April 6, 1998





A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, April 6, 1998, commencing at approximately 3:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall, pursuant to notice.


Brian Dylhoff, Chairperson
William Saunders
David Bushouse


Thomas Brodasky
Lara Meeuwse

Also present were Mike West on behalf of the Planning and Zoning Department, Patricia R. Mason, Township Attorney, and one (1) other interested person.



The Chairperson called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m.



The Board considered the minutes of the meeting of March 16, 1998.

Mr. Saunders moved to approve the minutes as submitted, and Mr. Bushouse seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.



The next item was the application of Jeffrey and Mary Gilchrist for variance approval from the 4:1 depth-to-width ratio established by Section 66.201 of the Zoning Ordinance. The subject property is located at 1295 N. 3rd Street, approximately 800' north of Big Rock Drive, and is within the "AG"-Rural District Zoning classification.

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

Mr. West stated that the parcel in question was created in 1977. The split creating the parcel had occurred at a time when land division did not require prior Township approval. Mr. West noted that the Planning and Zoning Department's report should be corrected to note that the property is located on the west side of North 3rd Street. Mr. West recounted the history of Township action with regard to amendment of the Zoning Ordinance in 1986 to create a 4:1 depth-to-width-ratio requirement. A single-family home (house and related accessory buildings) is presently located on the subject parcel. The house was originally constructed in the 1860's with an addition and extensive remodeling in 1986. It was noted that a building permit for the 1986 addition and remodeling had inadvertently been issued in error in that the parcel exceeds the depth-to-width-ratio standard.

The applicant was present, stating that he and his wife were not aware that their parcel was not in compliance with Ordinance standards. Therefore, much of the work with regard to the proposed new addition to the home had begun. The applicant proposed no new free-standing structure and stated that the addition would allow the applicant to "remain in the house that they loved." He stated that any noncompliance with the Zoning Ordinance was unintentional. He felt that the addition would not encroach upon any other property and would not offend the neighbors. He felt that the spirit and intent of the Ordinance would be met by granting the variance.

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

The Chairperson referenced past decisions in which the Board had seemed to be concerned about safety and limiting additional curb cuts. He felt it was significant that the applicant was not proposing a new building but merely an addition to an existing home. Mr. Bushouse concurred, stating he felt that the intent of the provision was to prevent landlocking of back property but that, in this case, there was no advantage to requiring an easement. He felt that variance was appropriate.

Mr. West noted that the Township had discussed eliminating the depth-to-width-ratio requirement in 1986. He referenced past decisions of the Board with regard to variance approval in similar situations. He noted that the denials had included situations where combinations of property or parcel splits had been proposed and did not involve an addition to an existing building on an existing parcel. He felt that past decisions did present a precedent for allowing the addition. Mr. Saunders agreed.

The positioning of the home and the proposed addition was discussed. It was noted that the building is located "toward the front of the property" and would not be within that land area which would need to be split off from this parcel in order to comply with the depth-to-width-ratio requirement. The Board discussed the fact that the applicant could propose a land division which would result in a conforming parcel and the creation of a landlocked parcel. The Board noted that it had previously approved variance with regard to frontage to allow for land division where there were no plans to build upon the landlocked parcel.

There was discussion of the character of the area, noting that there was a substantial number of parcels with similar or greater depth-to-width ratios.

Mr. Saunders reviewed the nonuse variance criteria, noting that, in this case, conformance was not unnecessarily burdensome in that the applicant could comply with Ordinance requirements by the acquisition of additional width or with a reduction of depth. It was also noted that, prior to the adoption of the Land Division Ordinance in 1997, parcel creation of any dimension was permitted and, therefore, prior to 1997, the subject parcel could have been split to bring its desired buildable portion into compliance with the 4:1 depth-to-width-ratio standards while leaving the remaining portion "landlocked" and unbuildable.

Mr. Saunders felt that substantial justice would weigh in favor of the variance, noting the approvals in the application of David Brussee and Joel Block. Further, he felt that the character of the area weighed in favor of variance in that other parcels of similar or greater depth-to-width ratio were common in the area. There were no unique circumstances with regard to the property, and the hardship was self-created. However, Mr. Saunders felt that the spirit and intent of the Ordinance would favor variance approval, noting that granting a variance for the subject parcel would still allow for potential future development of the interior lands through extension of a public road and land division through either platting or site condominium development. Further, he felt that variance was appropriate given the minimal degree of the variance requested and given the character of the area. He further felt that the Ordinance, in its nonconforming use provisions, expressed an intent to allow nonconforming single-family and two-family homes to continue and be added to.

Mr. Saunders, therefore, in reliance upon the above analysis, moved to grant the variance requested. Mr. Bushouse seconded the motion and, upon a vote on the motion, the motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Bushouse recommended that the Planning Commission consider a text amendment to allow single-family and two-family homes to be altered or added to on a nonconforming parcel as long as the building met front-foot and setback requirements and as long as the parcel had sufficient frontage. Other Board members concurred.


There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 3:35 p.m.

Minutes Approved:
April 20, 1998