Minutes: December 14th, 2011


December 14, 2011

The regular meeting of the Catawba Island Township Board of Zoning Appeals was held on December 14, 2011 in the conference room. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. The meeting was called to order at 7:30 p.m. by Chairman Bryan Baugh.

The other Board members present included Jack DeVore, Sandra Erwin, Dale VanLerberghe, Doug Blackburn, and Jack Zeigler. Zoning Inspector Walter Wehenkel was also in attendance as was Township Trustee Matt Montowski. Several members of the general public were in attendance.

Chairman Baugh described the procedure that would be used during the meeting. He asked if there were any questions from those in attendance. There were not. He requested Jack Zeigler, alternate, serve as a Board member in the absence of Mr. Anslow.

He requested Sandra Erwin, Secretary for the Board, read the first case.

Case # 543695 - Tom & Kathy Priesman, Area Variance Application

An area variance is being requested. The request would allow an area variance permitting the reduction of a front yard setback from twenty-five feet to fifteen feet and four inches and a reduction in the rear yard setback from twenty five feet to twenty one feet and eight inches. The lot is a corner lot and the variances will allow the construction of a porch on the rear and side of the home. The proper notices have been given and there is no notarized correspondence.

Bryan Baugh asked if there was a conflict of interest by any Board member. Jack Zeigler indicated he had a conflict. Bryan Baugh requested Sandra Erwin, alternate, serve as a Board member for the hearing.

Bryan Baugh asked who was in attendance representing the Priesmans. Lee Short indicated he was their architect. Mr. Short was sworn in by Bryan Baugh. Mr. Short explained that the proposal would allow a rear covered porch on the back of the house about eighteen (18) feet from the rear lot line. The Priesmans entertain in the back of their house. They would like to incorporate a hot tub and deck into their plans as well. Mr. Short stated he could put the hot tub on a deck or a patio. He felt the appearance would be better incorporated into the deck. A trellis on the side of the house will allow for better access to the rear of the house without having to go through the inside of the house.

Mr. Short showed plans to the Board identifying the aesthetics that were incorporated and the architectural design that included pillars. The back porch area will be very similar in design to the front porch as he is attempting to carry the “look” into the rear yard. The lot is a corner lot and therefore technically has two front yards. He offered to answer any questions.

Doug Blackburn asked if the trellis area from the driveway will be open or enclosed. Mr. Short indicated it would be open. Dale VanLerberghe asked if the porch entrance would be solid or open on the side. Mr. Short stated the porch would be solid and the trellis opened on the side. Bryan Baugh asked if the roofed porch area would appear similar to the front porch. Mr. Short stated it would. Mr. Baugh asked if it might ever be enclosed. Mr. Short indicated that was highly unlikely due to the columns being used.

Mr. Short added that there will be stairs from the existing deck down to the new deck to allow an informal flow. The request for the rear yard setback is being requested to allow that flow to occur comfortably. Placing a table on the deck when entertaining would impede the flow of people without the variance.

Bryan Baugh asked if there was anyone in attendance that wished to cross-examine the applicant’s representative. There was no one wishing to do so. Dale VanLerberghe asked Sandra Erwin if there was any correspondence concerning the request. Sandra Erwin indicated there was none. Sandra Erwin asked who lived to the rear of the lot. Bryan Baugh swore in Tom Priesman. Mr. Priesman indicated the owner to the rear was Steve and Holly Arnold. Bryan Baugh asked Sandra Erwin if they were on the list of adjoining properties notified of the request. Sandra Erwin stated that they were on the list. Dale VanLerberghe asked Mr. Priesman if his neighbors were aware of his plans. Mr. Priesman stated he had a social gathering at his home and he discussed his plans and he heard no objections to the plans.

