Planning Commission Minutes – August 03, 2011

Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission

August 03, 2011

Public Hearing on Zoning Ordinance Changes & Regular Meeting


Meeting called to order by Swan at 7:00 p.m.

Opened with Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call:                      Present:            Jim Swan                Jim Gurr

Bob Johnson           Rodger Dewey

Chris Dewald           Bonnie Robbins

Absent:             Mike Robinson

Township officials present:                      Guy Molby              David Peterson

Rick Teague


Approval of Agenda:  Motion: Robbins, 2nd Gurr.  Carried (6,0)

Statement of Conflict of Interest:         None

Public Hearing-regular meeting closed at 7:03 p.m.

Swan explained procedure   Robbins clarified the language concerning travel trailer and recreational vehicle use in all districts has been defined in a previous meeting and document being reviewed did not accept changes.  This will be corrected for final printing and website posting.


Public comments from:   Don Gill, 7232 Wiscasset Lane; Ralph Dunlop, Jr. , 7282 Wiscasset Lane; Judy Stuart, 7226 Wiscasset Lane, John Dunlop, 597 S.E. Torch Lake Dr. David Hulefield, Fowler Lane.


Gill:      shared concerns of allowing short term rentals in R1 and especially on narrow lakefront lanes.  Mentioned cottages and cabins of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, much different in size than the homes now being used as rentals today.            Rentals change character of the community.  Many using the internet to book rentals, makes it hard to track who is renting next door to your family home.  Understands this is complex issue and other cities and towns are struggling with regulating this.  Wiscasset is a narrow road shared by eight houses.  Has had to back up to let cars pass, renting increases traffic.  Families paid equal shares for road and it is a private road about the width of a driveway.  Renters often have more occupants than the website states for # the cottage sleeps.  Discussed issues of renters using his garbage cans and trespassing on property.  Suggested surveying the eight property owners and believes most would be against short term rental.  Restated this is not a public road and property owners should have consent to rent from other owners.

Swan:   we don’t have resources to go door to door to ask who’s renting

Gill:      most citizens would follow guidelines.  Family has been here for 16 years and loves their neighbors, believes road size and single lane egress should be factor in allowing to rent or not.  Ralph Dunlap needs to rent for property taxes but is only here one or two weeks and rents the rest of the time.  Increase in noise from the renters with fireworks all summer and more jet ski/boat traffic.

Swan:   noise is a county sheriff concern.

Gill:      what will they do?  Homes are over $1 million and rentals will devalue properties.  Concerned more homes will become part of rental business.

Swan:   we discussed licensing but township does not have the funds to enforce rental language.

Gurr:     rental language discussed in depth at several meetings.  Suggested language was comprised after comparing suggestions and reviewing master plan concerning rentals

Gill:      road width for ingress/egress should be factor, it is shared and not a public road

Dewey: that would be an issue for the land owners along the road to address, township should not be involved

Dewald:  what do you define as short term?

Gill:      one week & under

Swan:   Can we move on to our next speaker.

  1. Dunlop: Implication that renters are the only ones who create problems.  Homeowners also create traffic problems and more people seem to be coming to the cottages.  Doesn’t understand why renters are being singled out.  Family has owned this property since 1895.  Currently lives in Louisville, ties are deep, parents buried here.  Tradition of coming to Torch Lake continues.  Does use the cottage more but not as much as he’d like.  Forced to rent to maintain $20,000 tax bill.  Screens renters, this is still his family’s home and other family members are neighbors on this lane.  Renters sign lease and are expected to adhere to standards.  Admits he has had problems but has dealt with those immediately.  Disagrees there should be no rentals.

Dunlop: other issues are the limit of 1 week.  Majority are 1 week or more.  Labor day weekend is difficult to rent on this schedule.  Perhaps exception for that weekend.  Web version of ordinance had licensing language addressing noise complaints, wonders how township will determine if complaints are valid.

Gurr:     that’s not part of the revised language.

Swan:   that would be a nuisance complaint.

Dunlop:  hopes common sense be employed in the rental language.  Noise and late night partying should be resolved by contacting the owners.

Gurr:     Short term rentals are 7 days and permitted in all districts.  This is a topic all around the lake.

Swan:   Do you need a business license from the state to rent short term?

Dunlop:  I charge a lodging tax and pay tax on the income, not licensed by state

Swan:   is the home inspected?

Dunlop:  there is an annual inspection by the plumber and electrician

Swan:   Next speaker please

Stuart:  Ralph & Don covered most of what I had to say.  There are places where cars can pull off to let others pass.  There are more cars and not just because of renters.  Owners could agree to asphalt areas for pull off.

Swan:  Next speaker please

  1. Dunlop: Own next to Ralph. Can only recall one incident of noisy people.  Has not had problem with sharing beach.  Noisiest party was not renters.

Swan:   Next speaker please

Hulefield:  (Disbursed document to commission with concerns when reviewing document)  Suggested increasing lot size in Rural Residential zone.  Time period on use of travel trailers and RVs.  Consider addressing concentrated feeding operations as special use to clarify they are not by right.  Suggested rewording for screening on commercial boat storage.  Suggestion to allow accessory wind energy systems as permitted use, on-site wind energy systems are by special use permit.  Residential use not permitted in Commercial, home occupations are included in list of uses.  Suggest review of 4.07.02F concerning boat storage.  Suggest increase minimum setback for outdoor storage.  Suggest review of 5.01.05, does it need reworded?  Question deleting well and septic inspection.  Suggest rewording of 5.08.04.J and 5.09.06J to address flashing white lighting systems on towers.  Suggest deleting 5.10.03.C addressing billboards.  Prohibiting billboards would be consistent with master plan and withstood legal challenge.  Suggested language for 5.10.08 (add) pennants, streamers, to sentence.  Questioned detailed regulation in 5.12.  Suggest simplifying language.

Swan:   Is there any other comment?

Gill:      Concerned more homes will become investor owned houses.  Neighbor wanted to sell to corporation and was told it could not be used as a corporate retreat.  Does not believe majority of homeowners wanted to be in neighborhood with rentals when they purchased their home.

Swan:   We are not trying to settle old issues here

Gill:      Are there any safeguards for the neighbors?  Can we have language that states no investor owned houses.


Meeting closed 8:10 p.m.

Discussion by planning commission:

Dewey: We need to add the concentrated feed lot as suggested.

Continued discussion on short term rental concerns and if survey would be beneficial.  Survey would be difficult to conduct quickly and retain accuracy.

Dewey:  Is there a need for Lakefront Residential zone?

Peterson:  No need to re-invent language.  Legal counsel has given his suggestion for language.

Consensus to leave language as written  for short term rental.

Discussion of well and septic inspection.  Consensus to strike from ordinance.

Ordinance will be corrected and reviewed at September meeting for final approval.

Teague:  Thanked members for their work


Regular meeting business

Communications:         Rapid River Township planning to create zoning language.


New Business:             ZA report  4  land use,  14  field checks,  0  attorney contact,  16  other public contacts,

 0  violations



Adjourn: Motion Johnson, 2nd Robbins. Carried (6,0)  8:31 p.m.


Respectfully Submitted,

Bonnie Robbins

Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary