Minutes of Helena Township Planning Commission
FEBRUARY 01, 2018
Meeting called to order by Gurr at 7:02 p.m.
Opened with Pledge of Allegiance.
Roll Call: Present: Jim Gurr Laura Westerman
Joe Bassil Bonnie Robbins
Mike Robinson (arrived 7:46pm)
Absent: Ken Renaud
Township officials present: Guy Molby Bob Logee
Approval of Agenda: Amended to move special use permit up in agenda. It will be addressed after conflict of interest statement. Motion: Robbins. 2nd Bassil. Carried
Statement of Conflict of Interest: None
Meeting was closed at 7:04 for Public Hearing
8 people in attendance.
Chairperson Gurr stated the hearing was necessary in accordance with our zoning ordinance. He explained the language is fairly new in the ordinance and that may have played a role in the issuance of a land use permit that was outside of the zoning administrator’s authority. The planning commission is committed to following the procedures outlined in the zoning ordinance. The public hearing is a part of the requirements for digital signs and was written as such to allow neighboring parcels, that will be impacted by the light of the sign, opportunity to voice their support or objection. Gurr assured the applicant there was not prejudicial intent in requiring the special use permit public hearing for this land use application.
Molby stated he mailed 13 letters to surrounding parcel owners. 2 letters in response. 1 no preference, 1 in favor.
Gurr asked applicants Doug Davis and Christine McCool to update the commission of the progress of the sign replacement.
Ms. McCool stated the new sign is about 90% finished based on her conversation with the manufacturer earlier this week. The old sign has been removed and a permit has been obtained to replace the existing support structure. The work on the support structure was stopped when Mr. Molby brought the special use permit application to her.
Ed Roy, Kuhn & Rogers, PLC, applicant’s legal counsel asked that the meeting minutes record he does not believe the township has authority to hold this public hearing and participation by his clients admit no waive of claim should they need to challenge the findings in court. On review of the zoning ordinance he understands how Mr. Molby arrived at his conclusion. Mr. Roy believes the ordinance has inconsistent provisions in the language addressing digital signs and believes Mr. Molby’s decision to grant the land use permit would be upheld in court.
He offered a summary of the procedure followed by the applicant based on the understanding of having obtained an approved land use permit. Documentation was presented showing when the applicant began the research on replacing their existing sign, the issuance of the land use permit, timeline of discussions with Mr. Molby, when the check was issued as deposit on the new sign along with the letter from the sign manufacturer stating it is a non-refundable deposit due to the custom design of the sign. Mr. Roy also stated the applicant based their new sign size on the size of the sign being replaced and discussed the structure of the sign. There are two components, one being the digital sign which measures 33.7 sq. ft. and a stationary sign that will top the digital board. The top sign will be illuminated but is not digital.
Mr. Roy offered case references that he feels would support the applicant’s challenge in court should they need to pursue that action against the township ruling. Mr. Roy stated there has been no intention by the applicant to avoid adhering to the zoning ordinance. He offered there seems little resistance based on the return of comments by surrounding property owners.
Gary Hutchens, 6986 Crystal Springs Road, asked about voting process. Does the vote need to be unanimous? Gurr stated it is a majority vote on a special use permit. Mr. Hutchens stated the ordinance does not allow an appeal of the planning commission or township board’s decision on a special use permit.
With no further discussion from public comment the public hearing was closed at 7:35 and the planning commission moved on to review the standards for approval as outlined in Chapter 6 of the zoning ordinance.
A summary of these bullet points is attached.
Additional reference to Chapter 9, addressing non-conforming structures: The commission agreed that while the new sign exceeds current zoning ordinance size limit it is a replacement of an existing sign and this condition could be granted under Section 9.01. This is in reference to bullet H of the standards for approval stating the application meets all zoning ordinance requirements.
Based on the planning commission’s findings of facts concerning the special use permit for the DeWitt Marina digital sign Mike Robinson made the motion to forward this permit to the board of trustees with recommendation for approval. Motion was supported by Joe Bassil.
Discussion among planning commission members concerning conditions to recommend. Westerman and Robinson both stated concern of the impact of the digital sign on night skies, neighboring properties, and drivers. Consensus to allow the elected officials to apply any reasonable conditions if they decide to approve this special use permit.
Vote ( 5 yes, 0 no)
Planning commission continued the meeting to address regular planning commission business at 8:17 p.m.
Approval of Minutes: April 5, 2018 As presented Motion: Westerman 2nd Bassil. Carried
Communications: Brief discussion of Short Term Rental forum attended by 4 members and the zoning administrator. More info at the June meeting.
New Business: April 2018 LU 4; FC 12; AC 0; PC 0; ZV 3 – 1 lighting (resolved) 1 junk accumulation (resolved) 1 junk accumulation (being addressed)
Old Business: Discussion to table until next meeting.
Public Comment: Discussion among public and commission members of tonight’s meeting. Questions about why the permit had been issued. Commission will continue to review the language and discuss it during the zoning ordinance review scheduled for future meetings.
Adjourn: Motion Bassil, 2nd Robbins. Carried
Helena Township Planning Commission Recording Secretary