Bryan Baugh asked if there was any other public comment. There being none, Mr. Baugh closed the public hearing to comment. He solicited comments from the Board Members. Jack Devore indicated he had no objections to the plans that he saw. Doug Blackburn stated his only concern was whether the trellis area was open or enclosed. Knowing it will be open, he has no other concerns. Bryan Baugh indicated the lot coverage is under the permitted maximum and he felt it would be a nice addition to the home. Dale VanLerberghe stated it will benefit the neighborhood based upon it aesthetics and that making it longer to allow the pedestrian flow Mr. Short discussed makes sense. Sandra Erwin stated she liked the openness of the plan.

Bryan Baugh asked if a Board member would read the Finding of Fact. Jack Devore read the finding of fact that was included with the application. The Board agreed with the statements that were included for all of the questions except number two. Jack Devore indicated he disagreed with the applicant’s statement concerning as to whether the variance was substantial.

Doug Blackburn stated the present plan reflects an open porch design. He wondered if the applicant wanted to enclose it in the future, if the Board would look at this request differently. He stated that perhaps the motion should include a statement concerning this point. Bryan Baugh indicated he thought that would be a good idea and encouraged it be part of the motion.

Doug Blackburn moved to approve the area variance as requested in case # 543695 with the stipulation that the porch must remain open in the future. Jack Devore seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Bryan Baugh stated he wanted to take an opportunity to recognize Dale VanLerberghe for his many years of service to the Board. Dale has opted not to be reappointed for another five years term. Mr. Baugh stated he has learned a lot from Dale and wished him the very best. Dale thanked Bryan for his comments.

Bryan Baugh asked Sandra Erwin to read the next case.

Case # 543701 – Boater’s Point (Mirror Image Ventures) Area Variance

Sandra Erwin stated the request will allow an area variance permitting the reduction of a front yard setback on a corner lot from twenty-five feet to seventeen feet off Harborside Lane near its intersection with East Catawba Road. The variances will allow for the continued placement of a portable sales office. The address is 2541 N. East Catawba Road. The notifications have been mailed and the hearing notice has been published. There is no written correspondence.

Bryan Baugh asked if there were any conflicts. No members had a conflict. Jack Zeigler returned to a position on the Board.

Mr. Baugh asked for a representative for the applicant. Mike Dziak indicated he was representing the applicant. Bryan Baugh swore in Mr. Dziak.

Mr. Dziak stated there is an easement between the property in question and the adjoining property to the north. The easement serves both properties as well as the property to the east which is a residential area. Mr. Dziak stated that the existing trailer sticks out about twelve (12) feet. A car parked in the area of the trailer would be longer than that. Mr. Dziak does not believe that the trailer in that location would create any issues with traffic flow.

Bryan Baugh asked Mr. Dziak how long the trailer will be located on the property. Mr. Dziak stated his company is in negotiations with the owner, Mirror Image Ventures, to acquire the property. There is nothing in writing, but there have been verbal negotiations. If the property is purchased, a showroom will be built in the summer of 2012 near State Route 53. Once the showroom is open, the trailer would no longer be needed.

Jack Zeigler asked if the new showroom would be a separate building. Mr. Dziak stated the initial plans are to connect the existing building with the new building. Doug Blackburn asked if there was an office in the existing building. Mr. Dziak stated the office that was in the building was torn out and they needed the space and the office needed to be more visible. Dale VanLerberghe asked if the new showroom would require any setback variances. Mr. Dziak stated he did not think it would. Bryan Baugh asked if the company had other plans if the sale did not go through. Mr. Dziak stated the trailer would need to stay, but the sale is looking good though nothing is in writing.

Mr. Dziak asked if a “stay” of nine months could occur. Mr. Wehenkel stated he was not sure what Mr. Dziak meant by a “stay”. The Board could not just allow the building to remain without acting upon the variance request. The building does not conform to the zoning regulations. The Board could certainly limit the approval of the variance to a period of time, like nine months, if they felt that was appropriate.

Doug Blackburn asked Mr. Dziak why the building was placed there without getting permits or asking questions. Mr. Dziak stated the President of the company moves too quickly sometimes. He reiterated the easement is not an issue and the trailer can be removed when it is no longer needed. Bryan Baugh asked Mr. Dziak if he was aware of the zoning regulations. He stated the owner might have been, but he was not until Mr. Wehenkel contacted him. He apologized for that fact. Bryan Baugh asked where the sales office was before. Mr. Dziak stated it was inside the building.

Bryan Baugh asked if anyone in attendance had any questions for Mr. Dziak. Roger Riachi stated he had no questions, but wanted to address the Board. Mr. Riachi was sworn in by Mr. Baugh.

Mr. Riachi stated he owns the property to the north which is the former Treasure Cove property. He has some concerns over the placement of the trailer. First of all, it eliminates several parking spaces for the customers and employees. Secondly, it will cause boat deliveries to be pushed to the south due to the boat displays up front. There will be traffic issues for the residents that live to the east and use the area for access. There will be an issue for safety vehicles if the delivery trucks are blocking the access.

Bryan Baugh asked Mr. Dziak about the location of the boat delivery. Mr. Dziak indicated boats were stored in the area of the trailer in the past. These boats were longer than the trailer. The boat delivery truck could block a part of the drive at times, but the boats are actually unloaded in the rear of the building and not in the road. His company tries to keep the easement open so that everyone has the right to access it.

Jack Zeigler asked for the dimension of the trailer. Mr. Dziak stated the trailer sitting there is forty-three (43) feet long and twelve (12) feet wide. He agreed it does take up several parking spaces. He acknowledged that there is confusion by customers as to where they should park and often they park opposite of the building they are looking for.

Roger Riachi stated his concern is over the road access. He stated there is only about ten (10) to twelve (12) feet from the property line, which is a dotted line on the pavement, to the front of the trailer. Semi trailers delivering boats take up a lot of the available space. A traffic problem will be created if the trailer is allowed to remain. It could be a nightmare getting in and out for the residents in the rear, especially for safety vehicles like EMS.

Doug Blackburn stated he has seen it both ways. He has seen boat delivery vehicles on State Route 53 waiting to deliver boats to one of the two facilities. The problem could occur for either business. Roger Riachi stated he agreed with that statement, but felt that the trailer being located in its present location would only make it worse. He is concerned with the future and not the past. If there is a boat delivery going on and another vehicle comes, there will be a blockage. Doug Blackburn stated truck drivers do arrive when they want and not by a strict schedule.

Jack Devore had some questions concerning the pictures that were part of the packet that was mailed out. Both Mr. Dziak and Mr. Riachi assisted Mr. Devore in understanding the property line questions. It is roughly a two-thirds/one third split of the paved surface.

Doug Blackburn asked about the fenced in area to the south of the trailer location. He wondered if the trailer could be moved into the fenced in area. Mr. Dziak indicated it could if the Board deemed it necessary, though it isn’t the applicant’s preference. Jack Zeigler stated he stepped the distance off and it is more like seventeen (17) feet and not ten (10) to twelve (12) feet. Mike Dziak stated he measured it to the first step and it is seventeen (17) feet.

Doug Blackburn stated that with boats, cars, and deliveries, the area will get congested quickly. The trailer tightens it up even more. Mr. Dziak stated a full size pickup truck will stick out further than the trailer and steps do now. Mr. Riachi stated a part of his concern over the variance is that the building could be increase up to the curb area of State Route 53. Bryan Baugh stated the only variance being granted is for the trailer as presented in this application. Any other structure would require another application and hearing.

Bryan Baugh asked Mr. Dziak if the painted red lines on the pavement identify the property line. Mr. Dziak stated that they did. Roger Riachi stated he could not speak to that issue as he did not see the painted red lines. He arrived after dark today. Dale VanLerberghe asked for clarification on the location of the existing utility pole in relationship to the property line. Mr. Dziak stated the utility pole is not the property line. There is a pin in the paved area. He acknowledged it is a shared driveway and he wants to get along with his neighbors.

Roger Riachi stated he too has plans for the future of his business. He would like to rehabilitate his buildings to make it look like a nicer storage building. He is considering putting up fences with gates for access. He is not sure when all of this will happen. The bigger issue is to finalize his plans and then develop his timeframe.

Bryan Baugh asked for further comments. There being none, Mr. Baugh closed the public hearing.

Mr. Baugh indicated he used to live in the brown house in the residential subdivision to the east. There were always boats parked where the trailer is presently located. It stated it does get tight getting through to State Route 53. He is concerned that the request is a “ask for forgiveness request”. However, if the trailer is not there, something else will be there. Doug Blackburn stated the trailer is taking away parking spaces and potentially creating parking problems for the neighbor. Mr. Baugh stated that may not be the Board’s concern.

Sandra Erwin asked if the trailer was against the fence. Mr. Dziak stated there is about two feet from the fence. That space was left for installing the skirting and the electricity. Dale VanLerberghe stated this is a difficult case. The fence will be the only way to resolve the issue.

Jack Devore stated if the request was for a short term, he could support it. Perhaps a nine month time frame would work. If it is permanent, it will certainly open a “can of worms” and lead to subsequent requests. Dale VanLerberghe stated a nine month variance will not alleviate the traffic issues in the spring and early summer.

Jack Zeigler stated this is a retail business. The area occupied by the trailer is going to be used for something. The trailer is not really the issue. He would be agreeable to a short-term variance. The Board really can’t dictate how neighbors get along or coexist.

Doug Blackburn stated the trailer can be moved or relocated. A boat trailer can be moved quickly versus an office trailer. He was unsure if he could support a short term variance. He respects the fact that the area will be used for something, but felt the trailer is more permanent. It was put in the most convenient area. The fence could have been removed. Alternatives did exist to the present location. Sandra Erwin stated she agreed the fence could be moved and they would only lose several feet. They could still use the area for other uses.

Dale VanLerberghe stated the short-term variance would give the company time to move ahead with its acquisition plans. Common sense would dictate the potential of a traffic problem will occur more likely in May and June.

Bryan Baugh read the finding of fact submitted with the application. Question 1 concerning reasonable return was agreed to by the Board. Question 2 related to the variance being substantial raised concern by Jack Devore who indicated the loss of parking spaces and delivery area made it substantial. Question 3 dealing with detriment to adjoining properties was an issue for Dale VanLerberghe as the parking would be impacted and possibly cause issues. Question 4 dealing with delivery of governmental services was seen by Doug Blackburn as being problematic for fire and EMS services. Question 5 dealing with the owner’s knowledge of zoning was not in dispute. Question 6 stating there was no alternative was challenged by Jack Devore. And Question 7 concerning substantial justice was disputed by Jack Zeigler due to the possibility of a hindrance to users of the access road.

Doug Blackburn felt the short-term variance concept had merit. He moved to approve case # 543701 with the stipulation that the temporary trailer be removed on or before July 1, 2012. If the trailer cannot be removed, the owner would be required to refile a variance request for consideration by the Board prior to that date. Jack Devore seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Bryan Baugh advised Mr. Dziak that he was fortunate to get the variance. The concept of doing things and then asking for “forgiveness” is not looked on favorable by the Board. He suggested Mr. Dziak get that word to the President of the company.

Mr. Baugh asked for a motion to approve the November 9, 2011 minutes. Jack Devore moved for the approval as mailed. Doug Blackburn seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.

The Board members each expressed their thoughts and appreciation to Dale VanLerberghe for his years of service on the Board. Matt Montowski offered the thanks of the township trustees as well.

Dale VanLerberghe moved to adjourn the meeting. Jack Zeigler seconded the motion. The motion passed and the meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

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Bryan Baugh, Chairman Sandra Erwin, Secretary