Planning Commission Minutes – December 3, 2014

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

Ken Renaud

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 tonight’s information gathering.


Applicant presentation;

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 Frenchman’s 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 township’s 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 doesn’t 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 tonight’s 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.



Old Business: 

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.


New Business:

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


Respectfully Submitted,

Bonnie Robbins

Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary