Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission
October 19, 2023
-Meeting called to order by Moglovkin at 5.38 P.M. Chair requested Bonnie Robbins to serve as chair for this meeting.
-Opened with Pledge of Allegiance.
-Present: Jim Gurr, Joe Bassil, Gary Lockwood, Mike Robinson, Sue Moglovkin, Gordy Schafer, and Bonnie Robbins
-Township officials present: Bob Logee, Butch Peeples
-Approval of Agenda: Motion by Moglovkin, 2nd by Lockwood. Carried
-Statement of Conflict of Interest: None
-Robbins gave a statement concerning the ordinance language change approved by the Planning Commission and the Board of Trustees in September. She clarified that no changes are effective due to the Board rescinding the approval and tabling the discussion until it is investigated further. The Board action at the October 12 meeting was the result of a portion of the ordinance change that was not presented at the public hearing held in accordance with the legal requirements. This missing language would create conflicting language in the ordinance. The Board sought legal counsel and took the action he recommended.
-Robbins explained the process and restrictions of this special meeting. The posting was
published prior to the October 12 Board meeting. Special meetings can only address what was posted in the public notice. Public was encouraged to voice their concerns and share their comments but to understand there would be no action taken by the Planning Commission at this meeting except the work on the Master Plan as posted. Commission members will listen and note their concerns, but the audience should not expect exchange or answers on zoning matters at this meeting. Public is encouraged to attend the November 2nd meeting so the commission would be able to engage with them on the zoning ordinance language changes and answer their questions.
-Public Comment: Estimate of 100+ in attendance
Paul Sak spoke about his attendance of the October 5th meeting and his displeasure with the representation on the planning commission. He stated the attendance tonight indicated the commission does not represent the sentiment of the township residents to protect the lake. He questioned why the ordinance was approved considering the master plan clearly states there should be a greenbelt buffer at the lakeshore. Comments by members at the Oct 5th meeting that this is not the 1800’s or 60 years ago are correct. With more development and more
people, it is critical to have zoning that addresses the impact on the lakes. He cited his many years of working to protect the shoreline from overdevelopment and will continue to actively follow this action by the planning commission to make sure the lake is protected. He encouraged the public to keep attending the meetings.
Lori Sak shared sections of the master plan, sharing that the document printed for tonight’s meeting did not match the document she printed off the website. The sections she referred to address the greenbelt buffer, charge of planning commission to amend the ordinance to reflect the master plan, mobile home section that she believes ties to RV use and purposed language is not inline with what the master plan supports. She asked about what is being done about
seasonal rentals. They do not meet what the master plan identifies for R1 zoning. She stated R1 is lakefront property in our township. She asked how the zoning ordinance reflects the master plan if we eliminate the greenbelt buffer and allow unlimited camping in R1.
There were multiple attendees who spoke in opposition to allowing campers, tents, and RV use for 180 days on vacant land and their concern about eliminating greenbelt and the effect it will have on the lake. The attendees were consistent with their viewpoint of zoning language not following the language of the master plan.
There was a discussion about why the minutes are not updated on the website. Robbins explained a technical problem with website updates and will update as soon as the problem is fixed.
Mary Anne Stimpson stated campers bring campfires and there is reason for concern of bringing that danger into the community with zoning language that would allow the creation of campgrounds.
Comments that the lakes drive the economy of our area. The language change can have a negative effect on the lakes.
Linda Prescott shared information about state law defining what is deemed commercial use regarding campgrounds. She pointed out that RV parks and campgrounds charge for rental of space, not the actual RV or camper. She was asked to send a copy of the file to the township so the planning commission can review what she shared.
Bob Mack stated there is plenty of sample language available to address the issues and the planning commission does not have to re-invent the wheel. The master plan needs definitions, it does not support use of multiple trailers or eliminating the greenbelt buffer.
A question was raised on the ordinance language that allows group homes to be in R-1. Robbins explained the ordinance had been reviewed in 2010 by legal counsel. The stated uses have been challenged in court and we cannot zone against allowing them in the township.
Michele Zeeman expressed concerns about rentals, both houses and boats. The rentals have accelerated, and the township should address their use. She stated trust that the planning commission will do what is right for the whole township.
Laura Wilcox shared that there are violations of the current short term rental language and asked what the township is doing to enforce the ordinance.
Commission members expanded on the publics input concerning matters that were master plan related but discussion was confined to master plan topics only.
Robbins asked if there was any further comment and encouraged the public to stay and participate as the commission worked on review of the master plan.
–Review of Master Plan– Members were asked if they had any suggestions on updates of the plan beginning on page 1. To facilitate recording of any changes Robbins asked Gurr to read the plan page by page so she could record discussion. The following is a summary of the comments.
Final review will clarify these at a future meeting.
-Discussion of where to address any needed language on short term rentals.
-Discussion with public on various matters:
Show of hand in support of topics such as mandatory inspection of septic
systems on sale of property, use of fertilizer in the shoreline buffer, and
wind or solar farms. The public in attendance supports septic inspection
ordinance, fertilizer ban in greenbelt buffer and language to address wind
-Discussion about funneling and keyhole use of lakeshore by back lots.
Ordinance allows additional dwellings with special use permit, and this
could create the opportunity for funneling.
–Question from commission member about reference to the natural resource
inventory. Gurr shared that the county has developed one for the entire
–Discussion of updates on wording for DDA (change to DABA—Downtown Area
Business Association) Strike the Pedestrian Safety references in the
–Add language to address solar & wind in the Alternative Energy section.
–Review Commercial sections to see if there are any changes needed to
address parking, pedestrian, commercial viability.
–There was more discussion about septic issues preventing growth in the
downtown area. Audience member stated nothing is in the master plan
or has been offered in discussion at the meeting. Commission referred
to the statement in the master plan that encourages exploring new
technology. The cost of a municipal sewer system is not a viable option
for the downtown area.
–Brief discussion of the Future section and agreement to end the meeting for tonight and pick up at the November 2nd meeting. Members will read the last and make notes ahead of the
meeting. Clarification that the November meeting will be at 5:00 PM as stated in the bylaws.
–Adjourn: 8:10 PM Motion: Schafer, 2nd Lockwood. Carried
Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary
Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission