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Meeting Minutes

April 8, 1999







A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Planning Commission on Thursday, April 8, 1999, commencing at approximately 7:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall, pursuant to notice.

Members present:

Wilfred Dennie, Chairperson
Ken Heisig
Ted Corakis
Marvin Block

Members Absent:

Millard Loy
Elizabeth Heiny-Cogswell
Stanley Rakowski

Also present were Jodi Stefforia, Planning Director, Mary Lynn Bugge, Township Planner, Patricia R. Mason, Township Attorney, and fifteen (15) other interested persons.


The Chairperson called the meeting to order at 7:06 p.m.


Mr. Block moved to approve the agenda as submitted, and Mr. Heisig seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.


The Planning Commission next considered the minutes of the meeting of March 25, 1999. Mr. Heisig moved to approve the minutes as submitted, and Mr. Corakis seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.


The next item was the application of LandTech, Inc., for special exception use/site plan review of a proposed office park development. The development would include 11 office buildings ranging from 6,000 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft. in area each. The proposed development would be located on approximately 11.72 acres at the northeast corner of 10th Street and West Main Street within the "R-3" Residence District zoning classification.

The report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference. Ms. Stefforia noted that she had provided the Township Engineer’s review letter dated April 8, 1999, to the Planning Commission members. She particularly noted item 5 of the report, i.e., the recommendation that provision be made for a future drive extension at the northeast end of the site. Further, she suggested that the location of the retention areas be revised to preserve the existing trees and other vegetation in the area and screen these locations from 10th Street.

Harry Wierenga, on behalf of the applicant, was present. He discussed the area zoning, noting that the commercial properties east of U.S. 131, the office development on the south, "R-3" and "R-2" zoning to the west and the "R-3" zoning immediately north. He stated that the subject property is located within the "R-3" District and the proposed use is in keeping with the "transitional" nature of the zone. Eleven buildings on approximately 12 acres were proposed. Three of the buildings would be two story, four would be two-story walkouts, and the other four would be single story. He stated that the developer had attempted to keep the parking area small and to include greenbelt areas along the frontage and around the buildings. He stated that the stormwater retention system proposed was designed in stages so that no one area would become overwhelmed.

Mr. Wierenga presented an illustration of the possible appearance of the buildings. He felt that the buildings which would be established would be "residential style." He indicated that the applicant would like to build offices "higher" than the 25’ limitation of the Ordinance. He felt that the 25’ limitation would result in large "boxy" buildings. Allowing 35’ in height would provide for pitched roofs.

He stated that he, on behalf of the applicant, had discussed the necessary improvements approaching the site and on 10th Street with the Kalamazoo County Road Commission. In addition to the 130’ taper into the first driveway at the site, an added lane with 150’ of car storage would be added to 10th Street and the left turn lane would be extended 120’. Further, the project was supported by the possible sanitary sewer extension to West Main Street. He felt that the applicant was close to an agreement with the Township regarding this issue. Further, there was municipal water available for connection to the site. He stated that he had reviewed the Township Engineer’s letter and had no problem meeting the requirements therein.

As to site lighting, Mr. Wierenga presented a handout on possible lighting fixtures which might be established at the site. He stated that the applicant was looking for a "soft look" for lighting. Lighting would be established very near the buildings as indicated on the plan by the designation "SL." The applicant felt that the impact on traffic would not be great due to the small size of the buildings. He felt that, given the scale of the buildings, each building would probably be used by a different type of office. Therefore, he felt that the traffic would not all "peak" at the same time.

The Chairperson questioned the applicant concerning the proposed signage at the site. The applicant indicated that signage was "not yet defined." The applicant would comply with Ordinance provisions. Further, in response to questioning by the Chairperson, Mr. Wierenga said that this is the first development for this development group within Oshtemo Township. However, he described his own experience in developing projects in the Oshtemo and Texas Township areas. He further stated that the plan was to build the project in phases over 5-10 years. It was most likely that building 5 would be built first. The site would continue under single ownership.

