focus Area Committee had wanted some Commercial growth in this area.

Elaine Branch stated that she was aware that the Planning Commission was well versed in information concerning the zoning and the subject property. She urged the Planning Commission to follow zoning principles. In her opinion, past zoning decisions have been fair and based upon the Township Land Use Plan. She felt that the Land Use Plan was the key, and she was confident, after considering land use principles, considering the Land Use Plan and the history of the area, that the Planning Commission would make the right decision. She also was concerned about the effect of the rezoning in the area causing a "domino effect" of rezonings south on 9th Street.

Tim Timmons of Meyer C. Weiner Co. stated that the applicant was attempting only to rezone a small area. In his opinion, the impact of rezoning this acreage would be small. He felt that the application did not compare to the past application which sought rezoning of the entire parcel. Mr. Timmons stated that the applicant had attempted to purchase property in the Maple Hill Mall area, but it was not big enough. Moreover, there was currently an aggressive redevelopment plan in place for the Maple Hill Mall. He stated that his company is the developer of the West Main Mall. The land there is spoken for, he stated.

Michael Pashby of North 8th Street stated that the applicant should live within the "box" drawn for Commercial zoning years ago.

Jodi Stefforia stated that former Planning Commissioner Ted Corakis had asked her to express his concern about the rezoning, stating that he felt the Planning Commission should hold the line and not approve the rezoning.

The Chairperson made reference to a letter received from Marv Block opposed to the rezoning, which stated that he felt the proposed rezoning was not in keeping with the Land Use Plan and could lead to further rezonings in the area.

The public hearing was closed, and the Chairperson summarized the application. The Planning Commission commenced a review of the rezoning criteria.

The Planning Commission first considered whether the Master Land Use Plan would support the proposed rezoning. The Chairperson noted that a previous Planning Commission had interpreted that the Master Plan did not support the rezoning of this property.

As to impact on traffic, etc., Mr. Rakowski stated that he felt that traffic, public facilities and natural characteristics of the surrounding area would be drastically impacted because of the likelihood that the proposed rezoning would result in further rezonings or a domino effect to the south and east. Mr. Ahrens commented that he felt the three-acre rezoning itself would not have a severe impact, but was also concerned about the impact of probable future rezonings.

Planning Commissioners considered whether the rezoning would constitute a spot zone granting a special privilege to one land owner not available to others. Ms. Garland-Rike stated that she felt that the rezoning would constitute a "spot" in that it would be granting a special privilege to this applicant which had been denied to other applicants in the past. Further, it was felt that the rezoning would constitute a spot because, even though it was an expansion of an existing Commercial node, the rezoning would constitute a change to the depth of one of four corners of the Commercial node.

As to whether the proposed rezoning was contrary to the established land use pattern, Mr. Rakowski stated that he felt the rezoning was out of keeping with the other uses of property located to this depth from West Main. It was contrary to the established land use pattern south of the existing Commercial node. Ms. Garland-Rike was concerned about "Commercial Creep". She felt that granting the rezoning would cause "Commercial Creep" slowly down 9th Street. In her opinion, this would be contrary to the residential and rural character of the area south of the existing node.

Planning Commissioners agreed that the proposed rezoning would have the probable effect of stimulating similar rezoning requests in the vicinity. Ms. Heiny-Cogswell stated that this was her biggest concern. If the rezoning were granted, there would be no reasoning to deny further rezonings, and such rezonings would be contrary to the Master Land Use Plan. Mr. Rakowski noted that the other developments referenced by Mr. Timmons had been developed in accord with the existing zoning.

Mr. Turcott commented that the Master Land Use Plan does not support this rezoning or additional rezonings in that other applications had been denied. In his opinion, there would no doubt be additional requests if this rezoning were granted. Mr. Rakowski stated that the rezoning would require a major change to the Master Land Use Plan and Township vision for this area.

The Planning Commission considered whether there had been a change in conditions in the surrounding area which would support the rezoning. Ms. Everett commented that there had not been changes in the area which would support the proposed rezoning; in fact, more residential development had occurred in the area, specifically Buckham Highlands. Kathleen Garland-Rike concurred. Ms. Garland-Rike was concerned that additional Commercial rezonings would stagnate residential development which was occurring nicely in this area. Ms. Heiny-Cogswell commented that there had been no appreciable change in that there was still significant Commercial vacancy in the Township since the last consideration of rezoning.

As to whether there were adequate sites elsewhere in the Township to accommodate the proposed project, it was noted that other Commercial property in the Township was not large enough to accommodate the project without combination of parcels. However, it was recognized that the applicant would also need to combine parcels to make the subject site large enough to accommodate the project. Further, the applicant had the option to build a smaller store.

Ms. Stefforia expressed concern about the speculative nature of the proposed super store. She felt that it might be more appropriate for the applicant to seek rezoning of the three-acre area if, in fact, it was decided that the super store would be pursued at the subject site in the future.

The Chairperson expressed some concern about additional rezoning in the area taking away from the existing Regional Commercial areas of the Township.

Ms. Garland-Rike moved to recommend denial of the rezoning and Master Land Use Plan amendment with the following reasoning:

(1) That the rezoning was not supported by the Master Land Use (the Future Land Use Map or goals set forth therein).

(2) That the rezoning may have a significantly negative impact on traffic, public facilities and natural characteristics of the surrounding area, especially if the proposed rezoning results in stimulating additional rezoning requests and approvals in the area.

(3) That the rezoning could be considered a "spot" zone in that it was out of keeping with the depth of Commercial zoning on the other three corners of the Commercial node.

(4) That the rezoning would be contrary to the established land use pattern south of the existing Commercial node, which land use pattern was residential in nature.

(5) That the rezoning would have the probable effect of stimulating further rezoning requests, which requests would be contrary to the Master Land Use Plan and likely to result in strip Commercial development.

(6) That there had been no change in conditions supporting the rezoning since the last consideration of the rezoning of this parcel. In fact, development had occurred in accord with the Master Land Use Plan, specifically, Buckham Highlands and office building development.

(7) That there is other vacant or under-utilized Commercial property within the Township which could be combined to accommodate the subject use.

Mr. Rakowski seconded the motion.

Mr. Ahrens commented that the Township did not want to encourage or discourage rezoning requests, but recognized that stimulating rezoning requests would weigh negatively on the proposed rezoning, given that additional requests in the area would be contrary to the Master Land Use Plan.

The Chairperson commented that the issue was a difficult one to deal with, and hoped that the audience appreciated the time and effort spent by the Planning Commission in analyzing the proposed rezoning.

Upon a vote on the motion, the motion carried unanimously.

PAUL BROWN - SPECIAL EXCEPTION USE/SITE PLAN REVIEW: AUTOMOBILE SALES LOT - 8410 WEST MAIN STREET - (PARCEL NO. 3905-16-255-020)

The Planning Commission conducted a special exception use/site plan review of a proposed automobile sales lot at 8410 West Main Street (Parcel No. 3905-16-255-020). The subject property is located in the "C" Local Business District zoning classification.

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

The applicant was requesting special exception use and site plan approval to allow an automobile sales lot with the repair of vehicles as an accessory use in the buildings which currently exist on the property. The subject parcel is "grandfathered" because it as was established prior to 1965. The site, therefore, does not satisfy minimum area or frontage requirements. The applicant would require a variance so as to allow for display within setback areas. It might be appropriate also for the applicant to seek a variance with regard to the sales office required by Section 31.403. However, the applicant should be questioned with regard to the use of the sales office. It was noted that additional lighting might be needed which would be subject to the review and approval of the Township. There was discussion of the proposed parking spaces, and Ms. Stefforia noted that four spaces might not be possible, and suggested that perhaps they should be oriented as parallel spaces.

The special exception use criteria were reviewed by Ms. Stefforia. She noted that the proposed use was compatible with other uses allowed in the District, noting that there were other outdoor display uses in this area, namely Leaders Marine. Further, as to whether the proposed use would be detrimental or injurious to adjacent properties of the general public, it was noted that to the west is Leaders Marine, which has significant outdoor display. To the east, is a residence. No new buildings would be erected at the site, and therefore, on-site changes would be minor.

As to whether the proposed use would promote public health, safety and welfare, a septic permit had previously been denied by the Health Department because of concern that there would not be sufficient distance between septic and well. However, this may no longer be an issue in that public water is available to the site.

As to whether the proposed use of the land would be in accord with its character and adaptability, Ms. Stefforia commented that the applicant would need to clean the site of some debris and litter.

Ms. Stefforia stated that the applicant would require a deviation from the strict application of the landscaping provision in that a strict application would utilize all of the proposed display area. However, Ms. Stefforia felt that landscaping could be planned for the site which would improve the look of the site without taking away all possible display area.

The applicant, Paul Brown, was present. He stated that he had cleaned up some of the debris at the site within the last week or so. He noted that the building does have heat, and there is a bathroom facility. However, he is going to replace the existing bathroom. He stated that the sales office was used to meet with people and for his own office use. He noted he would be talking with the Health Department to resolve the issue of the septic permit. He believed that he could obtain a septic permit given that city water is available to the site.

Mr. Rakowski suggested that he would like to table the item so as to provide the applicant with an opportunity to obtain the septic permit from the Health Department. He felt that it was important to determine whether a septic permit would be granted in evaluating the criteria for special exception use. Additionally, it was suggested that the applicant work with the Planning Department regarding the landscaping and parking issues. Further, a dumpster location could be identified. (The applicant stated that a dumpster could be located on the apron of the west side of the building.) Further, the applicant should seek a MDEQ permit if required.

Mr. Rakowski moved to table the item to the meeting of April 25, 2002. The motion was seconded by Ms. Everett, and it carried unanimously.

OTHER BUSINESS

Ms. Stefforia noted that the Kalamazoo Center for Healing Arts had requested an extension of their special exception use/site plan approval. The Township Attorney indicated that, if an actual extension were required, a notice of public hearing in compliance with the requirements for a special exception use permit would be needed. Ms. Stefforia stated that she would examine the application further to determine if an extension was needed.

There was a reshuffle of the dias.

PLANNING COMMISSIONER COMMENTS

Mr. Turcott noted that KVCC programing will include environmental issues in the following year.

Mr. Ahrens commented that he had attended a valuable planning orientation.

The Chairperson complimented Ms. Garland-Rike on her motion concerning the rezoning.

There was a discussion of the agenda for the next meeting.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to come before the Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 9:25 p.m.

OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP
PLANNING COMMISSION

By:
Stanley Rakowski, Secretary
Minutes prepared:
April 2, 2002

Minutes approved:
, 2002