Meeting Minutes

November 13, 1997







A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Planning Commission on Thursday, November 13, 1997, commencing at approximately 7:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall, pursuant to notice.

Members present:

Wilfred Dennie, Chairperson
Marvin Block
Ted Corakis
Millard Loy
Lara Meeuwse
Elizabeth Heiny-Cogswell
Ken Heisig

Members Absent: None

Also present were Rebecca Harvey and Mike West of the Planning and Zoning Department, Patricia R. Mason, Township Attorney, Robert Snell, Township Engineer, and approximately sixteen (16) other interested persons.


The Chairperson called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.


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


The Planning Commission considered the minutes of the meeting of October 23, 1997. Ms. Meeuwse suggested corrections to the typographical errors on pages 4 and 5. Mr. Corakis moved to approve the minutes as amended, and Ms. Meeuwse seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

As to the minutes of the meeting of October 30, 1997, Ms. Meeuwse moved to approve the minutes as submitted. Mr. Heisig seconded the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.


The next item was consideration of the application of Wahmhoff Farms for special exception use permit/site plan review for approval to allow for the outdoor display and sale of Christmas trees (annually from the day after Thanksgiving until December 26 of each year) at the site of West Main Mall. The subject property is located within the SE╝ of Land Section 13 on the west side of Drake Road and the south side of West Main. The property is situated within the "C-1" District Zoning classification.

The Planning and Zoning Department's report is incorporated herein by reference.

The applicant currently has approval and utilizes a portion of the West Main Mall parking lot for Christmas tree sales. The area approved is east of the former Zayre's with Drake Road exposure. The applicant now proposes a second Christmas tree sales lot to be located upon West Main Mall property, within the northern portion of the Hardings' parking lot (with a West Main Street exposure).

The applicant was present, stating again that the proposal included an addtional sales lot within the site of West Main Mall.

In response to questioning by the Chairperson, the applicant stated that the hours of operation would be week days from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Lighting at the site would be the "same sort of lighting utilized at the existing Christmas tree sales lot." There would be a string of 25-watt light bulbs within the tree lot display and sales area. Signage would be affixed to the "office trailer." The trailer would be located within the northeast corner of the site. Reference was made to the drawing submitted by the applicant.

The Chairperson sought public comment, and none was offered. The public hearing was closed.

It was noted that the applicant had received site plan approval for the annual retail Christmas tree sales lot located to the east of the former Zayre's on September 11, 1989. The Chairperson also noted that the Township had approved other similar applications.

The Planning Commission began a review of the special exception use criteria of Section 60.100. The Planning Commission considered whether the proposal would be compatible with other uses permitted in the "C-1" Zoning District classification. The Chairperson noted that the Township had historically concluded that this type of use is compatible with other uses allowed in the "C-1" District. As to whether the proposal would negatively impact adjacent properties, it was the consensus of the Planning Commission that since other outdoor sales activities of a temporary nature were already conducted on this site, there would be no negative impact.

The Planning Commission considered whether the proposal would promote the public health, safety and welfare of the community. It was noted that the site plan complies with Ordinance standards with regard to setback, parking, etc. However, it was felt that the approval should be conditioned on compliance with Township Fire Department review and approval. It was further noted that site circulation, ingress and egress were not impeded by the proposed use. It was felt that, given the experience of other similar operations, no additional security would be needed.

The Planning Commission considered whether the proposal would encourage use of the land in accord with its character and adaptability. The proposal involved a temporary use with hours of operation which were similar to normal mall hours of operation. Signage would be minimal. Lighting would be in keeping with other such operations. Further, there would be no event anticipatible given other operations within the Township.

Reference was made to Section 31.403, and it was noted that the applicant proposes to occupy 32 existing parking spaces for the tree display and sales activities. Fifteen (15) existing parking spaces to the north of the display and sales area would be utilized for patron parking. Further, it was again noted that the display and sales lot would meet Ordinance setback standards. Further, there would be no interference with the traffic pattern at the site of West Main Mall and Hardings.

As to Section 82.800, the Planning Commission reviewed the criteria of this section. As to access, Ms. Heiny-Cogswell queried whether there would be additional traffic of a volume which would impair the existing access points. Mr. Loy stated he did not feel a temporary use of this nature would generate the kind of traffic volume which would have a negative impact on existing drives. Mr. Corakis agreed, stating he felt that most customers for the site would be Hardings' customers.

There was discussion of the parking spaces which would be utilized, noting that a total of 2,074 parking spaces are currently provided at the West Main Mall property and that 1,927 were required under the Ordinance. Calculating the number of spaces utilized by Wahmhoff Farms' two Christmas tree sales lots, 40 spaces in excess of that required would still remain.

Ms. Meeuwse questioned whether December 26 would be the final date for use of the site, and the applicant indicated that it would be the "clean-up date."

Ms. Meeuwse moved to approve the special exception use permit, finding that the proposal met the criteria of Section 60.100 pursuant to the previous discussion of the Planning Commission. The motion was conditioned upon compliance of the use with Fire Department review and approval. Mr. Loy seconded the motion.

There was no public comment on the motion, and the motion carried unanimously.

Ms. Meeuwse moved for approval of the site plan, finding that the requirements of Sections 31.403 and 82.800 had been met, and with the following conditions, limitations and notations:

(1) That the proposed use would utilize existing entrances and access drives associated with West Main Mall and Hardings.

(2) That the proposed use would utilize 47 parking spaces within the West Main Mall site, leaving adequate parking for the Hardings and West Main Mall uses.

(3) That the tree display and sales activity would not protrude into the access aisles adjacent to the north, south and west and could be serviced safely.

(4) That existing parking lot lighting would be utilized for the site with the exception of 80 25-watt light bulbs strung throughout the tree lot display and sales area.

(5) That there would be no free-standing or directional signage utilized. Wall signage on the trailer must be in compliance with Section 76.135 and be reviewed and approved through the permit process.

(6) That the dumpster proposal was satisfactory.

(7) That approval was subject to the review and approval of the Township Fire Department.

(8) That the proposed use was approved to operate annually from the day after Thanksgiving through December 26.

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


The Chairperson noted that the item had been tabled from the meeting of October 23, 1997, at which meeting public comment had been received. The Chairperson reviewed the comments offered at the public hearing, noting that many were directed at the boundaries of the Overlay Zone rather than the text of the Overlay Zone. He noted that the Planning Commission had noticed a large geographical area so as to provide flexibility in setting the boundaries. It was recognized that the Planning Commission could not enlarge the proposed area from that which had been noticed. Therefore, the Planning Commission had attempted to notice the maximum possible boundaries.

There were also many public comments regarding sewer availability. Therefore, the Planning Commission had invited Bob Snell, Township Engineer, to be present and speak with regard to this issue. The Chairperson asked that Mr. Snell address the Planning Commission.

Mr. Snell displayed a drawing of the area in question, noting that the sewer system in this area had been planned in the 1970's and that the three crossings under US 131 were funded by EPA programs. There was a primary sewer running along KL Avenue designed to go "up" KL Avenue and along the railroad right-of-way. He stated that the 27" sewer line was intended to service Stadium Drive and a portion of West Main to 8th Street.

It was the original plan that this sewer line be extended up the 9th Street extension and that another line be extended up through the Country Club Village Plat. He stated that there had not been much interest in the extension through the plat. However, when the Meijer store required sewer extension, the 9th Street extension was constructed along with the sewer project. This project was paid for by Meijer.

The Engineer described what he had marked on the drawing as the "divide line" between the two interceptors. He noted that there is an extension of the 9th Street line east to the west line of the medical center property. This line could be extended east to the "divide line area" and perhaps further, depending upon topography and use. Mr. Snell noted that it would be the preference to serve that area along West Main to the east of the "divide line" through a connection to the future Country Club Village extension line.

There was a discussion of the possibility of the need for pump stations at various portions of the area.

In response to questioning by the Chairperson, the Engineer stated that the system was designed to extend north along 9th Street. Returning again to a possible extension east from the medical center property along West Main, the Engineer stated that topography could interfere with the reasonableness of the extension. However, it was noted that topography could be changed to accommodate the sewer line.

Returning to discussion of the area between the medical center and DeKorne's, the Engineer stated it would be preferable to connect a quarter mile from the east of the medical center to the medical center extension and connect the quarter mile west of 11th Street to the future line through Country Club Village. The Engineer stated, in response to questioning, that the properties north of KL Avenue and east of 9th Street would be able to hook into sewer; stubs were available for this extension.

The Planning Commission returned to a discussion of the boundaries of the proposed Overlay Zone. Ms. Harvey noted that the Ordinance requires that unplatted parcels have 50,000 sq. ft. and 200' of frontage. Therefore, utilizing an average parcel configured at 200' x 250', she had applied the design standards of the proposed text and determined that, using worst-case standards, there would be a 25,000-sq.-ft. building area available on an average parcel. It was noted that site condominium and platted lots could be smaller than 50,000 sq. ft. and 200' of frontage. Therefore, it was felt that 660' of depth would accommodate development within the Overlay Zone two parcels deep with a 66' right-of-way for an interior public street system.

Mr. Corakis stated he felt, however, that a 660' depth was "a little too tight" and that at least 800' of depth would be appropriate. Ms. Heiny-Cogswell agreed, stating she wished to allow for design flexibility to retain the topographical features of the area. She noted the public comments which had been received about the need for a "buffer" between the residential area of the plat and the Overlay Zone. She stated that the Overlay Zone office use would be a special exception use. Therefore, the "buffer" could be addressed on a case-by-case, parcel-by-parcel basis in the site plan review process.

The Chairperson stated that he, too, felt that the topographical changes in the area might not be accommodated if the depth were limited to 660'.

Ms. Heiny-Cogswell stated she would like to see a depth of 1,320' and that screening, placement of open space, etc., could be addressed with each individual application.

Ms. Harvey said that there were a number of approaches available to address the "buffer." One method would be to leave a physical distance between the Overlay Zone and the Country Club Plat. A second method would be to extend the Overlay Zone boundaries to the plat and use the special exception use review process to restrict use within a "buffer" area. A third way would be to amend the Overlay Zone text to create "buffer" language.

Mr. Block stated he agreed that the depth should be extended 1,320' so as to allow the Commission to review the buffer on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Loy suggested that the Overlay Zone not be extended to the west edge of the plat. He suggested extending the depth 2/3 of the 1,320' and not extending the zone past parcel 050 along West Main.

The Chairperson stated that he was sensitive to the concerns of the Country Club residents. However, he was disturbed by the comments in that they pictured the neighborhood as an island. He felt that it would be impractical to isolate the plat from all development in the area.

Returning to the issue of depth, Mr. Heisig stated he felt that the depth along KL Avenue should be like that which would be established along West Main for consistency.

Most Planning Commission members eventually concurred that, to serve the Master Land Use Plan purpose of protecting existing residential development, there should be a physical separation between the Overlay Zone and the plat boundaries, and that further protection could be addressed in the special exception use and site plan review processes. It was recognized that the boundaries of the Overlay Zone could be further extended in depth at a future date if it were deemed appropriate.

There was discussion of the requirement of the text that uses within the Overlay Zone be serviced by municipal sewer. It was noted that the Engineer presentation indicated the present sewer system had the capacity to be extended within the 9th Street Focus Area. However, there were some properties along West Main in the "divide line" area indicated by the Engineer which might not be able to be accommodated, depending upon topography and/or the proposed use.

The Township Attorney noted that the text could remain as written and a future applicant could seek a variance from this provision through the Zoning Board of Appeals if the applicant's property fell within an area which could not be serviced by municipal sewer at this time. Ms. Meeuwse agreed, stating that she, however, would like to see the Zoning Board of Appeals condition any such variances on the provision of the municipal sewer when it becomes available. Mr. Loy concurred, stating he would also like to see the Zoning Board of Appeals make sure that on-site disposal had the approval of the County Health Department.

Again, Ms. Heiny-Cogswell noted with regard to the depth issue that she would like to see 1,320' of depth and the use of the special exception use approval as a mechanism for providing a "buffer." She felt that this depth would provide the maximum opportunity for design flexibility. The Chairperson stated again that the Overlay Zone boundaries could be expanded at a later date.

There was discussion of the proposed building height definition, noting that the height would be measured to the midpoint on a hip, gable or gambrel roof. With that proviso, Mr. Corakis was comfortable that the proposed definition would provide a sufficient roof slope.

Ms. Meeuwse moved to recommend the text of Section 11.309 and Section 50.000 et seq. (See Attachment 1 hereto.) Mr. Loy seconded the motion.

The Chairperson asked for public comment, and Ed Sharp stated that he recommended adoption of the text. The public hearing was closed and, upon a vote on the motion, the motion carried unanimously.

Ms. Meeuwse moved to recommend that the following property be zoned 9th Street Focus Area Overlay Zone:

(A) An area on the south side of West Main Street in the SE╝ of Land Section 14,
from the SE╝ section line east along West Main approximately 1,920' (to the east line of parcel 050) to a depth of 880' from the right-of-way of West Main.

(B) An area on the north side of KL Avenue in the NE╝ of Land Section 23 and the west half of Land Section 24 from 9th Street east along KL Avenue approximately 4,500' to a depth of 880' from the right-of-way line of KL Avenue.

It was noted that the zoning to the Overlay Zone would not alter the underlying zoning of the property described.

See Attachment 2.

Mr. Corakis seconded the motion.

Ed Sharp stated that he recommended that the right-of-way line not be used as the measuring point in that surveying utilized the centerline as a measurement. He thought that the boundaries should be 2/3 of 1,320' as measured from the centerline.

Jeff Bertolissi queried what would be done with the remaining 440' of depth, and it was noted that the Overlay Zone would not change underlying zoning. Therefore, any "R-2" use could be developed within the 440', as well as the 880' of depth within the Overlay Zone. Therefore, the remaining property in the 9th Street Focus Area would remain developable in any use allowed within the "R-2" District.

Mr. Bertolissi commented he felt that the Commission should consider 1,320' of depth to allow for design flexibility.

Gordon Stocking stated that, since 660' would allow development which would meet design standards, the Planning Commission should recommend a depth of 660'.

Jack Hamilton stated he felt that a depth of 1,320' would be a good depth to allow design flexibility and would better allow for "buffering" through the special exception use approval process.

Bob Copeland noted that the property within the "R-2" District could be developed with duplexes, which are typically a "buffer" between single-family development and other more intense development.

Mr. Sharp commented that historically the area had been "R-2" zoned and that the property purchased therein had been had been purchased with knowledge of the zoning.

Mr. Block noted that measuring from the right-of-way line would not affect the "ownership" lines of the property and also noted that the depth could be extended at a later time.

Ms. Meeuwse stated she felt that residential development was more likely if the Overlay Zone were developed. Further, she felt it was significant that future residential development would know that their property abutted the Overlay Zone.

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

Upon a vote on the motion, it carried unanimously.


Ms. Harvey noted that staff was still working on this project and would update the Planning Commission on November 20, 1997.


There was discussion of the joint meeting with the Township Board, the primary issue being to receive the historic resources survey. At the Planning Commission meeting of November 20, 1997, the public hearing would be conducted on the text of the Commercial Center provisions.

There was a discussion of the work items which could be dealt with, and it was noted that Ms. Heiny-Cogswell would present information with regard to the Kal-Haven Trail.


There being no further business to come before the Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 9:45 p.m.




By: ____________________________________________

Lara Meeuwse, Secretary

Minutes prepared:
November 14, 1997

Minutes approved:
December 11, 1997