Zoning Board Of Appeals Minutes June 15, 2020

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Minutes of Helena Township Zoning Board of Appeals

June 15, 2020

This meeting was held through Zoom and conference call-in. Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Mr. Logee met at the Helena Township Community Center.

Minutes taken by Bonnie Robbins at the request of the secretary.

Meeting called to order by Gurr at 7:00 P.M.

No flag present but Mr. Gurr asked we all remember we are presently not under a flag at half-mast and we keep our country and the safety of our country in our thoughts.

Roll Call:

Present: Doris Felton, Linda Fox, Jim Gurr, Barb Lockrey, Sue Moglovkin (alternate), Bonnie Robbins

Absent: None

Township officials present: Bob Logee

First Point of Business: Election of officers. Motion by Felton, supported by Fox to re-elect seated officers: Jim Gurr (Chair), Barb Lockrey (V. Chair), Linda Fox (Secretary) Motion carried (5 Yes, 0 No) Moglovkin not voting

Approval of Agenda:   Motion: Fox, 2nd Lockrey. Motion carried (5 Yes, 0 No) Moglovkin not voting

Statement of Conflict of Interest: None

Approval of Minutes: No minutes. Fox stated the last meeting was a brief meeting November 13, 2019 to approve the meeting minutes from an October 2019 public hearing.

Discussion with legal counsel, Abbie Hawley who is hosting the Zoom meeting and all call-ins on how to proceed with public comments. Ms. Hawley will unmute participants by stating the last four digits of the phone number one at a time and allow them to comment. Five participants on phone and three without video. Chris Bzdok and Abbie Hawley are participating as legal counsel for Helena Township. Three others are participating as public through Zoom.

Regular meeting closed at 7:04 p.m.

Public Hearing Comments:

#3495                           Gina Bozzer– Legal counsel for Walker Shores Development. Will reserve comment until 2nd phase of public hearing but is willing to answer any questions she can.

Gurr asked that Ms. Bozzer be left unmuted so she could answer any questions. Ms. Hawley will do so.

Bzdok asked Gurr to have Ms. Bozzer to give an overview of the application/request so the public would have an understanding of what the ZBA is being asked to address.

Ms. Bozzer explained the applicant is asking for a dimensional variance to allow the current site plan to be amended to allow storage buildings to be built. The amendment would concentrate the buildings away from the lake shore. This amendment does not permit the building of the units, it is just a mechanism to allow the site plan to be amended to allow them to be built in the future. The buildings would not all be built at the same time. The buildings would be screened from the road, have strict architectural controls, and bylaws would be amended to deny any commercial use of the buildings.

#3132                           Norm Neuenschwander from Torch Lake Protection Alliance. TLPA sent a letter in May stating their concern with run-off and impact on the lake. A 24′ x 48′ building is a pretty good size building to put in that small space and the plan of ten buildings and additional paving will concentrate run off very close to the wetlands just down from this site. This run off will get into the lake. A site plan was negotiated in 2005 with 13 units and now coming back with another change is a concern. TLPA totally against this and thinks it is a bad idea.

Jim stated he will read their letter into the minutes.

#3171                           Chuck Walker introduced himself and is glad we can have this meeting. He stating he is present and would be happy to answer any questions.

#9524                           Andy Skrzpczak Here listening. No comment at this point.

#2246                           Anthony and Rose DeMaria, 9256 SE Torch Lake Drive, just a couple doors down from this development. Anthony stated he echos the same concerns already stated. He understands there will be architectural guidelines but has not seen what they will look like. They state screening from the road but also concerned with what it will look like from the lake. Concerned with what might be stored in these buildings. They applied for a permit to build a gazebo and were denied and these buildings will have a much larger impact and it is concerning the variance could be granted for this.

No Video:

Kevin Case                   9260 SE Torch Lake Drive right next to DeMarias. Echo their concerns with Norm. He is concerned about large storage buildings there, what they might look like, what could be stored in these buildings or if the buildings could be leased by the owner. Quite concerned about this type of construction being allowed along SE Torch Lake Drive.

Jeff Makelim.               Just listening. No comment. Owner of Lot 2.

IPAD 2                          Kevin & Katherine Shumrick, 9250 SE Torch Lake Drive, just south of the development. Major concerns about the variance allowing these massive structures to be put in. They have not seen what the height will be. The amount of run off from these structures. Concern of impact of the lake. Has seen studies showing increase in algae growth near this development so it has had an impact on lake quality and they are very concerned with protecting the lake. There is concern with potential for criminal activity, people breaking into these storage buildings. Concerns of people dumping oil or gasoline from their boats which would drain directly into the lake.

Gurr stated he will read their letter into the minutes.

Video participants:

Gary Petty                    TLPA board member. Concerned with impact on the lake. He stated the burden of proof there will be no harm to public health, safety, and welfare and it has not been met. Criteria for section 3.06 states if variance is not granted the property could not be used. This standard has not been met. This is a situation of the owners own making, they could have done fewer lots or smaller houses. To come in this late and drastically change the site plan and with the opposition of surrounding neighbors is not a good idea. Standards of the ordinance have not been met.

Linda Wayne                 Agrees with Mr. Petty that the ordinance states the purpose is to protect health, safety and welfare and property value. As the owner of the property directly north of where these buildings will be place she feels this will have a negative impact should she decide to place her property for sale. No one will want to buy with these large storage buildings right next door. She is concerned with the negative impact on the wetlands in that area. There is a lot of wetland area there and runoff will go directly into them. She is very concerned of the impact on her property value.

Dale Eschenburg           Has same concerns as others have stated. Height has not been disclosed. If granted there needs to be discussion of screening. He wouldn’t want it to look like Dewitt Marina area or Rapid City. He feels this does not compliment the value of the property. No objection to owner building on their lots.

Letters                          Gurr read the letters submitted. Copies of those letters are attached to these minutes of record.

Public comment closed at 7:38

  •     Gurr stated this development has been with us for some time and nothing is happening in haste.   He stated that he met with the applicant last spring along with Bob Logee and Bonnie Robbins to discuss this idea.  He is aware of the concerns voiced.  The zoning ordinance is crafted to allow accessory structures on this site.  The applicant was told an argument might be made to allow a smaller number of buildings for lots that could be considered contiguous to this site.

Clarification by Robbins that the discussion included additional property to the north of this proposed site and there were 3 or maybe 4 lots that could meet the contiguous requirement with that parcel included.

Gurr continued with his discussion.  He stated the planning commission has worked to limit large storage buildings along SE Torch Lake Drive.  He stated owners could build on their lots and all considerations about height, design, etc. will be determined if the variance is granted.

We will determine through finding of fact if this request meets the requirements for variance.

  •  Fox questioned if this had been brought at the beginning of the development if it would have been approved. Gurr stated that they did not know whether it would have been approved at that time.
  • Moglovkin asked if there was a plan for storage buildings across the road.
  • Gurr shared that this was handled through a committee of the planning commission and third-party review of legal counsel and engineering. He stated it was not brought to the planning commission. He asked Robbins if she remembered more. Robbins stated she believed there were buildings located on the east side in the first application that expired.
  • Lockrey stated she has gone by the development and it appears all of the houses have garages.
  • Robbins stated it is required. House size is defined and there is a mandatory attached garage.  Owners would apply for a permit to build their house and could apply for a permit to build a storage building at that time.
  •  Lockrey said she felt some lots have room for an additional storage building and this variance is not needed.
  • Felton asked if we would be asking the four questions in the ordinance. The questions start with whether there is a hardship. She doesn’t feel this enhances the property. Will these be year around residents?
  • Lockery stated residency status doesn’t matter.

Discussion that ZBA is ready to make a determination

Bzdok stated the ZBA has been asked to make a determination on contiguous and this should be addressed prior to the decision on dimensional variance.

Gurr read the language drafted by legal counsel stating this request does not meet the contiguous requirement.  That language is attached to these meeting minutes.

Motion made by Robbins, supported by Felton. Carried (5 yes, O no) Moglovkin not voting.

Finding of Fact from Section 3.06.01

A. The Board may issue a dimensional variance only if it finds that a practical difficulty exists without a variance. A practical difficulty exists when all of the following are true:

Section 3.06.01– Standards

  1.  The requirement in question either (a) unreasonably prevents the owner from using the property in the manner allowed in the zoning district, (b) is unnecessarily burdensome to use of the property, or (c) both.

The vote on this bullet point is (0 yes, 5 no) Moglovkin not voting. They can still build on their own lots. The individual properties can be used for homes and storage as allowed in the R1 zoning district.

2.  Granting the variance requested, or some other relief, would be just to both the applicant and to the other property owners in the zoning district.

The vote on this bullet point is (0 yes, 5 no) Moglovkin not voting.  There is no need for the variance.

3.   Granting relief will be consistent with the spirit of the ordinance.

The vote on this bullet point is (0 yes, 5 no) Moglovkin not voting.  All agree that we prefer not to see a row of storage buildings along SE Torch Lake Drive.

4.   Granting relief will not be harmful to public health, safety, and welfare.

The vote on this bullet point is (0 yes, 5 no) Moglovkin not voting.  Discussion about whether the run off for a group of buildings would have more impact that having them situated on individual lots from Gurr.  However he agree with the board’s decision.

Motion:  The variance request has failed  based on a finding of act by the ZBA.

Motion by Robbins, supported by Felton. Carried (5 yes, 0 no) Moglovkin not voting.

Bzdok asked if meeting was being recorded. Hawley stated Zoom is recording. Bzdok stated the minutes should clearly define the findings of fact.

Hawley went through the participants and unmuted them so they could add any additional public comment.

Neuschwander from TLPA complimented the board on following procedures.

Walker reserved comment at this time.

Bozzer requested a copy of the audio recording but has no further comment.


Eschenburg stated he is happy and satisfied. If appealed he hopes we will go through the process again.

Additional Business:  Robbins requested the board set a meeting for Friday to approve the minutes of this meeting.  Meeting will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday June 19, 2020 at the Helena Township Community Center, 8751 Helena Road, Alden, MI.

Adjourn:  Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted

Bonnie Robbins

Deputy Clerk


ZBA Motion 6 15 2020