September 20, 1999



A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, September 20, 1999, commencing at approximately 3:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township.

Thomas Brodasky, Chairperson
David Bushouse
Sharon Kuntzman
William Saunders

Millard Loy

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


The meeting was called to order at 3:02 p.m.


The Board considered the application of West Pointe Development, L.L.C. for a variance from the 25-foot height limitation for buildings within a previously approved office park development. The subject property is 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.

The subject property received special exception use approval for the West Pointe Centre Office Park on April 22, 1999. The project consists of four (4) two-story walkout buildings and five (5) two-story buildings. Each building would have 10,000 square feet of area. Section 23.404a, with regard to the criteria for office buildings within the "R-3" District as a special exception use, provides that such buildings shall not be more than 25 feet in height. The previous developer of the project had requested ZBA approval of a height variance of 35 feet and was denied on April 19, 1999.

The project was now being developed by Granger Planning and Development which asked that the ZBA consider a variance to prevent allow a maximum building height of 32 feet. The applicant felt that the additional height would enable the buildings to be constructed with a pitched roof instead of a flat roof.

Ms. Bugge described the research she had done with regard to three and four family dwellings in the "R-3" District. She found that those built within the "Quail" neighborhood consisted of two-story town houses with heights of 32 feet and one-story condos with a 23 foot height. Both types of buildings had pitched roofs.

The staff had also reviewed 30 single family building permits issued between June 1 and September 15, 1999. There were 11 one-story homes with heights ranging from 16.5 feet to 28 feet, and an average height of 20.9 feet. The majority of homes, 15, were two-story and ranged in height from 24.5 feet to 36 feet.

Ms. Bugge also pointed out that the Walnut Woods Office project across the street on West Main had a rear elevation height of 31 feet. This was significant in that this is the elevation which faces the residential neighborhood. Ms. Bugge also reported that an office park in the Commercial District, West Wood Office Park on Holiday Lane, had a 35-foot building height on the elevation facing U. S. 131.

The Chairperson made reference to the supplemental setback provisions of Section 64.750. These provisions varied the setback applicable based on the height of the proposed building. The Chairperson asked Ms. Bugge about the homes facing this project along 10th Street. She stated that those immediately across the street were ranch style, single family homes.

Tom Ackles of Granger Planning and Development was present on behalf of the applicant. Mr. Ackles presented depictions of how the applicant would like the buildings to appear. He felt that it was significant that the applicant had met all Township requirements except as to building height. The applicant wished the roof appearance to be more aesthetically pleasing and residential in character. Therefore, a pitched roof was preferable to a flat roof in the applicant's opinion.

Mr. Ackles reviewed the variance criteria, first discussing whether conformance was unnecessarily burdensome. Mr. Ackles felt that conformance was burdensome and that the applicant would like to "enjoy the same height privileges that other buildings in the area were allowed." He admitted that the applicant could build without a variance, but this would necessitate a flat roof type. The applicant was seeking a minimum pitch of 4:12 with a shingled roof. The applicant stated that they would rather not go with a metal or other roof type which would not be as compatible with the residential area. However, in order to give the tenants a reasonable ceiling height, the applicant was facing certain design limitations unless the variance was granted. As to substantial justice, Mr. Ackles felt that it was significant that other buildings within the area, including the Walnut Woods Office Park, had approximate heights of 32 feet.

Mr. Ackles felt that it was a unique physical circumstance that the number of buildings had been limited at the site to preserve open space. The developer was trying to get as much leasable area as possible, but still retain an open aesthetically pleasing and natural setting. He stated that there were substantial number of trees, and that the surveyor had tagged many which were at least six inches in diameter. The developer was trying to preserve as many trees as possible. Mr. Ackles admitted that the hardship was self-created, but he felt that the applicant had tried to create buildings having a height no greater than other typical residential structures.

The Chairperson asked whether the applicant was aware that the prior developer had decided that a mansard or Chicago-style mansard roof would be possible at the site. The Chairperson felt that this compromise had seemed acceptable to everyone the last time a variance was considered for this site. Mr. Ackles admitted that a mansard type roof was possible, but felt that such roof types were unusual and would not be as aesthetically pleasing as a pitched roof type.

Mr. Bushouse commented that he had the same opinions as he had expressed at the last meeting with regard to the height variance for this site. He felt that the Planning Commission should re-visit the text to determine whether the 25-foot height limitation should be maintained. Ms. Stefforia agreed, commenting that if offices were to be allowed within a residential district, the developer should be given the opportunity to design them to be harmonious with the residential buildings in the area.

The Chairperson was concerned that a variance would be nullifying the Ordinance provision as to height and setting an undesirable precedent.

The Township Attorney reminded the Zoning Board of Appeals that at the prior meeting there had been discussion about the possibility that a 31-foot height would be in keeping with the area given the proximity of the property to U. S. 131, the commercial development on the opposite corner, and the height of the Walnut Woods office buildings.

Ms. Bugge stated that, in her opinion, mansard roofs were "dated" in that they were not being built anymore. She felt that it was significant that the homes across the street, although single story, had a pitched roof and not a flat roof type.

The Chairperson called for public comment, and Peg Cancro who lives across the street from the site, opposite to the proposed building six, expressed concern that this variance was being discussed at a meeting which the 20+ residents who had appeared at the Planning Commission meeting were unable to attend. She felt the project had caused the residents of the area much anguish. She noted that the sewer project had "not been put in correctly" and that now the street had been raised.

In her opinion, the variance would not be in keeping with the residential character of the area. She felt that it was significant that the homes across the street from the Walnut Woods project where two story, and therefore, the Walnut Woods buildings were in character with the residences in proximity thereto. Here the homes across the street are ranch style and not two story. The buildings proposed, in her opinion, were not in character with her home, and she urged the Zoning Board of Appeals to again deny the variance.

Fred Antosz, also a 10th Street resident, agreed with Ms. Cancro's comments. He felt that most of the large trees on the property had already been torn down. He felt that most of the trees remaining were "scrub". He also felt that the Zoning Board of Appeals should abide by its previous decision.

Ms. Stefforia noted that many of the trees which had been removed came down as a result of the road/sewer project.

The public hearing was closed, and Mr. Bushouse reminded the Board that the property in question had, at one time, been within the Commercial District. There had been a lot of concern about commercial uses which might locate at this site. He felt that this project, out of all the possible uses that could have been made of the property, would have the least negative impact on the homes in the area and offered a buffer between the residences and U. S. 131. He felt that offices at the site were the best use of the property.

Mr. Bushouse also commented that mansard type roofs were popular in the late 60's but now looked dated and commercial. He felt that a pitched roof type would have a more residential character. Mr. Bushouse also noted two homes built further down 10th Street, on the east side, which looked very similar to the buildings proposed by the applicant.

The Chairperson expressed concern about setting a precedent and opening up variances to other properties. Mr. Bushouse felt that this property is unique given its location and proximity to U. S. 131, and the commercial zoning across the street. He felt that the location as a buffer area is unique. Additionally, in his opinion, the proposed design would meet the intent and spirit of the Ordinance.

Ms. Kuntzman agreed with the comments of Mr. Bushouse, and reiterated that she felt that the pitched roof type was more in keeping with the residential character. Moreover, if the area were developed as a plat, i.e., residential subdivision, then many of the homes built could be as high or higher than the offices proposed. However, she, too, would hate to set an undesirable precedent.

Mr. Saunders was concerned that homes in this area were not of the height proposed. However, he agreed with Mr. Bushouse's comments and felt that a pitched roof would be more residential in character.

Mr. Bushouse moved to grant the variance to allow a building height of up to 32 feet on the condition that the pitch of the roofs on all buildings was at least 4:12, with the following reasoning:

(1) Compliance was unnecessarily burdensome. Although other design options were possible, other designs would require a flat roof type which was not in character with residential design. A variance would allow development of buildings in keeping with the height and roof types of residential two-story homes.

(2) Substantial justice would be served by granting the variance given the character of the Walnut Woods offices across the street.

(3) Unique physical circumstances existed based upon the proximity of the site to U. S. 131 and the commercial property across West Main Street; the property acted as a buffer to the residences in the area.

(4) The spirit and intent of the Ordinance would be met by granting the variance, in that the provisions of the Ordinance from which a variance was requested were designed to ensure residential character; granting a variance in this instance would allow a design of buildings which were more residential in character.

Ms. Kuntzman seconded the motion, and the motion carried three-to-one with the Chairperson voting in opposition.


There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 4:00 p.m.