Planning Commission Minutes – May 12, 2010 (Special Meeting)

Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission

May 12, 2010


Meeting called to order by Swan at 7:05

Opened with Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call:                      Present:            Jim Swan                Jim Gurr

Bob Johnson           Bonnie Robbins

Rodger Dewey

Absent:             Joe Bassil               Sue Moglovkin

Chris Dewald

Township officials present:                      Guy Molby


Swan:                          We do not presently have a quorum present who can vote due to                                                     incompatible office conflict of Gurr, possible adjacent property                                 owner conflict of interest of Swan.


Bassil and Moglovkin are out of town.  Call was placed to Dewald requesting he come to     meeting even if ill.  Gurr will vote if needed.

Meeting restarted at 7:28

Updated Roll Call:  Dewald, Dewey, Robbins, Swan, Gurr, Johnson


Statement of Conflict of Interest: 

Roll call to state conflict of interest.  No-Dewald, Dewey, Robbins, Swan, Johnson.  Gurr stated his conflict as single vote.

Gurr:  suggested we discuss his and Swan’s potential conflict of interest.

Dewey:  we don’t have a choice but to ask you (Gurr) to vote tonight if we reach that point.

Robbins:  we may jeopardize the process by allowing Swan to vote.

Swan was asked to relinquish chair for public hearing to avoid any question of conflict of interest.

Approval of Agenda:  Motion to approve agenda Gurr, 2nd Robbins, all (6,0)

Swan relinquished chair to Secretary Robbins.

Meeting Closed for Public Hearing:  7:35 p.m.

Molby presented his report.  20 mailings, 2 undeliverable, 7 returned (2 yes, 5 no-2 with brief statement of why they opposed)

Discussion of one undeliverable being sent to wrong address.  Molby stated address used is from    property address listing on file.  File will be updated to avoid future error.  Molby discussed packet     distributed to members as containing all documents submitted by property owner and permitting agencies   available at this time, Dan Bean will submit Sheriff’s recommendation tomorrow.  Findings from various            departments have been in favor.  Fire chief would like start and finish date to inspect for hazardous      waste.  DEQ permits are in place.  Building permits come after the approval from Township.  Proposal           tonight is car wash only.  Drawings show plans for future storage and public shops.

Gurr:     Was planning commission site plan review committee involved?

Molby:  The committee reviewed it all and felt it was in line.  Zoning permit will be issued after the finding of fact        and building permit will follow that.

(Public comment)-Bob Robbins; who is on the site plan review committee:

Molby:  Bassil, Dewald, Swan and Molby

Gurr:     Ordinance provide for subcommittee to review special use permit.

Applicant Presentation:  Scott Jozwiak of Jozwiak Consulting:  Design Engineer for project.

Existing barn style structure will be used for car wash.  Bays will be cut in sides, small addition to   accommodate some equipment.  Traffic is a non-conflicting pattern with at least 11 stacking stations for             the automatic and at least that for the two self serve bays. Drive will be paved. Three lane entry to allow   easy entrance and exits for turning north or south.  Office space in upper floor with separate septic from       car wash.  Will use existing sign structure.  Dumpster in back, fully enclosed, shielded with fencing.  Kiosk       for auto-wash bay.  Outgoing side will have two vacuum islands.  Drainage will be handled by basins.              Drawings show future development for the project.  Will discuss fence screening planned for the back if        we want.

Tom Houseman, Turn Key Car Wash Solutions explained how the system will work.  The system utilizes naturally    occurring bacteria in the tank to basically eat anything carbon based in the water.  The system is exactly       what is used in municipalities to clean they waste water.  It is a gravity flow closed system.  The water will           go into the storage tanks.  Three tanks will serve to remove sand and oils and then be pumped back into         the bio reactors which are honeycombs that house the bacteria.  The water is emulsified with a lot of       oxygen to give the bacteria time to react with the soaps and oils.  Soaps are all bio degradable.  After the            water has passed through the system it will be a clean water source and is pumped into tanks (about   1000 gallon tanks) and when the car wash is not being used the water will still be cycled through the            system to keep the bacteria alive and the system functioning.  The system is fully closed and a very safe        system.


Public: Bob Robbins (R. Robbins):  So there is nothing hauled away from the site?

Houseman:        There is a fourth tank (overflow tank) that will hold the sludge accumulating in the bottom of the                                three tanks from the bacteria that will die off during the process cycle.  This will be hauled to a                                 licensed site by a licensed hauler and registered.  (will be hauled to Traverse City)   Hauler will                                 have to apply for permit from the state.  The permit number and location is registered.

Public R. Robbins:         Based on experience how many car washes before the tank will need pumped?

Houseman:        Typically about once every two years all four tanks will need to be pumped to remove the sand,                                oil and sludge.  It will depend on how many cars are washed.

Public R. Robbins:         You don’t have a number of car washes? 1000?

Houseman:        A lot more than that.  I can’t give you a number.

Dewald: Your in the business so you are giving us an educated guess.

Houseman:        Very educated.  I managed several car washes and we don’t use this system 100% but we                                     typically pump all our tanks every two years.

Public comment: Jennifer Swan (J Swan):  Can you tell me where these car washes are?

Houseman:        Genison, Fruitport, Ferryville, Midland.

Public Swan:     Can I have addresses?

Houseman:        I can give you addresses.

Public Swan:     What kind of noise will be coming out of the system?

Houseman:        There will be no noise out of the reclaim system.  The only noise would be the vacuum are about                             83 decibels.

Dewald: Is that more or less than a boat motor on the lake?

Houseman:        Less

Public Swan:     This is closer to my house than a boat on the lake.


Questions from public:

What happens when the tank is full?  (Houseman) System will shut down.  Owner will be                                        monitoring before this happens.  Water in system will be dark and have odor if the system fails completely   and all bacteria is dead.


Retention basins?  (Houseman) These are for storm water run off and not for the car                                                wash system. They are required for permit.


How does the bacteria react to cold weather?  (Houseman) Does not seem to affect the                                          bacteria.  If there is food they will live.


Water table is high and question retention basin.  (Pixley (applicant)) Soil and Erosion office has                                          addressed this and Chuck Edwards of the Health Dept has checked this site.


Dewey:             Looking at run off, what does the car wash change from what we have today?

Houseman:        Water run off will be directed to the retention basin.

Johnson:           You met all the setback requirements?

Houseman:        Yes.

Johnson:           What will the lighting be?

Jowiack:            We will put in wall packs and meets zoning ordinance requirements.  We are working with                           an electrician now and will have to bring any pole light request to planning commission                                                for review.  Trying to just light the building at this point.  Wall packs will direct lighting                                      down.

Public R. Robbins:         What’s the decibel l level for the car wash when doors are open and a car is moving                                                through?

Houseman:        It will vary as the machine is moving back and forth.  One door will be closed.  With no                                            doors closed it would be 96 at 5′, 92 @ 10′, 86 @ 20′, 80 @ 30′, 76 @ 40′, 72 @ 55′, 68                                         @ 70′.  One door has to be open.

Public R. Robbins:         Where and what type of buffering for the residential property?

Jowiack:            We had shown a 6′ high fence.  We lifted the sections to make the fence 7′ – 8′ high.

Discussion of what type and color.  Swan prefers composite fence in brown.  Discussion of lack of               fence at north end of development to buffer residential from commercial property.

Public (Tim Fox)  Concerned that this is commercial property but he is concerned with asthetics.


Discussion that ordinance requires screening between residential and commercial.

Molby:                          We didn’t get into any north side screen because the owner owns the parcel to the north.

Gurr:                 The planning commission will require the requirements of the ordinance be met.

Public J. Swan:  Where will the stuff there now going?  I have had my attorney look at this and it is a junk yard.

Pixley:              We are moving it out to other storage areas and it will be gone in a reasonable amount of time.

No outside storage planned.

Gurr, Dewald, Robbins:  Let’s keep this meeting to gather inform concerning this application.


Applicant stated they had completed their presentation.

Public question:  What will the hours of operation be?

Discussion of what the ordinance allows.  This will be self serve and could operate 24 hours.  Pixley anticipates closing at 9 p.m.  System can be shut down.

Public question:  Curious what the car wash will look like, I don’t want an unfinished cement block building.  Re-using the same building,


Public Comment:

  1. (Bob) Robbins, 10742 S. Lake, Alden. Did all member received David Hulefield’s letter? (Gurr, yes it will be read into the minutes) I was a member of the Master Plan committee in late nineties and 2000 and served on the planning commission for three years and want to thank everyone who sets here for what you do.  Speaking for both myself and the Torch Lake Protection Alliance.  The proposed use at this location is precedent setting for Helena Township and want to ask the commission to carefully consider if it is a permitted use. proposal.  It is not a named use and is required to make a finding of fact to determine if it meets the zoning ordinance and the master plan.  TLPA  is concerned that this the first time a use is being proposed that has industrial waste as a byproduct.  This proposal is adjacent to R1 zoned property and to lake front property.  MP states any economic development with potential for negative impact on Torch Lake has no place in Helena Township.  The MP growth management places prime importance to protection of water resources.  The planning commission should include stringent restrictions to protect the adjoining properties and water resources if this is use is permitted.  There should be a completion performance guarantee to protect the township that the project will be completed if approved.  Strongly urge the applicant secure an approved source for disposal of the industrial waste before the application is approved.  I have spent time with legal council and submit an eight page document from those meetings so the planning commission can review the sections of the zoning ordinance we have review in reference to this proposal.

(Houseman) The byproduct is not industrial waste.  It is required to be hauled by a licensed hauler because the DNRE has not made a ruling that this can be dumped as septic waste can.

(R, Robbins) The byproduct can not be put in the ground without being treated.  Information about the system was not available until tonight and I believe the planning commission may have gotten ahead of themselves in scheduling the public hearing before the information was available to the public.  I have had a request in to the office for 6 weeks.


Tim Fox, 9008 Valley St., Alden  When they say no waste I look at Arizona with their strict laws and I wonder where all the leaks of oil and transmission from cars that have mechanical problems.

(Houseman)  this system is the best place for it.  The bacteria will eat anything carbon based.  It doesn’t take care of salt.

Dewey:  The situation we have to consider here is what the byproduct is classified as.  We need to know what the    ruling is one way or the other for our decision.


Jim Swan, 9526 Fowler Lane.  Concerned that this is the entrance to Helena Township.  Understand it was rezoned to allow a bake shop but doubts a car wash was considered as a use for this location.  The planning commission is charged with protecting the residential character of Helena Township and this would not be in the best interest of the township.  If it looks like toxic waste it is toxic waste.


Suzanne Cybulla, 11730 SE Torch Lake Dr.  Has this system been used on well water before?

(Houseman)  In Lewiston for about 6 years.  South Haven for about 2 years.  It is hauled out.


Tom Hammerstien, 9674 Fowler Lane,  Submitted more questions from Dave Hulefield who lives Kentucky and could not attend.  My wife and I answered no opposition because we have no opinion on this proposal.  My question is the old railroad and the residents of Fowler Lane purchased the west side of the old railroad bed and I don’t know what happened to the east side but there has never been any survey stakes just stakes from the hardware and there has been a lot of excavating and land moving on this project already but I haven’t seen any survey stakes.  From Dave Hulefield:  quotes from section 2.24 concerning clearing and grading.  Was permission given for this clearing/grading?  For many years the applicant has stored junk on the property in violation of the zoning ordinance.  Board has opportunity to impose conditions to site plan approval to insure the project will be completed at approved.  Conditions should include a performance guarantee or surety bond.  Sited section 17.12 as related to this proposal.


David Peterson, 9446 Apple Lane, Are tanks above ground or below ground and what monitoring system is there for leaks.

(Houseman) Below ground.  There is no monitoring for leaks.


Jennifer Swan, 9526 Fowler Lane, anyone can drive down Fowler Lane and turn your head to the right and you will see a junk yard.  The trash should go before the car wash is allowed.


Vito Poma, 9670 McPherson, Alden (Heights),  There used to be a junk yard there.  The man has cleaned up a whole lot.  He has made a lot of improvements.  I’m in favor of the car wash 100%.  The man explained it to us, it’s safe.


  1. Swan: He has moved everything from the front to the back and adds to it every day. It is a junk yard.  Junk aluminum, junk cars, he burn stuff every day.  I tell my husband everyday, thank you for bringing me to hillbilly heaven.


Gurr read Mr. Hulefield’s letter.  Mr. Hulefield is a planner from Louisville, Kentucky and the family has had a residence on Fowler Lane for many years.  Concerns are addressing the impact on surface and ground water and on surrounding properties.  Helena Township relies on tourism and the tax revenue from the lakefront properties and should take strong measures to protect the lake and high value of lakefront residential.  Car wash facilities produce large volumes of industrial waste water and storage tank leaks are a common issue with commercial activities.  Proper design for the basin and storage tanks are crucial to protection of the lake and ground water.  I request township require a bond sufficient to assure the tanks and basin meet these qualifications and that the applicant give sufficient notification of the date of installation so the process can be inspected and monitored to assure the tanks are installed correctly.  The commission can impose reasonable conditions with approval of site plan.  Request applicant to submit documentation of licensed waste hauler and approval by appropriate regulatory agencies for waste water storage and removal.  The design of this facility has not been specified.  All processing must be wholly enclosed in the building.  Lighting should be noted to avoid light pollution.  Please specify lighting fixtures that will be allowed.  Please attach a condition that prohibits operation of any component of the business after 10 p.m.  Landscaping is an important component of site development.  Please include landscaping and fencing to protect residential and visual impact of commercial development.  The performance guarantee should be sufficient to ensure the completion of these landscaping and buffering requirements.  Please attach a condition to prevent the applicant from storing junk or inoperable vehicles on the site.


Closed at 8:57 p.m.

Dewald:  MP state a wish to keep commercial clustered which this does.  Permitted use includes car wash.  We will go through the site plan review.  There should be a performance bond in place.

Question: Bob Robbins If it is not a named use in the zoning ordinance it needs to go through a finding of fact.  I strongly recommend the township provide legal council for the finding of fact.

Gurr:  Mr. Molby did you consult the township attorney on this?

Molby:  Not on the car wash proposal.

Dewey:  Was there a permit to do the grading?

Molby:  I made the decision and gave approval for that.

Dewey:  Does the zoning ordinance allow the Zoning Administrator to make that decision to go ahead?

Public:  Were there surveys done before the grading?

Molby:  I have a survey

Public:  Was the person doing the grading given the survey?

Molby:  I do not know


Dewey:  We have questions that are not answered.  We need to have legal council on whether this is a permitted use and classification on whether it is industrial waste or not.  If it is industrial waste going into a concrete tank we have a problem.

Robbins:  We need to have our lawyer look at this to see where we should go from here.

Dewey:  We need to have Bzdok to go through what has been presented and answer those questions.

Dewald:  We could have a special meeting in two weeks.

Discussion of what we need from our lawyer.  Molby will get material to Bzdok and request he attend our next meeting.

Dewey:  One other thing.  If there are existing zoning violations they need to be addressed before we go any further with this project.

Gurr:  Mr. Pixley meet with Mr. Molby and get this taken care of.


Consensus that there are too many questions that need clarification or answers to make a decision tonight.   Meeting again on May 26, 2010, 7 p.m. to address these concerns.


Public comment:

Poma, this is not hillbilly heaven.  It’s a beautiful place to live.


Motion to adjourn: Dewald, 2nd Gurr, all in favor.



Respectfully Submitted,




Bonnie Robbins

Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary