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Minutes - October 25, 2016



Regular Meeting
October 25, 2016

Present:   Chairman Steve Haberkorn, Members Vern Johnson, Elliott Church, Russ Boersma and Bob Swartz. Also present was Assistant Planner/Zoning Administrator Corey Broersma and Recording Secretary Laurie Slater.

Absent: None

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Steve Haberkorn at 5:30 p.m. Chairman Haberkorn explained the process to the audience.

Hearing declared open to consider a nonuse variance submitted by Jon Bryant on behalf of Lake Macatawa Storage for property located at 500 Douglas Avenue, known more specifically as parcel number 70-16-30-126-055. Petitioner is requesting a nonuse variance of 37.5 feet from the required 75 foot front yard setback for self-service storage and mini-storage facilities; resulting in a front yard setback of 37.5 feet. Petitioner is requesting the variance in order to convert an existing structure into a storage building. The subject property is zoned I-2, General Industrial.

Present for this request was Jon Bryant on behalf of Lake Macatawa Storage who was joined by Kelly Cavanaugh of Nederveld at 5:55 p.m.

Mr. Bryant explained to the Board that there is a pre-existing structure on the parcel. It has been there for 40 years or more and is 15,000 square feet in size. Mr. Bryant is requesting the variance for a front yard setback so that he can turn the water storage structure into indoor secured storage. There is currently no roof on the structure. He would like to put a roof above the structure to keep the elements of weather out. The structures walls extend into the ground twelve feet and the walls are three feet thick.

Mr. Bryant has plans of building connected storage units to the east of the existing structure. He would upgrade the cement structure to look like the proposed storage units.

Lake Macatawa Storage has previously appeared before the Planning Commission to request a special use permit for the proposed self-service storage and mini-storage facility. The Planning Commission required changes to the original site plan. Staff and the proponent are currently working on those revisions.

The Board looked to Assistant Zoning Administrator, Corey Broersma, for staff recommendations. If the ZBA is inclined to approve this request, staff recommends the following stipulations:

               1.  Paved access and mechanical equipment for the structure remain outside of the landscape setback.

               2.  Ingress and egress overhead doors may not be installed on the north side of the structure.

               3.  The structure’s facade shall be finished to match other proposed buildings in color and material.

There were several people in the audience to respond to this request.

Michael Vanalphen of 589 Douglas had concerns about the graffiti that has recently shown up on the structure.

Mr. Bryant responded that he plans on putting the fence back up and securing the facility.

Wesley Hatenhoff of 621 Pinecrest had concerns about the storage facilities being closer to his property and how that would affect his property value.

Mr. Bryant assured the audience that Lake Macatawa Storage would be keeping the tree line 20 feet back from the property line instead of the 10 feet they are required to by ordinance. The trees that have been cut down were cut down to build the storage units.

When asked if the units would be the metal pole barn looking structures like other storage units, Mr. Bryant replied that he believes they will be stick built.

Privacy was an issue for Dennis Thimm of 629 Pinecrest. Mr. Broersma explained that there will be a greenbelt in place. By ordinance it’s an evergreen tree every 15’ and it has to be at least 7’ tall.

Brandy DeWild of 660 Douglas wanted to know how the Board could make a decision on a variance without a site plan. She also commented that the structure was there when the property was purchased, so how was it not a practical difficulty at the time of purchase and now it is.

At this point, Kelly Cavanaugh of Nederveld entered the Board Room and took over answering the questions.

Ms. Cavanaugh explained the practical difficulty always existed. They now want to use the structure and in doing so the structure will become more conforming. Instead of an eyesore it will be dressed up to look similar to the new storage units. The structure exists 37 ½ feet from Douglas Avenue and always has.

Mr. Johnson suggested that because the road has been widened over the years the setback has become non-compliant.

At this point the audience was out of order and everyone started questioning Ms. Cavanaugh. She attempted to answer their questions in the chaos. Chairman Haberkorn brought the room back to order and continued the hearing.

The outdoor storage would be blocked from the neighbors with the positioning of the proposed buildings. She pointed out on the map the proposed locations for the storage buildings. There would also be a berm along the property line to shield the residential from the Industrial.

Someone inquired about the contamination of the property. Mr. Bryant responded that he has read all the reports. This structure was actually a water tank. It has been filled with clean sand. All the new construction would meet setbacks and this structure would match the proposed buildings.

There were questions of what would Lake Macatawa Storage do with the structure if they do not get the variance? Would they sell off that corner of the parcel? Variance or no variance this structure could still be used for industrial purposes.

Jerry Moker of 645 Pinecrest had questions about the structural modifications if the variance were granted. Mainly how tall would the structure be if a roof were to be added.

Mr. Broersma commented the structure by ordinance cannot be any taller than 35 feet or two and a half stores.

Mr. Bryant responded that they only want to add a roof to it.

Ms. Cavanaugh further stated that the storage units will be built in phases. She further clarified that the question of what they are intending to do with the site if the variance is granted is a fair question. It is pre-mature to grant the variance without knowing what the intent is. The details have been divulged to the Planning Commission and those plans are available for public inspection through the Township. To state that Lake Macatawa Storage has not been forthcoming with the details is wrong. The information is available for anyone who wants to see it.

Mr. Church made a motion to table this item until we have more details, it was supported by Mr. Swartz.

The audience again was out of order. Chairman Haberkorn again brought the audience back to order.

Ms. Cavanaugh again stated that there is a site plan on file with the Township. All proposed buildings will meet the setbacks. The only structure that will not meet the setback requirement is the one they are trying to get a variance for a front yard setback of 37 ½ feet.   She further stated that this site has already been approved for mini storage by the Planning Commission. So with or without the variance the mini storage can be built on this site. They were granted the special use. They are not out of order. A site plan was submitted to the Planning Commission. There were some revisions to the site plan because of Township Ordinances and Planning Commission comments.

** Mr. Church made the following amendment to the motion and Mr. Swartz supported it: to table this item until the applicant submits an approved site plan detailing what the intension of the applicant is if the variance is granted and another if the variance is not granted. Also, if they are going to be submitting additional variance requests for the project. Motion carried.

** It was moved by Mr. Church and supported by Mr. Swartz to remove from the table a petition for a non-use variance submitted by Dave DeYoung on behalf of the Erin K DeYoung Trust for property located at 592 Lawn Avenue, known more specifically as parcel number 70-16-30-306-016.  Petitioner is requesting a 20 foot variance from the required 20 foot setback from street right-of-way for accessory structures and private garages located on waterfront properties; resulting in a front yard setback of 0 feet.  The accessory structure is presently located on the subject property and within the Lawn Avenue public road right-of-way.  The property is zoned R-1, Single Family Residential. This item has been tabled since the December 2015 meeting at which time Mr. DeYoung was attempting to get the road in front of his property abandoned. Motion carried.

Mr. DeYoung did not have any new information to share with the Board. He stated that the Township Attorney supported denying his request with the Ottawa County Road Commission to abandon the road. He doesn’t understand the decision and wanted a chance to meet with the attorney himself. He feels that a road will never go through and doesn’t understand the Road Commissions decision to deny his request for the road abandonment. The accessory building has been there for six years. It is three and a half feet in the road right-of-way.

He further stated that he wouldn’t be here in this situation if Jon Mersman hadn’t approved the placement of his accessory building. He has letters from the Township stating they made mistakes and offering to help pay with the cost to move the accessory building. He spoke with Jon three times before starting his project, which took him a year to build. There were inspectors out to watch the construction, not once did anyone question him. He looked to the Township for approval, he talked to Jon Mersman. The only questions Jon asked was how close was he going to be to the neighbors.

Mr. Church responded that Mr. Mersman is not the law. Mr. DeYoung should have had a survey done prior to constructing the accessory building. It is the owners’ responsibility to follow the law. Mr. Church further commented that Mr. DeYoung is an educated guy who deals with property questions daily, he should have gotten a survey.

Mr. DeYoung replied that he asked a township person for answers to his questions and relied on the information he was given.

Mr. Boersma commented that there is no way we can grant Mr. DeYoung permission to leave his accessory building in the Road Right-of-Way. It’s out of our control.

Mr. DeYoung is looking for support from the Township to abandon the road. Four doors down the road is already abandoned. The houses are all there, there is no further development. There is a house and a garage within two blocks of his that are in the road right-of-way as well.

** It was moved by Mr. Church and supported by Mr. Boersma to close the hearing. Motion carried.

The Board went over the four standards to review when considering a nonuse variance request.

        1.  Would strict compliance with the minimum area, yard setbacks, frontage, height, bulk, density, or other regulations
             of the Zoning Ordinance be unnecessarily burdensome?
The accessory building has to be moved out of the road right-of-way. We cannot grant permission to leave it there.

        2.  Would granting the requested variance do substantial justice to the applicant as well as to other property owners in the
             zoning district? Or would a lesser relaxation than that applied for 
provide substantial relief to the property owner and be more consistent with justice to other property owners in the district?

             The Board has an obligation to enforce reasonable setbacks. Five feet makes sense.

        3.  Is the plight of the property owner/applicant due to the unique circumstances of the property (e.g. an odd shape or a natural feature, such a wetland or stream) and not to general neighborhood
             conditions in the area?

             The Board found no unique circumstances of the property.

        4.  Are the practical difficulties alleged self-created?

             Yes the practical difficulties are self-created. He built the accessory building there without a survey.

** It was moved by Mr. Church and supported by Mr. Swartz to deny the request based on the ZBA’s findings of the four (4) Nonuse Variance Standards as reflected in the minutes for the reasons set forth in the minutes. Motion carried.

The minutes of September 27, 2016 were approved as printed.

There were no public comments.

Mr. Broersma informed the Board that the Planning Commission would be consulting with them on the subject of outdoor storage and paved versus non-paved (crushed concrete) surfaces.

The meeting adjourned at 6:50 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Laurie Slater
Recording Secretary

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