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January 11, 2001





A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Planning Commission on Thursday, January 11, 2001, commencing at approximately 7:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Elizabeth Heiny-Cogswell
Stanley Rakowski
Neil Sikora
Ted Corakis
Deborah Everett
Kathleen Garland-Rike
James Turcott


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


Elizabeth Heiny-Cogswell, as the Acting Chairperson, called the meeting to order at 7:04 p.m. She welcomed the new members to the Planning Commission.


Mr. Corakis nominated Mr. Rakowski for election as Chairperson. Mr. Rakowski declined the nomination. Ms. Heiny-Cogswell nominated Neil Sikora for election as Chairperson. Mr. Rakowski seconded the nomination. There were no other nominations, and upon a vote, Mr. Sikora was unanimously elected.

As to Vice Chairperson, Mr. Corakis nominated Mr. Rakowski. Ms. Everett seconded the motion. There were no other nominations, and upon a vote, Mr. Rakowski was unanimously elected.

Mr. Corakis nominated Elizabeth Heiny-Cogswell as Secretary. Mr. Sikora seconded the nomination, and upon a vote, Ms. Heiny-Cogswell was unanimously elected.


Mr. Sikora took over duties as Chairperson of the meeting and asked if there were any changes to the Agenda. Mr. Corakis moved to approve the Agenda as submitted, and Mr. Rakowski seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.


The Planning Commission considered the minutes of December 7, 2000, and December 14, 2000. Typographical errors on pages 6 and 8 were identified.

Mr. Rakowski moved to approve the December 7, 2000 minutes as submitted, and the December 14, 2000 minutes as corrected. Mr. Corakis seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.


The Planning Commission conducted a public hearing regarding the proposed amendment to Section 68.000 of the Zoning Ordinance, updating the off-street parking and loading requirements. Definitions would be added to Section 11.000 and a minor change made to Section 24.207(C) regarding driving aisle width within multiple family developments. The Report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference.

Ms. Bugge suggested a change to Section 68.300 to correct lettering. A typographical error was identified in Section 68.500. Ms. Bugge suggested that the Planning Commission hold off on a recommendation regarding Section 24.207.C. She stated that Staff was examining the possibility of changes to other sections of the Zoning Ordinance to coordinate and make consistent the widths of aisles and streets. She felt that the change to Section 24.207.C should be included in this consideration.

There was discussion of whether the Planning Commission should add reference to maintaining paved areas in a good condition. The Township Attorney opined that site plan review and approval provisions for all site improvements by inference required that site improvements be maintained to have continued compliance with site plan approval.

No public comment was offered, and the public hearing was closed.

Ms. Bugge discussed the "background" of the item for new members of the Planning Commission. She noted that, prior to this project, no updates of the parking provisions had been done in some time. There had been concern that some uses did not have enough parking, like restaurants, while other uses had more than was necessary, and therefore had excessive paving. The proposed provisions would allow for the banking of parking spaces if it was felt that the parking required was not necessary, and deviation for existing uses.

Ms. Everett asked whether a site would be in compliance if snow accumulation blocked parking spaces. Ms. Stefforia responded that, since the provisions required that adequate spaces be maintained to serve the use, in some circumstances, snow accumulation may require removal of the snow in order for the site to be in compliance with the parking standards. However, a site would not have to assure that all spaces were free of snow, only that adequate spaces were available to serve the use.

Mr. Rakowski moved to recommend the amendment to Section 68.000 with the typographical changes suggested by Ms. Bugge and the addition of the Section 11.000 definitions as proposed. Mr. Corakis seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.


The Planning Commission discussed revision to Section 66.201 concerning the required separation between buildings on the same parcel, lot or building site. The Report of the Planning and Zoning Department is incorporated herein by reference.

Section 66.201 requires the 40-foot separation between buildings placed on the same lot, parcel or building site. Section 64.101 requires a 10-foot minimum setback from any rear or interior side property line in residential zones, "AG", "R-1", "R-2", and "R-3". Consequently, residential buildings placed on separate parcels, lots or building sites will have a minimum separation of 20 feet, 10 feet on either side of the property line. Section 64.300 establishes the minimum setback in commercial and industrial districts of 20 feet from rear and interior side property lines.

Ms. Bugge indicated that the fire and building codes do not require building separation. However, the amount of separation impacts on construction techniques and the fire suppression methods that are required.

Reference was made to Section 66.204, and it was noted that the building separation requirements may serve aesthetic purposes and limit density.

Ms. Garland-Rike felt that the Planning Commission should consider linking building separation to building height. However, she felt there may be some benefit to clustering buildings. Ms. Everett agreed that building height is important in that tall buildings could block light sources and can create an urban character.

There was discussion of the control of density, and Ms. Bugge noted that the Zoning Ordinance includes limitations on lot, parcel and building site coverage and controls the number of dwelling units per acre.

Ms. Stefforia suggested that the Planning Commission consider requiring a 20-foot separation in the "AG" through "R-3" Residence District. There would be no change to the "R-4" and "R-5" Districts.

The Township Attorney stated that she felt it might make sense to control building separation by dwelling type rather than by district. Therefore, single-family, two-family, three-family and four-family dwelling units would be required to have a 20-foot separation. Multi-family (five units and above) would require a 40-foot separation. This would allow more clustering of buildings.

The Chairperson stated that he felt that a change might allow developers to leave more of their property undisturbed. However, the change would not increase overall density allowed on sites. A developer would be allowed the same number of units, but be allowed to place them closer together if he chose. Mr. Rakowski felt that this would theoretically lead to more green space and open space preservation. Planning Commissioners concurred that the commercial and industrial districts should remain "as is" with regard to building separation.

Ms. Bugge indicated that she would prepare a draft of the provisions which would be presented at a future meeting.


The Planning Commission considered the current "AG" provisions.

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

Ms. Stefforia reported that there were approximately 16,000 acres of property in the "AG" District within the Township. This represented about 69% of the Township. Approximately 80% of the "AG" zoned land is vacant. She stated that there were 79 parcels which were 40 acres or more. There was a concern, based upon the recent change to the Right to Farm Act, that some farming operations, which would be inconsistent with residential plats and residential use, could be located on parcels of 40 acres or larger.

There was further concern in that only 1/4 of the Township has public sewer available. This 1/4 area did not cover some areas where development was occurring, namely in the Springwood Hills area, H Avenue and 9th/10th Streets. About 1/3 of the Township had public water available. Ms. Stefforia presented potential build-out estimates, noting that approximately 11,136 new residences could be established regardless of utilities, and approximately 52,800 new residences if both water and sewer were available.

Planning Commissioners had questions with regard to the "AG" acreage which was actually used for agricultural purposes. Ms. Stefforia stated that there were only about 2,200 acres truly utilized for agricultural farm operations.

Ms. Stefforia noted that the Planning Commission may wish to consider changing minimum parcel sizes in some areas of the Township due to the unavailability of utilities. There was a discussion of the possibility of creating a rural residential district into which much of what is now agriculturally zoned could be transferred.

Ms. Stefforia suggested a citizen survey to see how residents of the Township feel about the future of the community.

The Township Attorney discussed the recent changes to the Right to Farm Act and their impact on use of agricultural property.

Ms. Stefforia indicated that she would provide a map of agricultural uses at a future meeting. Further, it was felt that there could be consultation with the County and/or representatives of Western Michigan University concerning those areas of the Township which should remain agriculturally zoned due to soil types, etc.

Ms. Heiny-Cogswell felt that there were a number of important issues to take into account, including utilities and natural features. She felt it was important to preserve appropriate farm properties and historic farms. Moreover, she was concerned about preserving the rural atmosphere of the Township by protecting the tree-lined streets, encouraging less automobile traffic and congestion. She felt that, in certain areas of the Township, high density plats should be avoided.

There was discussion of minimum lot, parcel or building site size in a rural residential district and whether 10-acre, 5-acre or 3-acre parcels could be required. It was the consensus that there would be a need for further study on this issue and that changing of minimum lot, parcel and building site sizes might better be handled as a project separate from creation of the rural-residential district.

Ms. Stefforia indicated that she would bring further information regarding this issue to a future meeting.


There was a reshuffling of the seating on the dias. There was discussion of the upcoming workshops available to new Planning Commission members.


Mr. Corakis welcomed the new members, and Mr. Rakowski concurred. Mr. Turcott indicated that he was happy to be on the Planning Commission and looked forward to working with the other Planning Commission members. Ms. Garland-Rike echoed Mr. Turcott's comments and stated that she was looking forward to working on the rural-residential district project in particular.

Ms. Stefforia reported that she had talked with a member of the Elk's who indicated that no land had been sold to Home Depot and that the Elk's was not planning any such sale.

The Chairperson thanked the Planning Commission members for their vote of confidence in him.


There being no further business to come before the Planning Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.



Minutes prepared:
January 15, 2001

Minutes approved:
, 2001