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OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS

November 5, 2001

Agenda

GREAT LAKES COMPANIES - SIGN DEVIATION - 5220 WEST MICHIGAN - (PARCEL NO. 3905-25-230-012)

WAREHOUSE DISTRIBUTORS - SIGN VARIANCE - WALL SIGNS IN VILLAGE COMMERCIAL DISTRICT - 6471 STADIUM DRIVE - (PARCEL NO. 3905-35-205-085)

METRO TOYOTA - SIGN DEVIATION - HEIGHT OF FLAG POLE - 5850 STADIUM DRIVE - (PARCEL NO. 3905-25-180-015)

A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, November 5, 2001, commencing at approximately 3:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Millard Loy, Chairperson
Ted Corakis
Sharon Kuntzman
David Bushouse
Jill Jensen

MEMBER ABSENT: None

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

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order at 3:06 p.m.

MINUTES

The Board considered the minutes of the meeting of October 1, 2001. Ms. Kuntzman moved to approve the minutes as submitted, and Mr. Bushouse seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

GREAT LAKES COMPANIES - SIGN DEVIATION - 5220 WEST MICHIGAN (PARCEL NO. 3905-25-230-012).

The Planning Commission considered the application of Great Lakes Companies for deviation from the provisions of Section 76.420(c) to allow a reduced front setback of four feet where 25 feet is required for a proposed new freestanding sign to be located at 5220 West Michigan. The subject site is located in the "I-1" Industrial District and is Parcel No. 3905-25-230-012.

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

Ms. Stefforia reported that she had visited the site and had determined that the right-of-way extends 50 feet from the centerline in this location, even though the road surface is only two lanes. Therefore, the right-of-way is wider from the centerline than the standard 33 feet. Ms. Stefforia indicated that she would be in favor of a deviation allowing placement eight feet from the right-of-way line which would be 58 feet from center. This would place the sign 25 feet from a point 33 feet from the centerline, which would be the point of sign placement if the right-of-way in this location were the traditional 33 feet. Given the excessive width of the right-of-way and the fact that it was not anticipated that the road surface would be widened to more than three lanes in the future, and given the site topography in other areas preventing visibility, Ms. Stefforia opined that deviation would be appropriate in this case and distinguishable from other applications. Ms. Stefforia felt that the unique circumstances would not set an adverse precedent.

In response to questioning by Ms. Kuntzman, Ms. Stefforia indicated that the height and area of the proposed sign were in compliance. The sign would be five feet in height.

Carolyn Martin was present on behalf of the applicant and presented photographs of the site.

The Chairperson asked for public comment, and Bill Jameson stated that he felt the Board should not make a determination with regard to the application until a site visit was conducted by the Board as a whole.

There was a discussion on whether there would be any obstruction caused to the driveway by placement of the sign in the proposed location. Ms. Stefforia stated that she was of the opinion that there would be no obstruction and that the sign would be placed more than a car length from the paved surface of the street.

Mr. Corakis observed that he had visited the site many times and felt there would be no obstruction. The Chairperson also indicated his belief that there would be no obstruction, and he felt the proposed location was the best on the site.

The public hearing was closed.

Ms. Kuntzman moved to approve the deviation to allow the placement of the sign eight feet from the road right-of-way line, finding that the criteria of Section 76.500 had been met. She stated that her motion was based upon: (1) the topography of this site; and (2) the excessively wide road right-of-way. Ms. Jensen seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.

WAREHOUSE DISTRIBUTORS - SIGN VARIANCE - 6471 STADIUM DRIVE (PARCEL NO. 3905-35-205-085).

The Board considered the application of Warehouse Distributors, through Jack Siegel, for a variance from the provisions of Section 33.410(a)(iii) to allow an additional wall sign on the west wall of the building at 6471 Stadium Drive which is within the Village Commercial District. The property is Parcel No. 3905-35-205-085.

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

Mr. Corakis stated that he owns property within 300 feet but felt he had no financial advantage or disadvantage from the application. The consensus of the Board was that there was no need for him to abstain.

Ms. Stefforia indicated that the applicant owns the furniture store on Stadium Drive between Parkview Avenue and 9th Street. Recently a building expansion, including two tenant spaces, had been completed. She noted that signs permitted in the Village Commercial District are addressed within Section 33.000 and not in Section 75.000 which addresses signs in all other zoning districts. She referenced Section 33.410, which identifies permitted wall signs in the Village Commercial District. It indicated that within multi-tenant buildings, each tenant is permitted one wall sign with an area equal to one square foot for each lineal foot of tenant space width not to exceed a sign length of more than 2/3 the lease space width and a sign area of 20 square feet.

It was indicated that the applicant occupies the western 2/3 of the building facing Stadium Drive. The two tenant spaces are occupied, and each one has a wall sign, as does the applicant, Warehouse Distributors. The Warehouse Distributors wall sign is centered over their frontage on Stadium Drive.

The applicant was requesting a variance to allow a proposed sign of 32 square feet in area, to be placed on the west wall of the building where currently there are no signs. It would be a two-part variance in that the applicant would require a variance to allow the sign size to exceed the area allowed and a variance to allow it to exceed the number permitted per tenant.

It was indicated that the Warehouse Distributors sign along Stadium Drive is nine square feet.

There was discussion of the fact that the west wall of the building previously had wall signage. However, that wall signage lost its prior lawful nonconforming status when the building was demolished and rebuilt.

Ms. Stefforia indicated that the applicant was seeking the variance arguing that eastbound traffic could not see the Stadium Drive wall signage due to the configuration of the site. Ms. Stefforia stated that there may be some hardship and that the wall to the west facing eastbound traffic is solid with no windows. If the wall were not solid, window signage might provide some identification. However, building code provisions required the wall to be solid due to the proximity to the property line.

There was discussion of other signs in the area, and it was indicated that numerous commercial buildings in the vicinity have more than one wall sign, such as Wally's Sub Shop and Kalamazoo Pool. However, the signs on these buildings predate the new provisions and are "grandfathered". Ms. Stefforia stated that the wall sign limitations of the Village Commercial District have not been applied on very many properties and that this would be the first variance to be considered under these provisions.

Ms. Stefforia urged that if a variance were granted, it be limited to 11 square feet in size so that the total signage for the Warehouse Distributors use was 20 square feet, which is the tenant limit by Ordinance.

The applicant was present, stating that he needed signage so as to have the ability to advertise to traffic traveling eastbound on Stadium Drive. He stated that there was a four by eight foot sign (32 square feet) at this location for 28 years but that it had been removed when the building was torn down and rebuilt.

In response to questioning by the Chairperson, the applicant indicated that the signage would state the name of the use and the product offered, i.e., new and used furniture as well as antiques.

The applicant would be establishing a new sign since the old sign removed from the building was in bad shape.

It was indicated that the sign for the use on the Stadium Drive frontage is one foot by nine feet. The signage of the other tenants of the building were one foot by six foot. Ms. Stefforia noted that each of these tenants would be allowed up to 20 square feet.

The applicant indicated his willingness to have the Board consider approving a sign of a total of 11 square feet in this location. Ms. Kuntzman stated that she felt an 11 square foot sign would be very visible.

Therefore, it was clarified that the applicant would need only a variance as to the number of signs permitted per tenant. The total square footage permitted per tenant would be in compliance with ordinance provisions if the sign were 11 square feet in area.

The Chairperson sought public comment, and Mr. Jameson stated that he felt the Board should have better grounds to grant a variance than those offered for this application. He felt the Board would be setting a bad precedent and stated that, in his opinion, if the building located next door were to expand, the sign being granted variance would not be visible.

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

Mr. Bushouse noted that, in his opinion, the Village Commercial District had been created to generate a traditional village appearance. He felt that the signage as proposed would be in keeping with the village character. He agreed that if the neighboring building, Wally's Sub Shop, expanded toward the street, the sign would no longer be visible. However, the signage would give the business reasonable visibility to eastbound traffic on Stadium Drive until that expansion. Mr. Bushouse also felt it was significant that the site had pre-existing signage, i.e., signage on the old building which had been torn down.

Mr. Jameson expressed concern that the ZBA should not make policy decisions but leave this to the Planning Commission. It was noted that the Planning Commission had indicated that it preferred that the ZBA deal with variances on a case-by-case basis rather than rewriting the sign provisions of the Village Commercial District.

The Chairperson stated that, in his opinion, the Board would not be setting an undesirable precedent with this application. He felt that factors weighing in favor of the variance included the fact that there was no window signage for the applicant to put in on this side of the building and that there was no way for eastbound traffic to see the existing signage. Mr. Corakis agreed, stating that he felt there was a hardship in the lack of visibility of the existing signage.

The Board considered the non-use variance criteria, first discussing whether conformance would be unnecessarily burdensome. Board members concurred that, given the configuration of the parcel on Stadium Drive, conforming signage would not be visible to eastbound traffic. If the signage on the Stadium Drive frontage were removed and all signage placed on the west side of the building, there would be no signage serving westbound traffic.

The Board considered whether substantial justice would weigh in favor of granting the variance. In view of the character of the area, in which grandfathered signage included multiple wall signs, Board members felt that substantial justice would weigh in favor of the variance. Mr. Corakis made note of a variance decision allowing a freestanding sign in the village because of the lack of visibility of wall signage for that location.

The Board considered whether there were any unique physical circumstances preventing compliance. Mr. Bushouse felt that there were unique circumstances, given the configuration of the parcel and given that eastbound traffic was traveling 45 miles per hour. It was recognized that this variance might end up being temporary in that the building next door could expand and block the signage. Further, there was some uniqueness to the application due to the pre-existing signage on the demolished building.

It was the Board's consensus, however, that the hardship was self-created. Even though there were no windows on the west wall, this lack of windows and opportunity for window signage was caused by the applicant, and the wall was located at his discretion. The applicant chose to place the building at the lot line.

However, the Board also agreed that the spirit and intent of the ordinance would be served in that the signage would assist eastbound traffic in seeing the site in sufficient time to turn in and because the total wall signage for the tenant would be 20 square feet.

Mr. Bushouse moved to grant variance to allow a second wall sign on the subject building on the west side wall up to 11 square feet, based on the analysis of the non-use variance criteria. Mr. Corakis seconded the motion, and the motion carried 4 to 1 with Ms. Kuntzman voting against the variance.

METRO TOYOTA - SIGN DEVIATION - 5850 STADIUM DRIVE (PARCEL NO. 3905-25-180-015).

The Board considered the application of Metro Imports, Inc., d/b/a Metro Toyota/Jaguar for deviation from the provisions of Section 76.175(a) to allow installation of a new flagpole with a height exceeding 30 feet at 5850 Stadium Drive. The parcel is located in the "C" Local Business District classification and is Parcel No. 3905-25-180-015.

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

Ms. Bugge stated that the applicant is an automobile dealership which was requesting deviation to allow use of a flagpole 80 feet high. Under Section 76.175, a commercial establishment is permitted up to three flags for every 200 feet of public road frontage. However, the flagpole height may not exceed 30 feet. Due to the frontage of the subject parcel, the applicant could erect at least six flagpoles under the ordinance provisions. It was noted that the subject site is across the street from property located in the R-2, R-3 and R-4 zoning district classifications.

Ms. Bugge noted that there are flagpoles in the general vicinity which include approximately one-third mile to the east, the State Farm Agency at the intersection of Stadium Drive and 11th Street. This site has a non-conforming flagpole exceeding the permitted height, approximately 70 feet tall. Approximately one-third mile to the west, the Speedway Gas Station has a prior lawful non-conforming flagpole approximately 70 feet high.

LaRue's Restaurant has a flagpole of conforming height on Stadium Drive.

Ms. Bugge expressed the opinion that the site has high visibility and concern that there were no circumstances unique to the site which would present a hardship. Therefore, she was concerned that if the deviation were granted, other applicants would expect to receive a comparable deviation.

Todd DeNooyer, one of the owners of the Metro Toyota site, was present on behalf of the application. He stated that the request was made so as to create a focal point on the property. He felt that in view of the recent national events, the applicant should be allowed to show its patriotism. He felt that the height of 80 feet was needed so as to set the flag apart from the parking lot lighting and trees. Mr. DeNooyer stated that the applicant felt the need to make the flag visible for Stadium Drive east and west and also sought visibility from U.S. 131 interchange.

In response to questions from the Chairperson, Mr. DeNooyer stated that the flagpole would be located close to the display area in the "green space" by the road. Ms. Kuntzman inquired whether the flag was meant to be advertising rather as a show of patriotism.

Mr. Corakis asked about the height of the parking lot lights, and the applicant indicated that they were 25 to 30 feet at Metro Toyota and approximately 40 feet in height at the Chevrolet site.

There were questions as to the size of the flag which could be established on an 80 foot pole, and the applicant responded that a flag 20' by 30' or 30' by 50' could be established.

There was discussion of whether the flag would need to be lighted 24 hours a day pursuant to the flag code. The applicant indicated that it was planned that there be ground-mounted flood lights lighting the pole at all times. Ms. Stefforia and Ms. Bugge noted that such lighting would not be allowed under the ordinance.

John Gonser, from A-1 American Flagpoles and Flags, commented on behalf of the applicant that one center flagpole was more aesthetically pleasing than six flagpoles in his opinion.

The Chairperson expressed concern that the applicant was seeking more than to show patriotism if they were attempting to put a flagpole of 80 feet in height at the site. He noted that he was on the Planning Commission at the time this provision was recommended and was concerned that the applicant's proposal was completely contrary to the intent of the ordinance. He felt that the flag, if it were to stay on the pole 24 hours a day, would need to be lighted and expressed concern that it could not be lit in compliance with ordinance lighting standards. He felt that the applicant was seeking more advertising than patriotism.

Mr. Bushouse expressed that he was against the height limitation on flagpoles.

The Chairperson asked for public comment, and Bill Jameson stated that he had questions as to whether someone is patriotic that proposes a flag this tall. He felt the applicant could show its patriotism with a conforming pole. He felt there was no reason for the height except to draw attention to the site and therefore, the pole would be advertising rather than a show of patriotism. Also, he felt that there would be no differentiating this site from other sites and poles. Therefore, he felt the Board would be setting an undesirable precedent.

Stan Rakowski stated that he felt the application should be denied. In his opinion, if the deviation were allowed, every other site that applied for a pole in excess of the standard would have to be granted.

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

The Board considered whether granting the deviation would be materially detrimental to other property owners in the vicinity. Board members expressed concern about the residential uses across the street. The Chairperson expressed that, in his opinion, the size of the flag which would be mounted on the pole would provide visual clutter and that there would be a lot of noise from the flag "flapping" in the breeze. He felt that the 30 foot pole height allowed by the ordinance would provide for a pole and flag more in keeping with the character of the area. He felt that the 30 foot height would allow the flag to be noticed from every direction and would be visible at the site.

The Board considered whether there was any hardship created by a literal interpretation of the section. It was noted that there would be no visibility limitations at the site and, therefore, the 30 foot pole height would allow the flag to be highly visible. Further, there was concern that there were no unique circumstances of the site which would distinguish it from other applications. The Chairperson expressed concern that the applicant wanted the flagpole to be seen from U.S. 131. The Chairperson also expressed concern that an adverse precedent would be set and indicated he did not want a competition among property users as to who could have the highest flagpole. Board members concurred that patriotism could be shown by a flagpole of 30 feet in height. However, Mr. Bushouse stated that, in his opinion, the Township should not dictate height.

Ms. Jensen stated that she did not like the idea of an 80 foot high pole and felt that it destroyed the view, would be noisy, and would result in no control over flagpole heights by the Township.

There was discussion of the possibility of tabling the item, with most Board members feeling that there was no need to table to another meeting. It was pointed out that the applicant could submit an application for text change to allow poles of a higher height.

Ms. Kuntzman moved to deny deviation with the following reasoning: (1) that because of the proximity to residential property across the street, the deviation would be materially detrimental to property owners in the vicinity; and (2) that no hardship was created by literal application of the section and that the applicant could maintain a visible flag at the site with the 30 foot height limitation imposed. Ms. Jensen seconded the motion. The motion carried 4 to 1 with Mr. Bushouse voting in opposition.

OTHER BUSINESS

It was noted that the next meeting of the Board would be December 3, 2001.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 5:00 p.m.

OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS

By:
Millard Loy, Chairperson
By:
Ted Corakis
By:
David Bushouse
By:
Jill Jensen
By:
Sharon Kuntzman

Minutes Prepared:
November 8, 2001

Minutes Approved:
, 2001