MINUTES OF THE MARCH 20, 2013 ZONING COMMISSION MEETING
Jack & Ginger Grummel
Chairman Paul Shaw called the meeting to order of the Catawba Island Township Zoning Commission on March 20, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. in the Township Administration Building.
Other Commission members in attendance were introduced. They included Patti Piacentino, Jordan Davenport, Vice Chair, Steve Lonneman, and alternate Curt Baxter. Mr. Shaw also introduced Walter Wehenkel, Zoning Inspector & Zoning Commission Secretary and Matt Montowski, Township Trustee.
Mr. Shaw welcomed those in attendance and stated the Zoning Commission appreciates their interest. He indicated that since this is a public meeting and debates/talking amongst themselves would not be permitted. He asked that all attendees please sign the register. Individuals wishing to speak should be recognized by the chairperson and identify themselves by name and address for the record. He closed by requesting that all cell phones be turned off.
Mr. Shaw requested those in attendance stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. Shaw presented the following agenda for the meeting.
1) Application #544649 from Dorothy Frank, a zoning map amendment to request rezoning Lot 42 Gem Beach 2 & Lot 43 Gem Beach 2 from the A district to the C – 4 district.
2) Proposed text amendments to the Catawba Island Township Zoning Resolution.
3) The reading and approval of our last meeting minutes
4) Any old business
5) Any new business
He asked the members if there were any additions or changes to the meeting agenda. There were none.
Dorothy Franks Rezoning Request
Mr. Davenport moved to consider Application #544649 from Dorothy Frank, a zoning map amendment to request rezoning Lot 42 & Lot 43 of Gem Beach Subdivision, Plat 2 from the “A” district to the “C – 4” district. Ms. Piacentino seconded the motion. The motion passed.
Mr. Shaw asked if any board member has a personal or professional conflict concerning the case. There were no conflicts identified.
Mr. Shaw read the letter from the Regional Planning Commission. The Commission recommended approval of the rezoning request. Mr. Wehenkel was asked if there was any additional correspondence concerning this case. Mr. Wehenkel stated he had received a telephone call requesting information be faxed to them. There was no follow-up communication from that call. Mr. Wehenkel read a letter from Michael Marquard, Trustee for the Beach Towne Condominium Association, which did not support the rezoning request as a means of resolving the fence issue. They are not opposed to the fence, but rather, resolving the issues surrounding the fence by rezoning the property.
Mr. Shaw asked if anyone in attendance was representing the applicant. Dorothy Frank. No one was in attendance for that reason. Mr. Wehenkel stated the issue deals with a fence that was erected without a zoning permit and is too high in the front yard. The front yard in this case is along Carolina as the lot that the fence is on is a corner lot. The Franks were notified of the problems in August of 2012 and provided various options to resolve the situation. The owners opted to resolve the issue by rezoning the property to the “C-4” zoning district where the height of the fence would be legal. Mr. Wehenkel stated he felt a variance would have been a better option. One section of fence that was in the right-of-way was removed.
Mr. Lonneman asked Mr. Wehenkel about the permitted heights of fences and how they are measured from grade. Mr. Wehenkel referred to the zoning resolution and the standards established therein. The height of the fence in the front yard is where the issue is on this property. Mr. Lonneman stated the fence appears to be intended to hide structures on the adjoining lot. There is a dumpster that is 53” high and an air conditioner unit that is 41“tall. Mr. Wehenkel said the fence is attractive and hides the dumpster, etc., but it violates the zoning regulations and he can’t make exceptions based upon appearance. Mr. Wehenkel explained the corner lot setback issues.
Mr. Shaw asked if anyone in attendance wanted to address the Commission concerning the rezoning request. Ginger Grummel was recognized by Mr. Shaw. Ms. Grummel stated the whole issue is about the height of the fence that was erected. Mr. Marquard’s letter also states a concern over the precedence set by this request for any of the other lots in the area.
Mr. Shaw asked for other comments. Hearing none, he closed the discussion to the attendees. Mr. Wehenkel stated Mr. Frank wanted to know why the fence across the street could be seven feet in height along Carolina. Mr. Wehenkel explained there are no four foot height limitations for fences in the “C-4” district. That may be why Mr. Franks requested the change of zoning instead of his other options.
Mr. Shaw opened the issue for discussion among the board members. Mr. Lonneman noted one of the drawings was incorrect as it shows the locations of the lots in the wrong place. Mr. Lonneman stated he just wanted that facts on the record.
Mr. Lonneman asked if the duty of the Commission for a request like this one is determined by the statement on page 126 of the zoning resolution related to the public necessity, convenience, general welfare and good zoning practice. He asked Mr. Wehenkel how a fence applies to those issues. Mr. Wehenkel stated the fence is not the issue, but rather, if the zoning classification should be changed. The fence may have caused the request, but it is not the basis of the decision.
Mr. Baxter asked if the Commission has any latitude to grant an exception for the fence. Mr. Wehenkel stated the variance or waiver can only be granted by the Appeals Board. They are the judicial branch while the Zoning Commission is the legislative branch. Mr. Baxter asked if the owner could be restricted by his request. Mr. Wehenkel stated once the rezoning occurs, the owner can do any use that is permitted within that zoning district. Mr. Baxter stated there is no exception authority and Mr. Frank would have to start over. Mr. Wehenkel stated that was correct.
Mr. Davenport stated the County’s letter supports the rezoning request. There is a variety of zoning already in the Gem Beach area. Looking at the overall subdivision, He supports the County’s position. Not considering the fence issue which would be legal in the “C-4” District, the uses in the “C-4” District are not truly detrimental uses to what is already there.
Mr. Montowski reminded the Commission that the County only provides a recommendation. It is not an absolute statement. When the request comes before the Township Trustees, and if it turned down, the applicant would then have a hardship. Mr. Wehenkel stated one of their administrative remedies would have been used, but the hardship would be tied to the fence height.
Mr. Davenport noted that only one property owner submitted correspondence opposing the request where the adjoining lot owners were all notified. It is kind of hard to justify their concern when no one else seems to share it.
Mr. Lonneman wanted to review the uses in the “C-4” District. The uses were reviewed. If the house burned down and both lots were vacant, could something be done on the two lots that might be more detrimental. The present zoning is much more restrictive. All these considerations are being made for a privacy fence that blocks negative views. Mr. Davenport asked about the fence height in the present zoning district. Mr. Wehenkel stated the height is permitted at four feet for the first twenty-five feet of the lot from Carolina. It is a step down fence. Mr. Lonneman stated the applicant should request a variance or cut down the fence. It will still hide the dumpster. Ms. Piacentino stated that is not the issue. The issue is whether it should be rezoned to “C-4”.
Mr. Lonneman stated the issue of “good zoning practice” must be considered as stated in the Resolution. Mr. Davenport stated the individual must also have the right to use his property and they have a legal right to request the change. The zoning practice doesn’t interfere with or be unreasonable. Mr. Lonneman stated he is concerned with how the public benefits through this change. Mr. Baxter stated the fence could be stepped. The dumpster is higher than the air conditioner. Dropping the fence to four feet still has the top of the dumpster visible. The eyesore is being covered by fence which is a public benefit for the condominium owners and others in the area.
Jordan Davenport stated the Commission should forget about the fence issue. Let’s assume they want to put up a snack bar. Is there a public benefit from a snack bar? The request is consistent with the land use plan. Would it be a nuisance in the neighborhood? He does not believe it would be detrimental to the public. There is already a mixture of zoning districts and uses in the neighborhood. Three blocks might be more of a concern than two lots. With the change to “C-4”, there is no longer a concern about the fence.
Mr. Lonneman asked if others will come in for rezoning. Are we creating a precedent? Is it likely others will want to rezone and put up a seven foot high fence. Mr. Davenport did not feel that would happen. Approving one lot does not create a precedent by itself. Ms. Piacentino stated she does not believe there will be others looking at changing their zoning. Mr. Lonneman asked the Board members if they could advise the applicant, what advice would they give. Several members stated a variance request.
Mr. Lonneman suggested the Commission act on the request and offer suggestion concerning the variance option. Ms. Piacentino stated the Commission needs to look at the rezoning. Mr. Baxter stated he understands Mr. Lonneman’s point and feels the request should be acted on with any suggestions given. The Commission really cannot speculate on what use could occur on the property. Mr. Davenport agreed and said they could simply tear down this house and build a bigger one.
Mr. Lonneman was told by Mr. Davenport that he could make a motion to approve or disapprove the rezoning request with a suggestion that a variance might be an option. Mr. Lonneman wondered if it would be done tonight or within thirty days. Mr. Davenport stated rezoning requests are usually acted on the same night as the hearing. They do not have to be, but it is a long and timely process. Mr. Baxter stated the Commission should give a strong directive and if the applicant needs to apply for the variance he can. Mr. Wehenkel stated the thirty days is a maximum timeframe. Mr. Shaw indicated he favors a decision this evening.
Mr. Davenport moved to approve case # 544649 as submitted. Mr. Lonneman seconded the motion. Mr. Shaw indicated a “yes” vote indicates you are in favor recommending the proposed change in zoning from the A District to the C - 4 District as requested in Application # 544649 be presented to the Catawba Island Township Trustees for their consideration, a “no” vote indicates you do not favor this proposed change.
Mr. Shaw asked each member how they vote on the motion. The results were as follows:
Steve Lonneman – no, Curtis Baxter – no, Jordan Davenport – yes, Patti Piacentino – no
The request has been denied. The proposed application will be submitted to the Catawba Island Township Trustees for the consideration. The date of this meeting will be April 9, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. Mr. Lonneman asked if the Commission could suggest to the Trustees that a variance was more appropriate. Mr. Wehenkel stated the Trustees do not grant variances either. Mr. Baxter asked if the owner would be notified of the decision and their options. Mr. Wehenkel stated he would contact the applicant and they were aware of the variance option.
Mr. Shaw requested a motion that the Commission considers the proposed text amendments to the Catawba Island Township Zoning Resolution. Mr. Lonneman so moved. Ms. Piacentino seconded the motion. The motion was passed.
Mr. Wehenkel explained the amendments that were suggested concerning lot coverage being separated from dwelling size and listed as its own separate category in each district. It was suggested by Board of Zoning Appeal’s member, Tom Anslow.
Mr. Davenport asked if this proposed change was run by Joe Gerber at Regional Planning. Mr. Wehenkel stated he had conversation with Mr. Gerber and he had no problem with the change. Mr. Davenport stated he believes the text amendments are necessary and appropriate. Ms. Piacentino agreed with Mr. Davenport.
Mr. Baxter asked about the text amendment dealing with signs. Mr. Wehenkel stated there are no changes to dimensions, but rather, better wording and clarification for legal reasons. Mr. Gerber at the Planning Commission is an attorney by profession and Mr. Gerber suggested many of the changes. Mr. Davenport stated the proposed changes are consistent throughout the book now.
Mr. Shaw read the recommendation letter from the Ottawa Regional Planning Commission. The Commission recommended the amendments be adopted. Mr. Davenport asked how the motion should be worded to clarify what set of amendments is being recommended for adopted. Mr. Wehenkel stated the motion should read that the Commission recommended adoption of the text amendments as initiated and subsequently adopted. There may be multiple copies, but there was only one set initiated and one set amended. There have been multiple copies submitted for review.
Mr. Baxter asked about the word “table” that appears throughout the text amendments. He was confused as to what was meant by “table”. Mr. Davenport stated there is an existing table in the book and the table was not retyped each and every time in the amendments, but just referred to. Mr. Wehenkel showed the Commission an example from one of the Districts.
Mr. Shaw requested a motion to recommend the proposed text amendments as initiated and subsequently amended to the Catawba Island Township Zoning Resolution be recommended for adoption to the Catawba Island Trustees? Mr. Lonneman so moved and Mr. Baxter seconded his motion. Mr. Shaw stated a “yes” vote indicates you are in favor of recommending the proposed text amendments to the Catawba Island Township Zoning Resolution to the Trustees, a “no” vote indicates you do not favor recommending these proposed changes. The Commission members voted as follows: Curtis Baxter – yes; Jordan Davenport – yes; Steve Lonneman – yes; and Patti Piacentino – yes. The motion was passed.
Mr. Shaw announced the public hearing by the Township Trustees on the proposed text amendments to the Catawba Island Township Zoning Resolution will be held on April 9, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
At this time, Mr. Shaw requested a motion to approve the prior meeting minutes from the February 27, 2013 meeting. Ms. Piacentino moved to adopt the minutes as mailed. Mr. Davenport seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously with Mr. Baxter abstaining.
Mr. Lonneman asked what the Commission members need to do related to records retention. Mr. Wehenkel stated he has the original records and retains them. The Commission members do not need to maintain their records. Mr. Lonneman asked if people normally ask for zoning changes in order to get a “variance” or do they actually go for a variance from the Appeals Board. Mr. Wehenkel stated the Frank rezoning is not a typical resolution of a problem that would be better handled by a variance. It is the exception and not the rule.
Mr. Shaw indicated the next scheduled meeting for this Catawba Island Township Zoning Commission is April 24, 2013, but it depends upon business being required.
Mr. Shaw requested a motion to adjourn. Mr. Davenport moved to adjourn and Ms. Piacentino seconded his motion. The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.