Planning Commission Minutes – December 04, 2013

Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission

December 04, 2013



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

Opened with Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call:                      Present:            Jim Swan                Jim Gurr

Chris Dewald           Bonnie Robbins

Rodger Dewey        Bob Johnson

Absent:             Mike Robinson

Township officials present:                    Guy Molby              David Peterson


Approval of Agenda:  Question from Robbins to move Old Business up in the agenda to assure ample time for discussion.  Decision to proceed with the agenda as written with one addition, add 2014 Meeting Schedule under New Business.  Motion: Robbins, 2nd Gurr.  Carried

Statement of Conflict of Interest:          None

Approval of Minutes:  (Nov 6, 2013)As submitted.  Motion: Gurr, 2nd Johnson.  Carried

Public Comment:         (14 in attendance)Question from owner of property north of the Walker Development.  Asked at a previous meeting to be informed when this development was being discussed.  Left messages on the phone asking to be contacted.  He was not contacted for the November or December meetings and questions why he wasn’t called.  Molby explained the required notification process of a mailing to adjacent owners and the public posting when the plan has been through the preliminary review and is ready to be brought to the Commission at a Public Hearing.  He stated he would make sure to notify the member of the public for future meetings.  Dewey questioned what the notification requirements are and if the Zoning Administrator has the time to make calls to every resident who asks to be kept informed.  The commitment could become burdensome to the township and the Zoning Administration office.  Molby stated he would attempt to make the notifications but if it becomes too involved he will continue to make the notification as required by law.  Gurr acknowledged the township is aware of the high level of interest and concern on this project but the township has maintained there be no contact with the public until this comes to the agenda. Decision to make effort to notify those concerned with the understanding that if it becomes time consuming or burdensome unrequired notifications will not be made.

                        Molby:  Add discussion of conservation easement ordinance language to the January agenda.


Communications:         Notice of Township Board of Appeals meeting.

Grass River sent notice of a meeting.  Check their website for date and time.  Township Parks and Rec committee needs someone from the planning commission.  No member selected at this meeting.  Members are asked to look at their schedule and talk with Parks and Rec if they can fill this postion.


Meeting closed for Public Hearing:  7:14 pm

                                    No public comment.   No further discussion from Commission members.

Recommend following change to the Helena Township Zoning Ordinance:

Section 4.02.02.a will be removed.

                                    Section 5.01.01.A will read:

                                                Accessory structures and buildings, including pole barns, shall be permitted subordinate to a dwelling or other residential use in the R-1 and R-2 District only if there is an existing dwelling either on the same lot or on a contiguous lot that is under  common ownership.  Roadways do not negate contiguity.

Motion by Robbins, 2nd by Johnson.  Carried

Public Hearing closed at 7:18 pm.

Regular meeting reopened:


New Business:

ZA report  (Nov ) 0 land use, 13 field checks,  0  attorney contact,  15  other public contacts,

  1. violations (Buffer zone on the lake)Discussion of how much of the discussions are public information and what should not be shared until an application is submitted.  Gurr cautions the Zoning Administrator to use discretion on sharing information.  Some information could be sensitive if released prior to someone actually submitting an application.  The public should have some level of privacy in asking questions prior to making a decision to submit an application for land use.  Molby will add info where applicable.Meeting schedule for 2014                         Gurr noted the subcommittee for preliminary site plan review met today to go through the checklist.                        Rawley presented the site plan to the Commission.  Explained the owner was not able to make it due to weather in Detroit.  Copies of the plan have been distributed to the agencies and they are waiting for approval from the state for the community drain field plan.  Health Department has approved the soil but the state has to give the approval on a community system.  The developer has the wetland permit in place from the previous application and has changed drain basins to redirect the water from sensitive areas.  The wetland permit is still good for a couple years and they do not anticipate having to reapply for that permit.                         Dewey questioned if we can use information gather from the expired application.                        Dewald explained that a walk-through of the process is done at the Public Hearing.                        Discussion of timing of information on a development of this nature.  Not all special use permits require the level of study this project requires.  All commission members should have documents from the application with sufficient time to review.                         Discussion that this is not a public hearing but the public comment portion of the meeting.  A formal public hearing will be scheduled after the site plan review committee is satisfied they have a complete application.                         Robbins:  Difficult to make a recommendation to go to the public hearing process when the drawings were delivered sometime today and without any other material from the application.  Members have not had time to review this application.                        Public:   Is the public allowed to make comment?  Questioned if the committee had walked the property or been given access to the property.                         Question of previous tax abatement for wetlands.  Rawley:  not information he has knowledge of.  Soil and Erosion officer has been on the property and worked with them to help minimize impact of the development on the sensitive areas.                        Public:  Three streams flowing toward Torch when he walked the property years ago, will this impact them?  Rawley:  There are culverts planned to allow the continued flow of streams.  Basins have been changed to handle runoff.  There is a lot of unbuildable land on this parcel.  The development has been approved by the agencies regulating the wetlands.                        Greg Payne representing Torch Lake Protection Alliance requested a copy of the application package.  Mobly will provide him with the documents.                        Robbins questioned how much detail this section of the ordinance required and how it is documented that this was considered.                        Continued discussion from planning commission members on what needs to be reviewed before scheduling the public hearing for this project.  Commission members do not have enough information to schedule the hearing.                        Gurr:  There have been no private conversations about this project.  Commission members will have complete knowledge of the project to make their decisions.  Confident the Planning Commission will do what they are charged to do.                        Consensus of developer and commission that another meeting be scheduled with a couple members of the planning commission to go through the ordinance and make sure the application is complete and meets the requirements.                         Planning commission members will be Chris Dewald, Rodger Dewey & Jim Swan.  Information for this application will be provided to the Planning Commission before the January meeting.Public Comment:         Public member suggested the township ask for our legal counsel to create a checklist based on             the new ordinance.  A simple checklist would make sure the ordinance is followed.
  2.                         Robbins explained the commission has made every effort to follow the ordinance with every application coming in since the ordinance was adopted and an updated checklist would help simplify the process.  Agreement to have Robbins make request to the township board to have legal counsel make a site plan review checklist from our ordinance.
  3.                         Sub-committee will meet with developer and Molby on December 16th at 10 am in the township meeting room.  The public will be allowed to attend this meeting.
  4.                         Rawley:  Withdraw request to schedule public hearing.
  5.                         Public member stated Mr. Gurr seems to be pushing this decision and it appears some members have information that has not been made available to the other members.  Questions why this is being rushed without all members having sufficient time to make an informed decision.
  6.                         Gurr:  The requirements for site plan review are outlined beginning on page 85 and if the applicant has met those requirements the application meets the requirements of our ordinance.
  7.                         Discussion of the open space plan requirement.  Robbins questioned if the applicant had discussed this with the Zoning Administrator.  Rawley stated it was not in place when they first applied and they had determined it would not work on this parcel.
  8.                         Public:  Concern on how this might impact his well.  Will this development cause problems with his water well?  Rawley:  they have drilled test wells and submitted the information to the Health Department to determine if the aquifer can handle the number and size of homes planned.  The Health Department has established it is suitable soil for the drain field.  Language will be placed in the condominium documents that will limit the home size to 4 bedroom maximum.
  9.                         Robbins:  previous application had an access road on the north side of the property, is that still going to be available for future use.  Rawley:  the fire department requested it be open on earlier drawing.  The site will have a single access road and provision made for emergency vehicles to have space for turn around.  The easement road will not be used.
  10.                         Dewald stated he was not on this site selection committee but had been given full access to the property previously.  The Planning Commission has always deferred decision of wetland, storm water runoff, and such to the governing agencies who have the expertise to make those decisions.
  11.                         Rawley:  Submitted the documents to Molby in accordance with the zoning ordinance requirements and believe they have met the requirements for moving forward.
  12.                         Dewey:  I want more info and public opinion.
  13.                         Public member stated the public should have time to comment on what the Planning Commission is going to do.  We cannot make that decision without the information being available.  The Public Hearing should not be put ahead of the process of fact finding.
  14.                         Robbins questioned having the township legal counsel create a checklist.  The example submitted by Molby for tonight’s meeting is detailed but having one created from our ordinance would help Molby assure all steps are complete and be less cost effective than finding out we missed a requirement that can be challenged.
  15.                         Gurr explained the site selection committee goes through the checklist to see if the information is in place and when that is satisfied they make the recommendation to bring it to the Commission.
  16.                         The plan will now include the acreage on the east side of E. South Torch Lake Drive.  This parcel will be used for the community drain field.
  17.                         Molby stated they had made sure application was in order.
  18. Old Business:  Molby noted not all the pieces of the application were done but the applicant was working on getting those in place and anticipates having that completed and ready for a public hearing so they can move forward.  Brian Rawley from Gordie Frasier present to share info and answer questions.  Presentation by Brian Rawley on the development of Walker Shores condominium site.  Swan asked Molby if there was a projected date for the public hearing.  Molby stated probably January.
  19. January 15th, 2014 will be the regular meeting of the planning commission.  All other regularly scheduled meetings will be the first Wednesday of each month at 7:00 pm in the Township Conference Room.
  20. Dewey suggested Molby be more informative on his report, what were the public contacts concerning?  Where and what were the violations.  Were there questions we need to be informed about?

Rawley:  They have submitted all the documents requested, met several times to review the checklist the                         site plan review committee was using, and believe they have met with the requirements of the ordinance.                          They don’t believe the checklist has changed since the last application.


Bob Johnson will be gone until the April 2nd meeting.

Adjourn: Motion Johnson, 2nd Dewald. Carried 9:12 p.m.


Respectfully Submitted,

Bonnie Robbins

Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary