OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
September 27, 2005
SIGN ART, INC. - INTERPRETATION - SIGN ORDINANCE
A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday, September 27, 2005, commencing at approximately 3:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall.
MEMBERS PRESENT: Millard Loy, Chairman
MEMBERS ABSENT: None
Also present were Jodi Stefforia, Planning Director; Mary Lynn Bugge, Township Planner; James W. Porter, Township Attorney; and two other interested persons.
CALL TO ORDER
The Chairman called the meeting to order at approximately 3:00 p.m.
The Chairman said that the first item for consideration was the minutes of September 13, 2005. Mr. Turcott made a motion to approve the minutes as submitted, and the motion was seconded by Mr. McClung. The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, and the motion passed unanimously.
SIGN ART, INC. - INTERPRETATION - SIGN ORDINANCE
The Chairman said the third item on the Agenda was a request for an interpretation regarding the Sign Ordinance. He stated that Sign Art, Inc. was seeking a interpretation from the Zoning Board of Appeal of Section 76.170 to determine if the commercial land use provisions for signs apply to a financial institution. The Chairman called for a report from the Planning Department. Ms. Bugge submitted her report to the Zoning Board of Appeals dated September 27, 2005, and the same is incorporated herein by reference.
Ms. Bugge explained to the Board that Section 76 of the Ordinance establishes provisions for signs based on the use of the land. She said Schedule A addresses signs for agricultural and residential land uses, including non-residential uses in an agricultural or residential district, but specifically excludes offices. She said that Schedule B addresses signs for commercial and office land uses. The pertinent Schedules were attached to her report.
Ms. Bugge said, while banks, credit unions and savings & loans are an allowable use in the "R-3" District, Schedule A specifically excludes offices from the sign provisions. She noted that sign provisions for financial institutions are also not addressed in Schedule B. However, she noted that Staff had in the past interpreted financial institutions as offices for the purpose of sign provisions. Ms. Bugge then compared the similarities and differences between financial institutions and commercial establishments, asking that the Board consider days and hours of operation, nature of the business and the character of the architecture of the applicable structures.
The Chairman asked if there were any questions of Ms. Bugge. Mr. McClung asked how the Planning Department determine that financial institutions were a destination, not some type of impulse stop. After a brief exchange, Ms. Bugge concluded that was her personal determination.
The Chairman asked to hear from the applicant. Mr. Steve VanderSloot introduced himself to the Board. He said he represented Sign Art, Inc. and was seeking the sign interpretation on behalf of his client. He said that the banking, savings & loan and credit union business has become extremely competitive. He said there were more than 40 different establishments located in Kalamazoo County, all competing for business. He said that financial institutions do a lot of advertising and invest a great deal in their real estate in order to remain competitive. Mr. VanderSloot pointed out that, since these businesses operate in a business district, the sign allowance needs to be competitive with the signs of other businesses.
The Chairman asked if there were any questions for Mr. VanderSloot. Hearing none, and noting that there was no one else in attendance, except Mr. VanderSloot and his client, he closed the public comment portion of the meeting and asked that the Board go into deliberations.
The Chairman asked what the other Board members thought about this matter. Mr. Turcott said he thought the interpretation of Staff was consistent with where the Township was trying to go. He said what he thought was compelling was what was compatible in the "R-3" zone. He said the "R-3" Residence District does not allow retail, and therefore, Staff's interpretation was more consistent with what is allowed within the "R-3" zone. He also said he thought the architectural analysis was appropriate and fit into what they were doing. Mr. Turcott also noted, if Citizens Credit Union was making 12,000 transactions per month, it seemed to be doing O.K. with the signs permitted. Mr. VanderSloot pointed out that the office he referenced was located at West Main Street and Drake Road.
Mr. Turcott said, on West Main Street within the "R-3" zone, he thought the Township should try to minimize the sign size. He also noted that the Township was trying to reduce signage west of U. S. 131 and do better with signs than it had done on the east side of U. S. 131. Mr. Bushouse said he agreed with Mr. Turcott. He said that the Educational Credit Union on South 9th Street is located in the woods with a very small sign and seemed to be doing quite well. This, he said, is in spite of the fact that it was not allowed a sign size similar to that allowed to other businesses. He said he thought the Board should strive to keep signs at a minimum.
Mr. McClung said he agreed with what had been said by Mr. Turcott and Mr. Bushouse. Mr. McClung asked what was the zoning of Citizens Credit Union location. Ms. Bugge emphasized the fact that the signage was not based upon zoning but was based upon use.
Ms. Borgfjord said she understood the need to be competitive and that all businesses had been feeling the competitive impacts of the economy in 2005. She said she thought the hours of operation for financial institutions were critical in this case, in that they were more similar to an office use rather than other commercial-type uses. Therefore, she concluded they should keep the signage similar to what is allowed for offices.
The Chairman said that the Planning Commission had upheld the strict guidelines with regard to signage, and he thought the Zoning Board of Appeals should do the same. He said, while some people see signs as a way of identifying businesses, others see them as clutter. He thought they should maintain a very strict standard in that regard. The Chairman concluded by saying that he did not think they needed as big a sign in the "R-3" zone.
The Chairman opened the floor to the applicant. Mr. VanderSloot said he agreed with many of the statements of the Board members. However, looking at his particular client, he emphasized that they were located in a business district not a residential district. He also said he had yet to see a connection between true office use and the 12,000 transactions a month associated with a credit union or bank. He said he did not see any similarity in their comparison. Mr. Bushouse pointed out that they could look at it in the reverse, that credit unions and banks are allowed in the "R-3" District, but McDonald's is not. Mr. Rikter, on behalf of Consumers Credit Union, pointed out that his credit union is located in a commercial area, and he felt they should have the same type of sign allowed other commercial businesses. Mr. VanderSloot said they were fighting for viewership. He said, at the 9th and West Main location, they were competing with all other commercial businesses. He said, if the concern was what was going to happen in a different zone, then perhaps a new class of businesses should be established to deal with that issue.
Ms. Bugge pointed out that the interpretation would be pertinent to all similar uses and not just the particular establishment located at 9th Street and West Main Street. Mr. VanderSloot again asked that the Board explain how the particular use, i.e., a credit union or bank, fits within the definition of an office.
Mr. McClung said he had trouble understanding how a bank or credit union could be treated differently from other commercial businesses in a commercially-zoned area. The Chairman said, if it was allowed there, then it would also be allowed in the "R-3" zone, and he felt that there needed to be some limitations in place. Mr. McClung noted that, as the Planning Department had pointed out, zoning does not control the sign, it is the use that is controlling. Ms. Bugge concurred and said that zoning in this case was irrelevant. Mr. Turcott said that it appeared they were discussing an actual change in the Ordinance, which was not the job of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Mr. VanderSloot said that people bank where they live and work. He said it was a matter of convenience, much more akin to other commercial establishments, and if they were not able to compete for viewership to attract new businesses, they would be at a substantial disadvantage.
The Chairman said, after further consideration, that he did not see how the Board could interpret a bank or credit union as strictly an office. He said they had more traffic than many retail outlets, and they were not strictly an office. He said it was a retail business, whether people were getting change or buying a hamburger.
Ms. Borgfjord said perhaps there should be a change in the Zoning Ordinance. Mr. McClung said perhaps that was true, and that in the "R-3" zone, they should have a different rule for signs, but that this type of use was not an office. Ms. Stefforia pointed out that the Board could make an interpretation, but also ask for clarification from the Planning Commission.
Mr. VanderSloot pointed out that they still needed to settle the interpretation issue as it applied to banks and credit unions.
Attorney Porter told the Board that he was reluctant to inject his opinion. However, he thought it would be pertinent for the Board to consider the definition of office contained within the Zoning Ordinance. Attorney Porter directed the Board to page 11.9, which contained a detail definition of an office. Attorney Porter said he voiced his concern because he felt what the Board was focusing on what would happen in the "R-3" zone versus what the definition of office actually was. He said he felt that the office definition primarily focused on those offices serving an executive, administrative or professional function, i.e., doctor, lawyer, C.P.A., etc. Mr. McClung said, based on what he had just heard, he felt that the financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, were not offices, but were, in fact, commercial establishments.
The Chairman asked if the Zoning Board of Appeals could request a change in the Ordinance, and if so, what type of change. Attorney Porter indicated that it could ask the Planning Commission to change the special exception use provisions as they apply to banks and credit unions in the "R-3" zone. Ms. Bugge pointed out that the Zoning Board of Appeals could also ask the Planning Commission to deal with these financial institutions as a separate class within the various schedules. Mr. Turcott said, given his reading of the definition, it clearly was a commercial or retail business, not an office.
After a brief discussion, Mr. Turcott made a motion to interpret banks and credit unions as retail commercial businesses and not an office, based upon the definition provided for in the Zoning Ordinance. As part of his motion, Mr. Turcott asked that the matter of signs for financial institutions be referred to the Planning Commission for further review. Mr. McClung seconded the motion. The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, and the motion passed unanimously.
There being no further business to come before the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Board adjourned at approximately 3:40 p.m.
OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
Millard Loy, Chairman
October 3, 2005