Mr. Block questioned Mr. Wierenga concerning the open space calculation on the plan. Mr. Block stated that the site looked very "congested and crowded with buildings." It was difficult for him to believe that there was 45% open space at the site. Mr. Wierenga stated that there was open space, pointing to the green areas around each building. Mr. Block also questioned Mr. Wierenga concerning the number of parking spaces proposed at the site, i.e., 509. There were eight more than was required. He wondered whether eight would be enough for possible future expansion as indicated by Mr. Wierenga. Mr. Wierenga stated he felt that there would be more parking at the site than was actually needed.

Mr. Block also questioned the applicant concerning the "turnarounds," and Mr. Wierenga said that there were three areas of radius deficiencies pointed out by the Township Fire Department. He stated that these had been changed on revised plans submitted to the Township to meet Fire Department requirements.

The Chairperson expressed concern that the buildings at the site might hold more than 500 people. Since it was difficult to know the tenant mix at this point, he was concerned about parking. He was also concerned about the traffic that would be generated at the site. Further, the Chairperson wondered whether the three dumpsters proposed would be reasonable given the number of possible inhabitants of the offices at the site. Mr. Wierenga said that, in his experience, the three dumpsters would be adequate and that more dumpsters would make the site aesthetically displeasing.

Mr. Heisig asked whether there would be coordinated security for the entire site. The applicant’s representative stated that he did not think that coordinated security would be needed. Each individual building would have its own security measures.

The Chairperson asked for public comment, and Ron England expressed concern about increased traffic. In his opinion, the "R-3" District was intended to have offices which were complementary to residential use. In his opinion, the offices in question would not be complementary. He was concerned that the Township could not enforce when the traffic peak hours would take place at the office building site. He felt that these peak hours would coincide with the peak hours of the residential users. He further suggested that the Planning Commission consider an access road to West Main so that there would be no direct access to 10th Street. The Chairperson replied that, given the location of U.S. 131, he felt that the proximity of any access to West Main would be problematic, there would not be enough distance. The Chairperson felt that the most significant factor would be traffic volume.

Mr. England was somewhat concerned about the lack of definitive plans with regard to lighting, etc. The Chairperson stated that, if approved, stipulations and conditions would be placed on the site approval as to lighting, etc.

Mr. England commented he felt that there would be better locations for this type of development elsewhere in the Township.

David Krueger, of KATS, was present to discuss traffic and drive design. He made reference to his report dated March 5, 1999, which is incorporated herein by reference. Based on his information, he estimated that there would be approximately 1,000 additional vehicles per day on 10th Street due to the office development. He felt that the major impact would occur during p.m. peak hours at the intersection of West Main and 10th Street. He noted that the average vehicle delay would increase approximately five seconds per vehicle; however, the greatest impact would be in the southbound left turn lane, which would go from a

22.6-second average delay to a 67-second average delay. He suggested that four changes needed to be made, three which would be at the expense of the applicant, to mitigate the traffic impact:

(1)  A"storage" lane on northbound 10th Street from the intersection to the first drive should be added. The storage lane would be approximately 150’ in addition to the 130’ taper for a total of 280’.

(2) That the left turn lane on 10th Street should be increased to a distance of 335’ from the centerline of West Main north on 10th Street.

(3) The resurfacing/regrade project which was in the works and about to go up for bid by the Kalamazoo County Road Commission. He noted the Road Commission policy that when a new road or resurfacing took place no cuts would be allowed for ten years.

(4) A revision to the phasing or timing of the MDOT-owned traffic signal at the intersection of West Main should be made.

He felt that all these mitigation measures needed to be taken now even though the applicant intended to phase construction of the project. He noted that all widening would be within the existing publicly owned right-of-way.

Mr. Block expressed concern about the rate of speed on M-43 and the likelihood that cars could not stop for traffic turning left from 10th Street. He felt that there would be greater possibility of accidents given the number of people who would be attempting to turn left from 10th Street onto West Main. Mr. Krueger stated that this would be addressed through signalization changes.

