Planning Commission Minutes – September 7, 2011

Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission

September 7, 2011


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          Mike Robinson

Chris Dewald

Absent:             Bonnie Robbins      Rodger Dewey

Township officials present:                    Guy Molby


Approval of Agenda: Motion: Gurr, 2nd Dewald. Carried (5,0)

Statement of Conflict of Interest:          None

Public Comment:         12 in attendance. Letter read concerning abuses with rentals. Feels Helena Township should follow other townships and deny rentals.   Forced to go somewhere else for July 4th because of the unpleasant conditions from rental.

                                    Swan: Violations should be reported to police. Has had problems with neighbors and discussed them with the neighbor to resolve the issue.

Continued discussion with several members of the audience addressing the notice sent out. Notice was not factual. Planning Commission not discussing unlimited rental or rezoning of R1 District. Created language to allow rental as it has been historically established in Helena Township. New language would establish reasonable minimum rental period and deny rental on a daily or weekend basis. Violations of time limit, such as web ads offering rental less than stated in ordinance, should be reported to zoning administrator for investigation. Master Plan drafted to allow rentals with awareness that zoning administrator will need to monitor developments to prevent impact of properties in R1 designed and used solely as rental income producing property. Gurr explained funding source for the township and why the township does not have funds needed to enforce code that would deny rentals.   Township prefers to allow this on a neighbor friendly basis and stay out of conflicts between neighbors. Dewald stated Clearwater Township lost a court case on rental and now has language to allow rentals.

Discussion from public stating need to rent to cover high taxes on their properties. Some properties discussed have been owned by the family since the late 1800s and would have to be sold if the rental income wasn’t available for improvements and taxes.   Comment that many renters return year after year and become friends with the neighbors. Bad renters are not allowed back. Continued contact with neighbors allows them to keep informed on how the renters are treating their property.

Additional public comment concerned new sign at the bar.   Discussion that the sign is in violation of the current ordinance which denies using signs with moving letters.   Public asked what was being done about the violation. At this point nothing has been addressed with the new sign. No permit was applied for or granted. Gurr explained that the new ordinance language would allow this type of sign. Discussion that this is the way of the future with signs. Several planning commission members voice dislike for this sign and other similar signs in the area. Discussion that billboards of this type should not be allowed. Placement of these signs could minimize glare.   Several comments that the signs are distracting to traffic.

Public comment that the sign clearly distracts from the quaint, rural characteristics mentioned in master plan.

Discussion of junk accumulation and how to control this eyesore. Molby explained what is in the current ordinance.

Approval of Minutes: July 25, 2011 Approved as submitted.   Motion: Swan, 2nd Johnson. Carried (5,0)

                                    August 3, 2011 Approved as submitted.   Motion: Dewald, 2nd Swan. Carried (5,0)

New Business:             ZA report 4 land use, 15 field checks, 0 attorney contact, 18 other public contacts, 0 violations

Old Business:              Zoning ordinance review.

Gurr read questions raised by Robbins during proofreading of document revisions.   Robbins emailed questions to Redman and Gurr.

Section 5.01.06-Strike this language (Basement dwellings)

Section 7.05.03 end at .by Sections of this Ordinance.

Discussion of Redman’s comment on Right to Farm.   Agreement that we have handled the concern on concentrated feed lots.

Section 4.07.04 In the case that the Commercial property abuts Residential property the owner shall provide screening between the properties.

Discussion of square footage requirements in Village District.   Members unsure why changes in minimum square footage in 4.09.02. Zoning Administrator wants old requirements. Needs to be resolved at October meeting.

Discussion of map needs for Rural Residential.

Molby discussed old ordinance references on Environmental along Spencer Creek.

Discussion of Section 9.03 Substandard lots of record. Language approved as written in new ordinance.

Adjourn: Motion Gurr, 2nd Swan. Carried (5,0) 9:00 p.m. Additional discussion about changing zoning along Crystal Springs Road. Johnson suggests changing to R1. Discussion that section 11 north of the railroad tracks should be changed to R1 and reflected as such on new map.


Respectfully Submitted,

Bonnie Robbins

Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary