Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission
December 3, 2014
Meeting called to order by Gurr (7:04 pm)
Opened with Pledge of Allegiance.
Roll Call: Present: Jim Gurr Mike Robinson
Rodger Dewey Bonnie Robbins
Absent: Chris Dewald Bob Johnson
Township officials present: Guy Molby, David Peterson
Approval of Agenda: Motion: Robbins, 2nd Renaud. Carried
Statement of Conflict of Interest: None
Approval of Minutes: Minutes incomplete. Tabled to next meeting.
Public Comment: (12 in attendance)
Communications: Letter received from Torch Lake Protection Alliance to be included in public hearing for Walker Shores Development.
Meeting closed at 7:10 pm for Public Hearing for Walker Shores Development.
Update from Gurr on the process of review and the goal of tonights information gathering.
Gina Bozzer, legal counsel for owner/developer, presented maps, stated they are awaiting final approval from the Health Department for the drainfield and do not anticipate any problems securing this permit. Discussed the development process they undertook to minimize disruption of the natural features of the parcel. The developer has spent six months submitting all documents requested. Development is now 12 single family homes instead of 13, they eliminated one road and made other road changes, again to minimize impact. Bozzer stated the biggest change was moving the drainfield system to the east side of Torch Lake Drive.
Dennis Ireland, realtor/developer for Walker Shores stated the development design has been approved by the DEQ. There is no indication the DEQ or Health Department will require any more changes to the development.
Letter from TLPA was read into record. It will be scanned and included in the electronic record of the public hearing.
Summary of letter: TLPA stated the need for including the buildable footprint on the plan. The site includes a significant percentage of documented wetlands. The review process requiring approval for road, septic and drainage, does not address the impact of 12 homes on this site. TLPA suggests requiring the Master Deed to identify the buildable footprint for each lot, information for this is already included in the current site plan documents.
Additionally, Mr. Walker suggested the letter be dated.
Gordie Schafer spoke in favor of development. He referenced development at Frenchmans Point and thinks it was done well. Shafer stated our county Soil and Erosion officer does a good job and the township should not be trying to do her job or allowing others to influence the townships decisions by threatening legal action. Walkers have been good tax payers and should enjoy the benefit of developing their property. Site has properties that may not sell. Members of TLPA have donated large sums to fight this development. Unfortunate that TLPA went to lawsuit instead of trying to work with Walker.
John Peal stated this had been approved before and the development plan has been reviewed many times. There is nothing in the plan that doesnt meet or exceed the township ordinance requirements. Adding more rules or requirements will set precedent for future developments. Peal encourages the Commission to vote in favor of the development and let it move forward.
Gordie Schafer stated it will help the Mancelona School District and will create a few jobs during the development stage.
Tom Willette owns adjacent property to the north of the development. Family has owned for a long time. Concerned what it will look like, how much bulldozing, how many trees cut. Also concerned of the impact of 12 new homes on property and their well on the same water source. Asked if there are specifications on home size. Stated he had driven over 240 miles to attend the meeting. He has requested to be notified in the past and no one contacted him of this meeting. (Discussion and apology for not being notified of meeting)
Discussion of need for notification of property owners within 300 feet per zoning ordinance requirement. Other property owners meeting that criteria and present stated they had not received notice of the meeting. Decision to continue with tonights information gathering session and resume at the next meeting as suggested by Chris Bzdok, township legal counsel.
Greg Payne, President of TLPA spoke of the intentions of the letter submitted and stated it is offered as a tool to help the planning commission . Letter submitted is meant to offer help and a tool to protect the property and the suggestion offered to identify build footprints is meant to protect the natural wetlands. TLPA is trying to be a part of the process and help have a good output. They are not trying to delay the development or the review process.
Chuck Walker offered a brief history of the project they started in 2003. The township approved the plan in 2008. Stated the same plan would meet the current ordinance requirements. Received needed permits and approvals in fall of 2011. Was sued by TLPA in spring of 2012. He believes the intent was to delay the project and cause permits to expire. He made contingencies against recommendation of counsel and developer. Finally decided to let it go to court and TLPA dropped the lawsuit. Concerned TLPA will continue to delay the process long enough to cause the permit to expire. This development expected to meet conditions not asked of other developers or those building single family homes. Anticipates TLPA to fight this until the permit expires in the fall of 2015.
Discussion of conflict between TLPA and Mr. Walker about history of project and intent of TLPA.
Gurr reclaimed meeting and asked for additional comment. Gurr assured all present that the planning commission will adhere to the ordinance and the process adopted for review. The information gathered will be considered equally. Gurr thanked all present for their comments and concerns.
John Peal stated there has been a change in leadership at TLPA and the two present, (Greg Payne and Lee Scott) are indication of a group more willing to work with developers and business owners and not as aggressive as in the past.
Public Hearing portion closed at 7:52 pm. Will be continued at the January meeting.
Discussion of when applicant can get an answer. Dewey questioned need for more meetings and why all parties needed are not present. Bzdok stated the easiest and fastest way to move forward and avoid any question of notification is to continue as planned with the January meeting. Process is meant to proceed in a timely manner and township is following the adopted process.
Regular meeting reopened.
Next step is as follows: The public hearing will continue at the regular meeting in January.
Newspaper posting and notification of property owners within 300 feet.
Meeting will begin at 6:00 pm.
Work session to discuss findings and vote on application will be held following the close of the continued public hearing.
Master Plan Review: Robbins discussed handout and asked members to review it for the January meeting, including spelling and grammar corrections.
Fine Language: Consensus to table this until the January meeting.
ZA report (Gurr read report for Molby)
Dec 2014: Land Use 2, Field Checks 5 , Attorney Contacts 0 , Public Contacts 8 , Zoning Violations 0
Public Comment: Peterson asked that we not continue to table the fine language for violations.
Adjourn: Motion Robbins, 2nd Renaud. Carried
Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary