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Minutes - August 23, 2016



Regular Meeting
August 23, 2016

Present:   Chairman Steve Haberkorn, Vice-Chairman Vern Johnson, Members Elliott Church, Bob Swartz, and Russ Boersma. Also present was Assistant Planner/Zoning Administrator Corey Broersma and Recording Secretary Laurie Slater.

Absent: None

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Steve Haberkorn at 5:30 p.m.

Mr. Haberkorn explained the public hearing process to the audience.

** It was moved by Mr. Church and supported by Mr. Swartz to remove from the table a petition for two variances submitted by The Stow Company for property located at 3311 Windquest Drive, known more specifically as parcel numbers 70-16-08-300-033, 70-16-08-300-072, and 70-16-08-300-074 that was tabled at the July 26, 2016 meeting. Petitioner is requesting the following variances: (1) A request to extend the nonconforming structure to accommodate a proposed 178,200 square foot addition onto the north side of the existing building. The current structure is nonconforming because it fails to meet the 50 foot rear yard setback requirement. The current structure presently has a rear yard setback of 16 feet; the new addition proposes to maintain this same setback. (2) A request for a nonuse variance in the rear yard setback. A 34 foot variance from the 50 foot rear yard setback; resulting in a rear yard setback of 16 feet. The subject property is zoned I-2, General Industrial.

Present for this request was Lynnelle Berkenpas of Holland Engineering on behalf of The Stow Company.

At the July meeting the Board had asked staff to investigate how and when the rear yard setback came to be incompliant. Also, if there had ever been any variances granted for the property.

Assistant Planner/Zoning Administrator, Mr. Broersma, informed the Board that he found construction plans for the building that The Stow Company currently occupies. The rear yard setback was out of compliance from the start. Mr. Broersma found no variance requests or formal site plan approval for the building.

The Board had further requested that the applicant meet with the Fire Chief, Jim Kohsel. That meeting did take place and Chief Kohsel was present to answer any questions that might arise at tonight’s’ meeting.

Ms. Berkenpas explained to the Board that strict compliance with the rear yard setback restrict the building area on the parcel. If the building were to burn down today and they had to stay within the setback requirements, they would be forced to go elsewhere.

Mr. Broersma explained to the applicant that if a fire were to destroy more than 50% of the nonconforming building, the entire building, if rebuilt, would have to meet the 26’ rear yard setback variance.

Also present in the audience for The Stow Company was Randy Tallman. He asked for clarification on Mr. Broersma’s comment.

Mr. Church asked for the history of the property. Mr. Tallman replied that Lee and Betty Huizenga owned it in the mid 80’s, Windquest Group purchased it from them in 1994. The Stow Company is owned by the Windquest Group. The building existed when the Windquest Group purchased the property.

Mr. Church further asked if The Stow Company was aware that they were in violation of the setback ordinance when they were given a permit for the 30’ addition two years ago. Mr. Tallman replied that he was not aware that they were in violation of any ordinance.

There was no one else in the audience to speak to this request.

** It was moved by Mr. Johnson and supported by Mr. Church to close the hearing. Motion carried.

The Board went over the three standards to review when considering a petition to extend a nonconforming use.

1.   The extension would not substantially extend the probable duration of the nonconforming structure or its use. The building is in good condition. The last addition was in 2013. The building is currently being used as is. If granted it will continue to be used for the same purpose as it is now.

2.   The enlargement of the nonconforming structure or its use will not interfere with the use of adjoining lands or other properties in the surrounding neighborhood for the uses for which they have been zoned pursuant to the provisions of the ordinance. There is no adjoining property to the rear of the building. There is a railroad right-of-way.

3.   There would be no adverse effect of the nonconforming structure or its use and such enlargements thereof on adjoining lands in the surrounding neighborhood.

** It was moved by Mr. Church and approved by Mr. Swartz to grant the request to Extend the Nonconforming Use based on the ZBA’s findings of the three (3) Nonconforming Use Standards as reflected in the minutes for the reasons set forth in the minutes. Motion Carried.

The Board then discussed the request for the setback variance. At the July meeting, the Board had tabled the request asking the applicant and Township staff to meet with the Fire Chief for input on the safety of the setback request.At the meeting with Fire Chief Jim Kohsel, it was determined that for safety reasons there needed to be a 20 foot paved access road along the back of the new addition. Ms. Berkenpas stated that the drive would go as far to the north of the property as possible. They would put in a hammer head so the firetrucks can turn around.

Mr. Broersma stated that according to ordinance requirements, the surface must be concrete or asphalt.

There was discussion about screening. It was determined that if there was ever a fire and they had to bring hoses through the back of the property from across the tracks, that screening would make that more difficult. Since it was not abutting residential property, screening is not required by ordinance.

There was further discussion of placing a fire hydrant near the back of the building. It should be a looped line not a dead end line for the amount of water volume they need to fight fires with.

Mr. Tallman commented that they do have a sprinkling system throughout the building. Chief Kohsel explained that they have a metal roof and if it were to collapse, there would be no sprinkling system.

The Township has not received any communications from adjacent property owners.

Ms. Berkenpas stated that The Stow Company has had some discussion of moving the loading docks to the east side of the building.

** It was moved by Mr. Boersma and supported by Mr. Swartz to close the hearing. Motion carried.

The Board went over the four standards to review when considering a non-use variance request.

1.   Strict compliance with the 50 foot rear yard setback would be unnecessarily burdensome in that the ordinance has been violated repeatedly. The building has been there since 1988 with the current setback. At this point our obligation is to take measures to make it safe.

2.   Granting a variance would do substantial justice to the applicant. After meeting with the Fire Chief they did increase the setback from 16 feet to 26 feet. No neighbor would be effected in any way by granting this request.

3.   The building was built with the infractions up to this point. It was an oversite of the prior owners. We need to deem the building as safe and usable for this company.

4.   The situation was not self-created. The building was at the 16 foot setback when purchased.

** It was moved by Mr. Church and supported by Mr. Swartz to grant the request as presented with the following conditions:

     1.  There is a minimum of 20 foot wide paved drive along with hydrants spaced approximately 400 feet on center.

     2.  There is a lesser relaxation of a 26 foot rear yard setback. (Applicant has reduced the request by 10 feet to date – 26 foot rear yard setback instead of the required 50 foot);

     3.  The parcels must be combined prior to the issuance of building permits;

     4.  There are to be limit activities/uses along the rear portion of the property as necessary to avoid noise, dust, vibration, etc. as these conditions would likely cause nuisance complaints from 

Motion carried.

The minutes from the July 26, 2016 meeting were approved as written.

The meeting adjourned at 6:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Laurie Slater
Recording Secretary

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