Mr. Krueger felt that, if the applicant were unwilling to make these modifications, the Road Commission would not grant driveway permits to the project.

Peg Cancro had questions with regard to the location of her property in relationship to the subject site. Further, she wondered about the width of the tree line along 10th Street. It was noted that there was 45’ between the parking areas and the right-of-way line. She suggested that the Township pursue a reduction of the speed limit on 10th Street. She was also concerned about the accidents that the intersection of West Main and 10th Street, stating that, in her opinion, a left-turn arrow should be added.

Joseph Gill felt that the project was not viable without sewer service. It was explained that there is currently a consideration of a project to bring the sewer north from Country Club plat to Westport Drive. In response to questions from Mr. Gill, it was noted that the property is already zoned "R-3" and no change in zoning was necessary.

Jan Lang was concerned about the retention areas. It was noted that there were plans for 6’ chain-link fencing around the retention basins. She felt that this would be obtrusive in appearance and was concerned that it be screened.

Bonnie Banghart questioned whether there were any plans to expand sewer further, and the Chairperson said that there was none beyond what was discussed.

Ed Hilton was concerned about the retention pond on the north side of the site, feeling that it would be a "mosquito harvest pond." In his opinion, the retention area should be relocated to the back of the property.

Casper VanderVeen inquired as to who Mr. Krueger was representing, and it was explained that KATS is made up of all the governments in the Kalamazoo area. Mr. VanderVeen was concerned that the traffic in the area uses the drives of the residential users to "turn around." He also recounted other traffic problems, stating that he felt the Planning Commission should straighten out these problems before approving another project.

Harm Doorlag was concerned about screening both retention ponds. He was also concerned about the vehicle storage lane and its location.

Tom Maupin was concerned that the plans of the developer were "not solid." He felt that the developer was trying to shove too much development on a small piece of ground. He felt that there would be a huge impact on the residential users within the area.

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

Ms. Stefforia recommended that the Planning Commission consider requiring that any trees that were to be retained be "roped off" or otherwise secured from destruction. Further, the trees identified for preservation should be verified by Township staff. She further noted that, in order to establish office buildings with a height greater than 25’, the applicant would need to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance. The Township Attorney was concerned that the developer’s plans for phase I should have "more definition." Since the applicant had no definite plans as to any other phases, the Planning Commission would only be looking at special exception use approval and approval of the site plan for phase I.

The Chairperson summarized the different aspects of the proposed project. Then there was a review of Sections 60.100/200 criteria. The Planning Commission considered whether the proposed use was compatible with other uses expressly permitted within the "R-3" Residence District zoning classification. Reference was made to the purpose of the "R-3" District. The Chairperson stated he felt that an office use was compatible with the purpose of the "R-3" District and the uses permitted therein. However, he was concerned about whether this particular development would be compatible. Both Mr. Block and the Chairperson were concerned about the density or congestion of the buildings at the site. Mr. Corakis concurred, stating that he did not consider paved walkways to be open or green space. Mr. Heisig noted that the drawing did not appear to have much open space but felt it might be just a problem of visualizing what would be constructed at the site. The Chairperson felt that a full landscaping plan should be submitted by the applicant to the staff for review and approval. In his opinion, the existing trees were not mature enough to provide adequate screening. Further, he felt it was important that the applicant construct all improvements to 10th Street when the Kalamazoo County Road Commission’s improvements were established. He felt more definition needed to be provided by the applicant concerning what stormwater retention plans would be constructed in phase I.

Mr. Block felt that the number of buildings at the site should be reduced. The Chairperson agreed, stating that, in his opinion, the applicant was not taking advantage of the natural topography of the site. He felt that the applicant should revise the stormwater retention system to create decorative interior ponds rather than basins surrounded by chain-link fence at the road frontage.

The Chairperson was most concerned about the traffic at the site. He agreed that, based on the information supplied by Mr. Krueger, during morning peak hours, residents in the area and persons coming to the office site would be going "in opposite ways." He, too, felt that most impact would be at the end of the work day, with people trying to make a left turn from 10th Street onto West Main. He felt that, during the hours of 4:00-6:00 p.m. there would be heavy congestion given the density proposed for the development.

After further discussion, Mr. Block and the Chairperson felt that the development as proposed was not compatible with other uses expressly permitted within the "R-3" Residence District. Mr. Corakis and Mr. Heisig felt that the development was compatible. Mr. Heisig expressed that, although it was hard to know about compatibility without knowing the characteristics of the tenants, from the information provided by KATS, the development would meet this criterion. The Chairperson stated that he, like Mr. Block, felt that the density of the development was too great and would generate too much traffic. Further, the appearance of the site was not compatible in that there was not enough greenspace and unsightly retention basins were located along West Main Street.

The Planning Commission next discussed whether the proposed use would be detrimental or injurious to the use or development of adjacent properties or to the general neighborhood. Planning Commission members agreed that office use in general was not injurious to residential use. However, as designed, this proposed development would be injurious. The Chairperson felt that the proposed development would have a "big impact" on the residences to the west. Mr. Block agreed, as did Mr. Corakis and Mr. Heisig.

Mr. Block stated he felt that the applicant should be given the opportunity to redesign the site and come back to the Planning Commission. The Chairperson agreed, stating he felt that the applicant should redesign the site to come within the 25’ height limitation or obtain a variance prior to the Planning Commission’s next consideration of the item. Mr. Heisig stated that, as depicted in the drawings presented by Mr. Wierenga, he liked the character of the design as presented. However, he was also concerned about the density.

The Planning Commission next considered whether the proposed use would promote the public health, safety, morals and general welfare. Traffic again was of primary concern. Planning Commission members felt that, if the density were not so great and there were changes to the design of the property, the proposed development might comply with this criterion. It was noted that an approval had been provided in 1996 for a proposed development at the site with much less density. Planning Commission members stated that they were in favor of the Engineer’s suggestion of a potential connection to the property to the north and the possibility of cross access. The Chairperson again expressed concern about landscaping.

The Planning Commission felt that, if the site were redesigned, it could make use of the land in accord with its character and adaptability. It was felt that the topography at the site could be utilized and more detail given as to landscaping, including identification of the trees which would be retained.

In response to a request by the Chairperson that he comment on the possibility of tabling the item for redesign, Mr. Wierenga stated he was concerned that tabling the item would be a problem due to the deadline they had received from the Kalamazoo County Road Commission. The Road Commission had indicated a May deadline for making the changes necessary for the project to be made a part of the 10th Street road improvement project of the Road Commission. He stated that there would be a mix of tenants and so he felt that the traffic concerns were not valid. However, in the last analysis, Mr. Wierenga stated that he was not opposed to tabling the item. It was noted that the Zoning Board of Appeals could consider variance at its meeting on April 19, 1999. It was noted that the applicant would need to present his application on Friday, April 9, 1999.

Mr. Block moved to table this item to April 22, 1999, as the first item at that meeting. Mr. Corakis seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.



The Planning Commission next discussed scheduling a public hearing on the application of Mr. and Mrs. Seelbinder for rezoning property at 2215 N. Drake Road from the "R-2" to the "R-3" Residence District zoning classification. There was a discussion of area zoning, including the high school located in the City of Kalamazoo across the street. After discussion, Planning Commission members agreed that no other zones would be considered and the area under consideration would not be expanded.

Mr. Corakis moved to schedule public hearing for May 27, 1999. Mr. Block seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.


Due to the lateness of the hour, it was decided that this item would be discussed at the next meeting, time permitting.


Ms. Stefforia suggested that the Planning Commission add three items to the work plan, i.e., landscaping text, sign text revisions and revisions to parking. Planning Commission members agreed, noting that, in addition, their priority would be the Village Commercial text.


After Planning Commissioner comments, the meeting was adjourned at 10:07 p.m.

Minutes prepared:
April 9, 1999

Minutes approved: