OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS MINUTES

SEPTEMBER 14, 1998

______________________________________________________________________________

Agenda

MAPLE HILL MALL - VARIANCE RE: SECTION 76.000 RE: SIGN PROVISIONS

NAYLOR LANDSCAPING - VARIANCE RE: OUTDOOR STORAGE - S. 8TH STREET

BRUCE VANDERWEELE - SITE PLAN REVIEW - 6,800 SQ. FT. OFFICE BUILDING  - LOT 15, VENTURE PARK (5988 VENTURE PARK)

SEELBINDER - BOARD INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 11.310 - HOME OCCUPATION

______________________________________________________________________________

A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, September 14, 1998, commencing at approximately 3:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall, pursuant to notice.

MEMBERS PRESENT:

Thomas Brodasky, Acting Chairperson
David Bushouse
William Saunders
Lara Meeuwse

MEMBER ABSENT: Brian Dylhoff

Also present were Jodi Stefforia, Township Planning and Zoning Department, Rebecca Harvey, Township Planning Consultant, Scott Paddock, Ordinance Enforcement Officer, Patricia R. Mason, Township Attorney, and eight (8) other interested persons.

CALL TO ORDER

The Acting Chairperson called the meeting to order at 3:02 p.m.

MINUTES

The Board considered the minutes of the meeting of August 3, 1998. Ms. Meeuwse suggested a change to page 5 in the last sentence under #2 to state "It was felt that this situation is analogous in that there was only 50-75’ between the subject site and the right-of-way and because the area in question is swampy." Mr. Saunders moved to approve the minutes as amended, and Ms. Meeuwse seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

 

MAPLE HILL MALL - VARIANCE RE: SECTION 76.000 RE: SIGN PROVISIONS

The Board considered the application of Maple Hill Mall for variance approval from the sign provisions set forth in Section 76.000 of the Zoning Ordinance as it relates to freestanding and wall signage. The subject site is located at 5050 West Main and is within the "C-1" District zoning classification.

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

James McGillan, architect for the project, presented drawings of the proposed Maple Hill Mall renovation project. Kimm Ellis, the General Manager of the mall, was also present. Mr. McGillan stated that the owners of the mall are attempting to "revitalize it." He stated that there is a "low tenant occupancy" at the mall currently. Changes to the mall site, including the signage package for which the applicant was requesting approval, were intended to make the mall more attractive. He stated that the existing signs are outdated and tired. Additionally, changes were being made to the site circulation pattern. Mr. McGillan stated that the applicant is in the process of Phase I of the mall revitalization project which addresses the south side (Main Street fašade) of the mall. Phase II would address the north side of the mall.

Mr. McGillan stated as to signage that there are three existing signs at the site. The applicant was proposing the elimination of two of the freestanding signs and the refurbishment of the existing "cinema sign." The refurbished sign would constitute the new "main" sign for the mall. It was felt that, given the efforts to alter on-site circulation and the desire to make the entrance point near the existing cinema sign the main entry drive to the property, this would be the most logical location for the new main sign. The sign would serve to identify the primary drives for the site. The new sign would be equal to or less in area than the existing sign. Mr. McGillan presented a depiction showing the proposed sign as it would appear to westbound traffic. The entrance point in question allows right and left turns in.

As part of the mall revitalization, a portion of the mall would remain "traditional." The owners were also working to create "specialty boxes" at the west end of the mall. For example, a lease had already been signed with Office Max for the former Gilmore’s space. It was the intent of the owner to establish two restaurants along the front near the main "Steketee’s" entrance. Mr. McGillan stated that a variance from the wall signage provisions for the Office Max wall signage was being requested. He felt that the variance was appropriate in that the fašade of the mall was over 500’ from West Main. The Office Max space had been designed so as not to present a "flattened" fašade. The fašade would jut out approximately six feet from the remainder of the suite wall. Because of the way the Ordinance is written so as to calculate wall signage premised upon the wall to which signage is affixed, the area allowed for the Office Max wall signage is calculated based upon the protruding portion of the Office Max suite fašade. He stated that, if the fašade in question were flattened, the signage as proposed would be permitted by the Ordinance.

In addition, the applicant was seeking variance for four "specialty shop" signs which would be available for use by internal tenants. Therefore, the signage would not be located on the suite in which these tenants were located. The four "specialty shop" signs would be located in the area of the "Steketee’s" wall signage at the main entrance point to the mall.

Mr. Bushouse was concerned that the Board had previously denied off-suite signage to an applicant inhabiting a suite at the Elks’ Building. Ms. Harvey noted that the Board, during that consideration, indicated it might look more favorably on variance to allow off-suite signage if a "total package" for off-suite signage had been presented by or on behalf of the Elks’ Building owner/manager. The Board did not want to deal with piecemeal applications from individual tenants. The Board felt that this would result in a haphazard rather than coordinated signage package. However, the Elks’ applicant had never returned with a "coordinated total package." Mr. Bushouse expressed that the package presented by the mall was attractive, but he was concerned about consistency.

Ms. Harvey noted that the applicant had submitted a development plan for building and site modifications at the site. A majority of these modifications required administrative rather than Board review. However, the proposed modifications to existing freestanding and wall signage did require variance. She again summarized that the applicant proposed the removal of two existing mall pylon signs, the refurbishment of the existing pylon sign at the mid-site access point, and the establishment of coordinated exterior wall signage on the south building wall.

As to the specific variance criteria, Ms. Harvey noted that the site was allowed two nonconforming freestanding signs and two freestanding signs through Zoning Board of Appeals approval. Therefore, four freestanding signs totaling approximately 870 sq. ft. were allowed for the site. Currently, only three of these signs exist. The proposal of the applicant would reduce signage at the site to a single sign of approximately 340 sq. ft. This was comparable to the current pylon sign which would be replaced. Therefore, the applicant’s proposal would bring the freestanding signage at the site into closer compliance to current Ordinance standards. Ms. Harvey also noted that generally the Board considers wall signage at the site a viable alternative to freestanding signage variance due to the liberal wall sign provisions of the Ordinance. She felt that, in this case, the use of wall signage for off-site identification would be of minimal use due to building placement (i.e., its setback from West Main), the land uses fronting West Main, and corridor landscaping.

As to the proposed wall signage, she felt that the proposed off-suite signage was distinguishable from that previously denied by the Board in that the applicant had presented a coordinated package for the entire mall and in that the signage would function primarily as "on-site" identification signage and would not necessarily advertise or provide identification for West Main traffic.

As to substantial justice, Ms. Harvey had included information with regard to similar past requests. As to the freestanding sign variance, she noted that the Hills’ Department Store application had been granted. This application was similar to the proposed variance in that the applicant in the Hills’ matter proposed taking a pre-existing mall sign and reducing its size significantly. She felt that those sign variances which had been denied were distinguishable from the proposed request.

As to the spirit and intent of the Ordinance, she urged the Board to review the Maple Hill Drive South Focus Area Plan for the corridor and its improvements. She noted that the plan called for minimizing access, improving landscaping, and improvement of existing signage.

Ms. Harvey next discussed the wall signage variance for Office Max. Ms. Harvey stated she felt it was important that the Board consider that the length of the mall at over 1,000’ would permit over 2,100 sq. ft. of total wall signage for the Maple Hill Mall fašade fronting West Main. The "package" of wall signage proposed by the applicant was greatly below this total square footage number. Less than 500 sq. ft. of wall signage was proposed.

Mr. Bushouse questioned Ms. Harvey as to whether or not there was a condition of any previous approval that no further wall signage be established. Mr. Bushouse recalled that the prior owner had agreed not to put any further wall signage on the mall. Ms. Harvey indicated that she had reviewed the past minutes with regard to signage at the site, and this was not a condition of any approval.

There was no public comment on the item, and the public hearing was closed.

Mr. Bushouse commented he felt that the elimination of two freestanding signs at the site was "favorable." He also felt that it would be appropriate to allow the main sign to be refurbished and "improve its aesthetic character." He was also in favor of the wall signage proposal. He felt it was significant that Office Max is leasing more suite space, with the suite’s total southside fašade exceeding that necessary to justify the proposed square footage for the Office Max signage. He felt that variance would be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ordinance therefore. He was also in favor of the four individual off-suite signs as a "coordinated one-time proposal." The Acting Chairperson and Mr. Saunders concurred. Ms. Meeuwse also agreed, stating she felt that the proposed signage would help to focus traffic patterns both off-site and on-site and that it would be in accord with the Master Land Use Plan.

Mr. Saunders moved to grant variance for the freestanding signage as proposed, which would eliminate the three freestanding signs and allow one freestanding sign established at the mid-access point to the mall of approximately 340 sq. ft. in size. The following reasoning was offered:

(1) That conformance is unnecessarily burdensome. The sign proposal of the applicant eliminates nonconforming signage and brings the site into closer compliance with current Ordinance freestanding sign standards. The signage package is part of renovation plans which include efforts to reduce/improve site access and circulation. Implementation of that plan will be facilitated by the successful identification of a single primary drive through the proposed freestanding sign. Further, the use of wall signage as an alternative to freestanding signage for off-site identification was not a reasonable option due to building placement (i.e., its setback from West Main), the land uses fronting West Main, and the corridor landscaping.

(2) That substantial justice weighed in favor of granting the variance in that the past decision of the Board regarding the Hills’ Department Store application, which was analogous to the proposed application, had been granted. Further, the resulting signage would be in character with the area and reduce overall signage at the site and along West Main.

(3) That unique physical circumstances would weigh in favor of granting the variance in that the proposed sign would be located at the primary entrance to the mall. Further, the mall itself is at a significant setback from West Main and situated behind other developments, such as Applebee’s, Old Country Buffet, Finley’s, Comerica and Montgomery Wards. Further, the proposed signage is consistent with the Maple Hill Drive South Focus Area Plan.

(4) That the hardship is self-created; however, that the proposed signage is within the spirit and intent of the Ordinance and the public health, safety and welfare would be secured with the granting of a variance. The proposal would result in the removal of two nonconforming signs, one sign permitted by Board approval, and the ability to establish a fourth sign along Drake Road. Freestanding signage for the mall property would be reduced by approximately 500 sq. ft. Further, the proposed signage was in keeping with the Maple Hill Drive South Focus Area Development Plan.

Ms. Meeuwse seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.

Ms. Meeuwse moved to approve the wall signage package as proposed by the applicant on the plan denoted "A-1 elevation" with the following reasoning:

(1) That conformance with the Ordinance was unnecessarily burdensome. Other options are available to the applicant; however, based upon the total coordinated package of signage, the proposed signage would be in keeping and in character of the area and with the Maple Hill Drive South Focus Area Development Plan. Further, the total wall signage at the site would be significantly less than that allowed by the Ordinance for the south fašade of the Maple Hill Mall structure. Further, as to the Office Max signage, the south fašade of the leased space was of such a length to justify the area of wall signage as proposed; the length of the south wall segment of the Office Max suite is 105’ in length, permitting a wall sign of 210’; 154 sq. ft. were proposed for the Office Max sign. However, a portion of the wall segment of the Office Max suite extends out from the wall, and that protrusion is only 63’ in width. The protrusion allowed for an aesthetically pleasing design for this segment of the mall but would, under Ordinance terms, limit the total square footage for wall signage on that segment to only 126 sq. ft. It was felt that the wall signage as proposed for Office Max would be in keeping with the area. As to the off-suite signage package, it was felt that the total coordinated proposal for off-suite signage was acceptable and that conformance with Ordinance provisions was unnecessarily burdensome.

(2) That substantial justice would weigh in favor of granting the wall signage variance in that the proposed wall signage was significantly less than allowed for the entire south fašade of the mall under Ordinance provisions.

(3) That unique physical circumstances would weigh in favor of granting the variance in that it was merely the architectural element, i.e., the protrusion, which limited the Office Max signage. Overall signage at the site was much less than allowed by the Ordinance.

(4) That the hardship was self-created in that the placement of signage was at the discretion of the applicant. However, it was felt that the wall signage, as a coordinated design package for the entire north south fašade of the mall, was in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ordinance. Further, the proposed signage package was in keeping with the Master Land Use Plan, Maple Hill Mall South Focus Area Plan for the corridor.

The motion was seconded by Mr. Bushouse and carried unanimously.

 

NAYLOR LANDSCAPING - VARIANCE RE: OUTDOOR STORAGE - S. 8TH STREET

The next item was the application of Naylor Landscaping for variance approval to allow a reconfiguration of the previously approved outdoor storage area allowing a proportionate increase in the area for truck and trailer parking and decrease in the area for storage of landscaping materials. Outdoor storage limitations are set forth in Section 41.301 of the Zoning Ordinance. The subject site is located on the west side of South 8th Street and is within the "I-1" District zoning classification.

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

Ms. Stefforia noted that the applicant had received variance approval for a total of 11,340 sq. ft. of outdoor storage in May of 1998. The variance allowed 7,500 sq. ft. of the area to be utilized for landscaping materials and supplies and 3,840 sq. ft. for truck and trailer storage. The applicant had since determined the need to increase the area for truck and trailer storage. The applicant proposed 5,280 sq. ft. for truck and trailer storage and 6,060 sq. ft. for landscaping materials.

The applicant was present, stating that, at the time of the variance approval, he did not adequately consider the actual area needed for truck and trailer storage. In response to questioning by Ms. Meeuwse, the applicant stated that there had been no material change in the operation from the time of the first approval and that the applicant was not increasing the number of vehicles planned but merely presenting a better calculation of the area that they would need for storage of same. He felt that this proposal would be adequate for a 2-3-year period, at which time he planned to build an inside storage area. The applicant reported that the storage areas had been established so that they could not be seen from the road. Eventually the entire parking area and storage area would be fenced.

Mr. Saunders commented that he would be in favor of amending the variance so as to allow the truck and trailer area storage up to 50% of the total outdoor storage area. He was satisfied that the analysis of the Board in granting the original approval would still be satisfied as long as at least 50% of the storage area were used for landscaping materials and supplies.

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

Mr. Saunders moved to amend variance approval for the site to allow up to 50% of the total outdoor storage area approved to be used for truck/trailer and equipment storage. Fifty percent of the area would be used for storage of landscaping materials. Mr. Saunders reasoned that the original findings of the Board as to satisfaction of variance criteria were unchanged by the modification of the allocation of the use of the storage area.

Ms. Meeuwse seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.

 

BRUCE VANDERWEELE - SITE PLAN REVIEW - 6,800 SQ. FT. OFFICE BUILDING  - LOT 15, VENTURE PARK (5988 VENTURE PARK)

The next item was the application of Bruce VanderWeele for site plan approval of a 6,800 sq. ft. office building. The subject site is Lot 15 of Venture Park, 5988 Venture Park. The property is located in the "C" Local Business District zoning classification.

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

Larry Loeks was present on behalf of the applicant. It was noted that the proposed office use was for a consulting business. A portion would be utilized by an as-yet-unknown tenant. Ms. Stefforia noted that the Kalamazoo County Road Commission had approved the proposed access drive. The site had adequate parking, assuming that the future tenant would have similar parking needs to those of the applicant. She stated that the Township Fire Department and Engineer had approved the proposed plan.

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

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

(1) That the subject site is to be served by one access point onto Venture Park, approved by the Kalamazoo County Road Commission.

(2) That all parking spaces are subject to compliance with dimensional standards of the Ordinance at 10’ x 20’.

(3) That all barrier-free parking is subject to ADA and Michigan Barrier-Free Guidelines and is to be designated by signage and pavement logo.

(4) That all building setbacks comply with Ordinance provisions.

(5) That outdoor storage has not been proposed or approved.

(6) That the location and enclosure for the dumpster proposed is satisfactory.

(7) That all site lighting is subject to compliance with the guidelines of Section 78.700 and subject to review and approval by the Township staff.

(8) That all signage must be approved through the permit process and comply with Section 76.000.

(9) That approval is subject to the review and approval of the Township Fire Department and Engineer.

 

(10) That an Environmental Permits checklist and Hazardous Substance reporting form had been completed for the proposed office building, and information regarding same must be submitted by the future tenant.

Mr. Bushouse seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.

 

SEELBINDER - BOARD INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 11.310 - HOME OCCUPATION

The next item was the application of David and Kelly Seelbinder for Board interpretation of the provisions of Section 11.310 of the Zoning Ordinance as they regulate home occupation to determine whether the current use of her home for an off-site home and automobile cleaning service qualifies as a home occupation. The applicants also requested variance from Sections 11.310(1) and 11.310(2) as they relate to the requirement that the occupation be operated entirely within the dwelling and conducted only by persons occupying the dwelling as their principal residence. The subject site is located at 2215 N. Drake Road and is within the "R-2" Residential District zoning classification.

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

Attorney Jim Bauhof was present on behalf of the applicants. The applicants were also present. The applicants presented photos of the site and of the general area. It was noted that the "work cars" were three Ford Escorts. The cars had the name of the cleaning service printed on the side. These were usually parked behind the privacy fence when not in use. She stated that 3-4 employees come to the site in the morning, park their cars behind the privacy fence, and leave in work cars. They return to the site later in the day to drop off the work cars and pick up their own vehicles.

It was noted that there is "R-4" and "R-3" zoning "within three doors of this property." Further, other businesses have been established in the area. A high school is located across the street.

In response to questioning by Ms. Meeuwse, the applicant stated that there are no products sold. Customers do not come to the site. Garbage disposal of trash from the homes cleaned is made at the customer’s site.

The applicant’s attorney stated that, in his opinion, given the minimal nature of the use, it did not even qualify as a home occupation. The Township Attorney indicated that, in her opinion, if the use was not a home occupation, it was not allowed at all in the "R-2" District. It was pointed out that only those uses listed as permitted or special exception uses were allowed in the District. It was clear that the applicant is conducting a business in the zone and, therefore, it must qualify as a home occupation in order to be allowed at this location. The Township Attorney expressed some concern with the ability of the business to comply with the home occupation criteria, particularly given that the employees were reporting to the site and leaving their cars and given the storage of the business vehicles at the site. Mr. Bushouse agreed, stating that home occupations are typically conducted "completely in the home." He felt there was a problem with the parking of business vehicles at the site and employee parking at the site. He felt that the applicant could comply with the home occupation criteria if employees for the business did not come daily to the site bringing their own cars for pick-up of work vehicles. He further felt that, if the employees kept their work vehicles at their homes, going directly to customer sites, there would be no problem with compliance with Ordinance standards.

Mrs. Seelbinder stated that, prior to their purchase of the property, she had called and spoken with Jim Wylie (previous Township Ordinance Enforcement Officer), who said he "did not see a problem with the use."

Ms. Meeuwse noted that the area is in transition and that, from her observations, a business might be located right next door.

Mr. Bushouse was concerned about establishing an undesirable precedent and opening up the use of home occupation provisions for many businesses not originally intended to be allowed by the provisions.

It was noted that restructuring of the business so that the employee cars were not parked at the site and so that work or commercial vehicles were not regularly at the site would allow the applicants to come into compliance with the Ordinance criteria as to home occupations. Further, rezoning to the "R-3" District, through application to the Planning Commission, could be pursued.

The Chairperson sought public comment, and Mr. Lambeck, a neighboring land owner, commented that he was concerned about rezoning of his own property. He also inquired of the applicant as to whether chemicals were stored at the site. The applicant responded that no harsh chemicals were used and that the cleaning products stored at the site were available at most grocery stores and that the quantities were no greater than those used for large families.

The public hearing was closed.

The applicants stated that they were in favor of tabling the request to allow them time to consider changes to the business structure to allow it to comply with home occupation provisions and/or rezoning.

Mr. Saunders moved to table the item for six months to allow the applicants to consider their options, at which time they could proceed with the application or withdraw it.

The motion was seconded by Ms. Meeuwse and carried unanimously.

 

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 5:45 p.m.

Minutes Approved: October 5, 1998