Planning Commission Minutes – December 01, 2010

Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission

December 01, 2010


Meeting called to order by Vice Chair Bob Johnson.

Opened with Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call:                      Present:            Bob Johnson           Jim Gurr

Chris Dewald           Rodger Dewey

Mike Robinson         Bonnie Robbins

Absent:  Jim Swan


Township officials present:                      Guy Molby, David Peterson, Rick Teague


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


Conflict of Interest:      None


Public Comment:         2 in attendance. Peterson: encourage board to permit rentals but consider language to define period of time, possible permit process, and outline do’s and don’ts.

                                    Teague: hold meeting to get public comment and clarification of what is needed for rentals language if we are considering this so public will be informed of any changes.


NEW BUSINESS:          Chris Bzdok introduced Kate Redman who is working for him on Helena Township’s questions presented from previous meetings.  Township will not be billed double on this work.  Bzdok discussed the process of review to this point and clarified what the commission wanted from his office concerning their document of November 23rd, 2010.

Commission requested Bzdok go through the Memorandum and suggestions one by one so we could discuss what his recommendations.

Floating Zones:  Discussion of zones currently identified in the zoning ordinance that need reviewed and language updated to allow growth and best use of land within the township.  Manufacturing and R3 zones were discussed.  Bzdok suggests eliminating R3.  He will submit language to address industrial growth within the township.

Right to Farm Act Compliance:  Discussion of better zone designation to define land in the Ag zone which is not being farmed and is residential.  Bzdok suggests looking at a zone to define rural residential areas.  Right to farm act would ensure those families could still use their land for farming.

                                    State Licensed Residential Facilities:  Suggest reorganizing.  Ordinance needs language to address by right and by permit uses for settings in the residential districts.

                                    No action required on the Mandatory Cluster Zoning or Oil and Gas Processing Facilities Compliance.  Peterson did suggest the commission look at the Mayfield Ordinance addressing injection wells.  Bzdok’s office did the work on this ordinance, he will get the commission a copy for reference.

                                    General Recommendations:  Reorganize and define uses within districts that are by right and by permit.

                                    Permitting Process:  discussion with Molby on permitting process.  Problems with developer or those doing the work not getting land use permit from township before going to county.  Dewey questioned whose responsibility it was to obtain permits and to know if they need them.  Bzdok stated it is the owner’s responsibility.  Signs are posted stating we are a zoned community.  County should be contacted to enforce the permit process requirements.  Molby also sited incidents of driveways going in before land use permits are obtained.

                                    Organization and Index:  Bzdok suggests moving and reorganizing sections to make the zoning ordinance more accessible.

                                    Performance Guarantee:  Bzdok will suggest language to cover needs.

                                    Easements:  Discussion of need for width requirement for emergency vehicles.  Robinson stated this is an issue for trucks trying to maneuver around curves and trees.

Discussion that road language was suggested before but was too restrictive and cost prohibitive for land owners.  Bzdok will suggest language that would establish a minimum width for commission review.

Pole Barns:  Discussion of what is allowed.  One interpretation is they are only allowed with a residence.  Are they an accessory dwelling.  Another interpretation is they are allowed in the Ag district without the residence requirement.  Bzdok will review and suggest clarification.

Signs:  Discussion of where home occupation signs can be placed.  Molby suggested following Clearwater’s language requiring the signs to be 10′ of the road right of way.  Dewey suggested limiting the signs to business conducted on the property.

Surveys:  Discussion of whether a land survey should be required in the permitting process.  Bzdok suggests the requirement could prevent issues later.  Survey could require corners to be marked as part of the permit application.

Ag Zone Revisions:  Bzdok inquired what the commission would like to see in the Ag Zone.  Dewey: Current language doesn’t allow farmers to bring products in that are not produced on their farms.  What are other communities doing?  Bzdok will suggest changes based on our discussion of wanting to encourage farming and land owners being able to create income from the land.

                                    Temporary Structures:  ordinance needs updating and could require permit for temporary structures and could define where they can be placed and limit time they may be present.  Bzdok will submit sample language for commission review.

                                    Accessory Structures & Buildings;  Bzdok will suggest language to address concerns on placement of accessory buildings and structures.

                                    Outdoor Storage:  Discussion of what is defined as junk.  Commission hesitant to restrict all outside storage.  Bzdok will offer language for review.

                                    Home Occupations:  discussion on need to allow residents the opportunity to create income.  Discussion that some occupations could be allowed by right.  Occupations that might impact neighbors would require special use permits.

                                    Vacation Rentals:  Bzdok discussed how other communities are dealing with the vacation rental issue.  R1 by definition does not allow this use.  Review language and determine if we want to address this further.

                                    Private Water Front Access:  Discussion of restriction in ordinance concerning number of watercraft allowed.  Language needs to be reviewed and determined if it is enforceable or if it should be removed from the ordinance.

                                    Setbacks & Waterfront Setbacks:  continued discussion on permitted use of setback areas.

                                    Outdoor Lighting:  Current ordinance addresses outdoor lighting.  Could be more restrictive.  Commission will need to determine if this is desired.

                                    Fencing Regulations:  Discussion of whether township should regulate fences or leave the issue between the landowners.  General consensus  was to let landowners govern the issue themselves and the courts and not drag township into the fight.

                                    Driveways:  Discussion of driveways going in where there are safety concerns.  Bzdok stated language could be drafted to regulate this more strictly than the county road commission.

                                    Road End Ordinance:  Commission can advise the Township Board but this is a policing matter and not part of the ordinance.

                                    Residential Buffer:  Bzdok will suggest language to address landscaping and buffering for developments in residential districts.

                                    Adult Entertainment:  Township can adopt language to restrict placement of adult entertainment facilities.  Discussion of need for ordinance.

                                    Automobile Service Stations:  Suggest amending ordinance requiring a showing that the service station will not have a negative impact.

                                    Marinas & Boat Storage:  Discussion of nature of Helena Township and its location.  Boats are a part of the area economy.  Discussion of how storage regulation might affect all storage of boats.  Topic will be reviewed and discussed further.

                                    Accessory Storage/ Use Buildings:  Discussion of ordinance language that would allow businesses to have separate buildings for use related to principal business.

                                    Outdoor Storage:  More discussion on what will be limited and how it will affect businesses within the township.  More review needed to determine what language should be adopted.

                                    Parking:  discussion of parking ordinance and need to address this issue.

                                    Two Distinct Commercial Uses on One Property:  Address this with language to require conditions for each use are met.

                                    Summary:  Bzdok will submit sample language for topics as requested and meet with the commission in February 2011.


Public Comment:         None


Approval of Minutes:    September 01, 2010   One correction (name spelling) Motion Johnson, 2nd Gurr, carried  (6,0)

October 06, 2010 approved as submitted Motion Gurr, 2nd Johnson, carried (6,0)

November 03, 2010 approved as submitted Motion Gurr, 2nd Johnson, carried (6,0)

New Business:

ZA Report

Nov. 2010          2 Land Use Permits, 14 Field Checks, 1 Attorney Contact,

12 other Contacts.   (1st new home permit issued for 2009)


Old Business:

Definitions/Standards Language:  Tabled


Wind Generators:     Gurr reported language was reviewed by the County Planning and their recommendations will be sent to the Township Board.  One question of when the generator becomes a commercial enterprise.


Adjourn:                       Motion Robbins, 2nd Dewey. Carried (6, 0)


Respectfully Submitted,




Bonnie Robbins

Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary