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Minutes - September 6, 2016


Regular Meeting

September 6, 2016

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Marion Hoeve at 7:00 p.m.

Present:   Chairman Marion Hoeve, Vice-Chairman/Secretary Jack Vander Meulen and Members Ken Bosma, Dennis Gebben, La Verne Johnson, Norm Nykamp and Ed Zylstra. Also present was Planner Corey Broersma and Recording Secretary Amy LeVesque.

Absent:   Planner Meghann Reynolds.

The minutes of the regular meeting of August 9, 2016 were approved as written.

Mr. Hoeve explained the meeting and hearing procedures for the assembled audience.

Mr. Hoeve next opened the public hearing to consider an application for a preliminary planned unit development (PUD) submitted by William T. Mast on behalf of West Shore Pines, LLC. The proposed development would be located on property along West Shore Drive south of Riley Street that is currently vacant land zoned C-2 General Commercial. According to information provided in the application, the developers wish to split the 10.83 acre property, parcel number 70-16-16-100-125, into a 2.64 acre lot with frontage on West Shore Drive and an 8.19 acre lot to serve as the site of the proposed PUD. The proposed development is for a residential apartment complex of seven buildings, each to be three stories, for a total of 132 apartments. The project is to be served by public water main, public sanitary sewer, private stormwater retention basin, private access drives, multiple carports and landscaping. Present for this request were Mr. Bill Mast of Visser Brothers, Inc. and Mr. James Herrick of James Herrick Architect, LLC.

Mr. Mast explained that the original preliminary PUD request for the project from 2013 was put on hold due to the downturn in the economy a few years ago but that there is now strong demand for rental housing in the area. He also explained that the proposed multi-unit residential development would serve as a transition between the commercial area to the west and residential areas to the east of the property.

Mr. Vander Muelen commented that Commissioners’ suggestions from the June 4, 2013 Planning Commission meeting such as greenspace and recreational space, landscaping and berms along the west property line, sidewalks, and a bus shelter, were not included in the submitted plans.

Mr. Mast explained that some of the items suggested have been incorporated into plans for the development and that more will be included in future plans such as a bus shelter, secondary driveway, gazebo, bridge, sidewalks, and landscaping including a four to six foot berm along the western property line that borders commercial property. He also explained that the secondary driveway would access West Shore Drive and would be located to the south of the Dairy Queen property. He explained that his company, along with the retail center to the south, owns the property where the secondary driveway would be located. He also stated that it might be possible to share a driveway onto West Shore Drive with the future Hilton Home 2 Suites hotel to be located south of the Wendy’s property. He explained that there is no development currently planned for the vacant portion of his parcel located south of the proposed hotel along West Shore Drive (which would result from the proposed parcel split).

In response to a question from Mr. Nykamp regarding the proposed driveway to Riley Street, Mr. Broersma commented that he likes the boulevard design, however, driveway dimensions are not included on plans and is concerned that the proposed driveway flares extend past property lines. He stated that the Ottawa County Road Commission (OCRC) would ultimately approve the driveway. He also stated that the Riley Street road frontage is too narrow to meet the Township’s 90 foot frontage requirement, meaning that a variance or 66 wide private access and utility easement would be needed.

Mr. Bosma commented that adjacent property owners may be willing to allow the driveway flares to extend into their property frontage. He questioned whether it would be possible for developers to use the existing driveway between Advance Auto Parts and the Cancer & Hematology Center of West Michigan onto Riley Street.

Mr. Mast stated that that driveway is a shared easement between the two neighboring properties and that he would look into the possibility of using the driveway.

Mr. Gebben commented that the proposed apartment complex would have the highest buildings in the area and asked how it would fit in with neighboring development. Mr. Mast agreed to submit a skyline-type drawing showing how the proposed development will appear in comparison with surrounding properties.

In response to a question from Mr. Hoeve, Mr. Broersma explained that buildings in Windmill Lakes Apartments located on Riley Street, meet the 35 foot and two and one half story requirements. He further described their buildings as being 3 stories in back because of the rear walkouts.

Mr. Gebben questioned why the 35 foot height limit was implemented. Mr. Hoeve explained that when the zoning ordinance was drafted years ago, the fire department’s equipment could not service structures higher than 35 feet. Mr. Broersma commented that the building height limit could also limit density.

Mr. Mast explained that the proposal is for three story buildings of approximately 35 feet with the lower level being entirely above grade. He also explained that the first level would have a brick exterior with the second and third levels to have siding and that buildings would all have a metal roof. He went on to explain that plans are to vary the exterior of buildings by using different colors and material textures. He stated that he plans to construct the development in two phases, instead of the three phases indicated on submitted plans.

In response to a question from Mr. Johnson, Mr. Mast explained that there are no current plans to build any three bedroom apartments but that he may consider altering plans of future buildings if there is demand for three bedroom units.

In response to a question from Mr. Vander Muelen concerning snow removal, Mr. Mast stated that plans are to pile snow into lot corners and landscaped areas and that he will consider placing proposed trees further back from parking areas to allow more room for snow banks.

In response to a question from Mr. Nykamp concerning garbage areas, Mr. Mast explained that they will be built to the same standards as the proposed carports and will likely be located in lot corners.

Mr. Vander Muelen commented that at 16.12 dwelling units per acre, the project’s density is way over the 12 dwelling units per acre limit of the traditional Multi-family (R-3) zoning district. He explained that he agrees that apartment housing is needed in the Township but that the submitted plan attempts to put too much development into too small a space. He also commented that apartment residents appreciate greenspace and that children need outdoor space for play.

Mr. Mast explained that when he met with the Township’s former Planning and Zoning Administrator Jon Mersman a few years ago, Mr. Mersman encouraged him to increase the density of the project. He recalled that Mr. Mersman preferred increased density in this commercial area to residential sprawl into agricultural areas in the Township.

Mr. Vander Muelen and Mr. Johnson both commented that they are not aware of any developments in the Township that have a density of 16.12 dwelling units per acre or greater. Mr. Broersma stated that the adjacent Windmill Lakes complex was capped at 12 units per acre but would he would have to research others.

In response to a question from Mr. Gebben regarding the necessity for the retention pond, Mr. Mast commented that the pond was mostly designed to enhance aesthetics and that it might be possible to reduce its size by one half, resulting in additional greenspace.

Mr. Bosma commented that reducing the size of the pond may not be possible since the Ottawa County Water Resource Commission (OCWRC) is in the process of increasing drainage requirements.

Mr. Gebben commented that he would like to see developers provide comfortable living spaces for residents and that providing greenspace, play areas, and other amenities would result in a quality project with long term viability.

In response to a question from Mr. Broersma, Mr. Herrick stated that parking spaces shown on plans measure nine feet by 20 feet and meet size requirements.

Mr. Broersma commented that the future land use map designates the property and surrounding area as mixed use. He explained that the zoning ordinance does not currently have provisions for mixed use zones. He also presented the following Staff comments:

Property: Confirmation that the property has a split available and 90 feet of frontage can be provided on a public street or a 66 foot wide private access and utility easement is needed. A revised site plan should be submitted indicating the proposed setbacks, building separation distances, lot coverage by buildings, utilities, topography, and easements (access, utility, drain, etc.). Mr. Broersma explained that the Township Assessor is researching whether there is a split available for the property. He also explained that if a split is not available, another option would be to condominiumize the property. He went on to explain that the parcel would then become two separate condominiums on one property with one owner.

Use: Residential dwellings are not a permitted use within the C-2 zoning district, however, the property has been designated as a property suitable for a mixed use zoning district. A determination should be made on the intent of “mixed use”. Is the intent to allow one of several permitted uses to fill a property or is the intent to encourage a combination of uses with a cap on the amount of any one use? Mr. Broersma explained that depending on the definition of a mixed use zone, this residential development may not fit the requirements.

Mr. Hoeve commented that a mixed use zone should include all of the properties in the zone, not multiple uses on a parcel. Mr. Gebben commented that he believes that a mixed use should be more than one type of use per building. Mr. Vander Muelen commented that what the Planning Commission has discussed in the past regarding mixed use has been retail below with residential above in the same building.

Mr. Bosma commented that if the proposed apartments are constructed, it would result in a mixture of residential, shopping, restaurants, an automotive shop, and other types of businesses all within one block.

Mr. Mast commented that he does not believe that buildings with retail below and residential above would work in the area in question.

Mr. Vander Muelen agreed that a retail below and residential above type of development might not be right for the property but that he likes the idea of this kind of development in the Township.

Mr. Gebben commented that a planned campus-type development with varying uses across several parcels would be workable in the area.

Density: The project proposes a density of 16.12 units per acre. The highest residential density permitted in the Township is 12 units per acre within our multi-family (R-3) zoning district. If the use is approved, Staff recommends the R-3 density standard be applied. This will be consistent with our approval of Windmill Lakes Apartments PUD where density was capped at 12 units per acre.

Building Height: Each building is proposed to be three stories in height (approximately 31 feet to midpoint of roof). The maximum height within the C-2 zoning district is 35 feet or two and one half stories. Considering the proposed density exceeds the multi-family (R-3) standard and the neighboring complex, a reduction in the number of stories or number of buildings may be appropriate.

Access: OCRC shall approve the Riley Street boulevard entrance driveway. Access easement road widths shall be 30 feet wide per Article 3, Section 3.14.3 of the zoning ordinance. The fire chief will want to see turning movements on the site plan for an emergency vehicle with a minimum wheelbase of 21 feet, 2 inches. During the June 4, 2013 Planning Commission meeting it was recommended that sidewalks connect to adjacent non-motorized paths along Riley Street and West Shore Drive. Similarly, interior connections should be made to a property bus shelter which should be located on Riley Street. Mr. Broersma commented that the fire chief is currently reviewing plans for the development and has not yet commented.

Parking: The project falls short of the required 330 parking spaces. Staff recommends adhering to the 2.5 spaces per unit requirement, which is based on number of units. Mr. Broersma explained that Commissioners could consider changing ordinance parking requirements for multi-family properties to be based on number of bedrooms per unit, if they wished to amend the ordinance.

Mr. Hoeve commented that plans show a shortage of 43 parking spaces.

Mr. Broersma explained that the development could be considered for a parking variation where the additional 43 spaces would be located on their final development plan and required to be constructed at a later date if needed.

Mr. Hoeve suggested decreasing the number of units to 110 or 120 to allow space for required items including a garbage area and space for snow storage and also to reduce the number of parking spaces that would be required. He also commented that visitor parking should be designated on plans.

In response to a question from Mr. Mast regarding a preference for varying or consistent building heights, Mr. Vander Muelen stated he has no problem with either design concept. He stated that he believes that two story buildings are easier to rent than three story since people do not like to climb stairs. He also suggested decreasing the density of the project and expressed concern whether turn radii would be sufficient to meet fire department requirements.

Mr. Gebben asked if the soil on the property is sandy, if the ground itself will provide some drainage.

Mr. Mast stated that in his experience, sandy soil does soak up moisture but eventually becomes saturated and stops absorbing water. He stated that he plans to widen the drain along the east property line but that he believes that the retention pond is still needed.

In response to a question from Mr. Zylstra, Mr. Mast explained that he is not sure if school buses will drive into the proposed apartment complex or if there will be a bus stop outside the development.

Mr. Broersma reminded developers that location of garbage containers with screening as well as required setbacks for the proposed carports should be included on revised plans. He also stated that copies of approval documents from the OCRC, OCWRC and other required agencies must be submitted to the Township.

There was no one present who wished to ask questions or object to the request.          

**   Mr. Bosma moved and Mr. Nykamp supported the motion to close the public hearing. Motion carried.

Mr. Hoeve asked the applicants to revise plans and submit them to Mr. Broersma for review at a future meeting.

Mr. Broersma next drew Commissioners’ attention to the proposed 2017 Planning Commission budget. He presented figures for actual spending from 2014 and 2015 as well as projected spending for 2016. He explained that the 2017 budget includes estimated expenses such as meetings and allocations for staff salaries.

In response to a question from Mr. Vander Muelen, Mr. Broersma explained that the Planning Commission budget does include monies for discretionary spending such as paying for consulting services. He also indicated that if Commissioners had any further questions they could contact him.

Mr. Hoeve next opened the floor to public comments.

Mr. Tim Marr of 2874 104th Avenue explained that he lives in a residential zone and is not requesting that his property be rezoned, but that he would like permission to raise a few chickens and keep a few bee hives. He also explained that the eggs and honey are intended for his household’s consumption, that extras would be given away to neighbors and that he has no plans to sell eggs or honey at a farm stand. He explained that the City of Holland allows the keeping of chickens and that some of the surrounding jurisdictions are considering allowing the keeping of chickens as well. He distributed copies of a suggested ordinance which included regulations for the keeping of bees and chickens to Commissioners.

Ms. Beverly Smith, also of 2874 104th Avenue, explained that they currently have a couple of bee hives on their property. She also explained that they had 15 hives last fall but only one survived the winter. She went on to explain that their property is surrounded by agriculturally zoned land.

Mr. Gebben commented that some people are afraid of bees and asked how to stay safe around bees.

Mr. Marr explained that the key is to educate neighbors about bees and to ask their permission before bringing hives onto your property. He also explained that the only way to get attacked by a honey bee, the type of bee he keeps, is to shake or aggravate the hive. He went on to explain that unless honey bees are defending their hive, they are docile as can be. He stated that he brings his bees to blueberry farms in the area, at the farmers’ request, so that the bees can help pollinate the bushes. He commented that his neighbors appreciate that his bees also help pollinate their flowers and raspberries. He also explained that he called the Township and was told that there were no provisions in the zoning ordinance regarding bee keeping.  

Mr. Broersma agreed that educating the public is a good thing and informed Commissioners that there is an open violation against the property owner concerning the keeping of chickens and bees on the property and that neighbors have complained.

Mr. Marr commented that the Township’s ordinance states that the building inspector can issue a permit for the keeping of chickens and that the keeping of bees is not mentioned in the zoning ordinance. He asked that the language in the ordinance be clarified so that everyone can understand the ordinance. He also commented that there were no complaints concerning the keeping of bees or chickens on his property until the Township hired a Code Enforcement officer.

Mr. Hoeve then closed the public comment section of the meeting.

Next, Mr. Broersma explained that Planning and Zoning Administrator Meghann Reynolds is currently on a leave of absence for up to six months and asked that all work related communications from Commissioners be directed to himself in Ms. Reynolds’ absence.

Next, Mr. Broersma asked Commissioners if they would consider allocating funds to hire a consulting firm to assist with revisions to the zoning ordinance that have been previously requested by Commissioners.

Mr. Vander Muelen commented that he supports the idea, since the Planning and Zoning department is currently short on staff. Mr. Hoeve and Mr. Johnson agreed.

Mr. Broersma stated that he could put together a request for proposal (RFP) and email it to Commissioners for review before sending the RFP out for bid. He also asked Commissioners if they would prefer a full revision of the zoning ordinance or just a revision of certain provisions within the zoning ordinance.

Mr. Hoeve commented that Mr. Mersman and Ms. Reynolds have both done work on revising sections of the zoning ordinance and that the consultant should start where they left off.

Mr. Vander Muelen commented that Commissioners have discussed the need for an ordinance regulating temporary uses and suggested that the consulting firm draft one.

Mr. Gebben commented that he believes the consultants should compare the 2014 Comprehensive Master Plan to the zoning ordinance and update the zoning ordinance where there are deficiencies, resulting in a new zoning ordinance without starting from scratch.

In response to a question from Mr. Zylstra regarding updates to the zoning ordinance, Mr. Broersma explained that a zoning ordinance was adopted in 1976 with revisions being approved over the years. The current zoning ordinance is based on the 2001 publication and is in its third edition.

Mr. Bosma suggested that Mr. Broersma ask consulting firms to bid in phases. Mr. Gebben agreed and added that Commissioners could then decide whether or not to revise the entire zoning ordinance.

Mr. Broersma agreed that it would be possible to send out a request for quote to consultants to acquire more information before making a decision.

Mr. Hoeve suggested that he and Mr. Broersma meet with the Township’s manager, supervisor, and attorney to discuss the issue. Mr. Broersma agreed to set up a meeting in the near future.

Mr. Hoeve reminded Commissioners that their next regular meeting will be held October 4, 2016.

The meeting adjourned at 8:16 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Amy LeVesque, Recording Secretary




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