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FEBRUARY 9, 2016, 7:30 P.M.
  (return  to index)
  1. Chair Young called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
  2. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Commissioner Kape.
  3. Roll Call:
    Members Present: Bill Benoit, Garrett Fox, Dan Holtrop, Sandra Jones, Ed Kape, Mike Pemberton, Frank Vander Hoff,  and Johngerlyn Young
    Members Absent: Emily Bridson (with notification)  
    Others Present: Community Development Director Terry Schweitzer, Staff Secretary Monique Collier and the applicant.
    Motion by Fox, supported by VanderHoff, to excuse Bridson from the meeting.
  4. Motion Carried (8-0) –
  5. Bridson absent -
  6. Approval of the Minutes and Findings of Fact
    Motion by Commissioner VanderHoff,  supported by Commissioner Pemberton, to approve the Minutes of  January 26, 2016 and the Findings of Fact for: Case#2-16 Breton Homes – North – Final Site Plan Approval of a PUD Phase – Located at White Bud Dr. White Bud Ct., Norway Maple, Osage Circle  
  7. Motion Carried (8-0) –
  8. Bridson absent -
  9. Approval of the Agenda
    Motion by Commissioner Jones, supported by Commissioner VanderHoff to approve the agenda for the February 9, 2016 meeting.
  10. Motion Carried (8-0) –
  11. Bridson absent -
  12. Acknowledge visitors wishing to speak to non-agenda items.
    There was no public comment.
  13. Old Business
    There was no Old Business
  14. Public Hearing
    There were no Public Hearings
  15. Work Session
       Case# 3-16 Gary A. Kwekel – Conditional Zoning of .37 acres of land from OS Open Space to C4 Office located at 200 – 44th Street
    Director Schweitzer introduced the request. He stated the request is on the south side of 44th Street, east of Division Avenue, the backyard of the property to the south and to the west is Home Acres Park. Immediately to the east is a single family residence and a vacant parcel on the corner which is at Jefferson and 44th Street. Schweitzer stated the request is in an area where there is commercial retail along 44th Street from Division over to Home Acres Park, then there is residential zoning to the east. Schweitzer stated on the north side of 44th Street is commercial all the way over to Jefferson Ave. and then it goes to residential east on the north side. Schweitzer stated with respect to our future land use plan, these uses are reflective of the long range plan.
    He stated the 200 44th Street property at one time was owned by the City as far back as 1972. At one time the city Library was there. He stated over time after the library moved out and then the City was a landlord for a number of years up to about 1985. The City sold the property on land contract to Mr. Gary Kwekel and at that time it was zoned open space. Schweitzer stated one of the requirements of entering into the land contract was that they get a use variance for a veterinary use. The veterinary use was approved by the zoning board of appeals and the veterinary clinic moved in and they occupied the building until 2014. From 1985-1988 there was office was in the building and then the veterinarian clinic through 2014. The veterinarian clinic moved out and now they have a vacant property. There have been discussions between the City and property owner about the prospect of the City acquiring the property. But there was also some conversation that took place between the LUZ committee and the applicant about the prospect of having it rezoned to commercial retail. Schweitzer stated the LUZ committee’s feedback wasn’t seen as desirable to have commercial retail. Schweitzer stated the property has been on the market for about 2 years with very little activity in terms of interest.
    Schweitzer stated conditional zoning is allowed in the State of Michigan due to relatively recent changes in State Law. He stated it allows someone to approach the city and ask for a rezoning of a property along with a voluntary restriction on the uses that would otherwise be allowed in that zone district.
    Schweitzer stated we were looking at commercial retail with all the uses that are allowed by permitted use or special land use would have been possible. What the applicant it looking at now is making request for conditional zoning to office designation and further restricting what’s allowed in the building,(clinical use for human patients, general office use etc).
    David Kwekel was present introducing the request. He stated years ago 44th Street was turned into a boulevard which took away the left hand turn into the property. He stated the property comes with two curb cuts. Kwekel stated for them to find a user they would have to go into the building come from the east and proceed to the west, and in order to turn into that property they would have to go past the property, through Division Avenue do a U-turn and then come back to the property. He stated that is a huge handicap to the property. He stated being Open Space and not being able to put an office user in there or a commercial user is tough. He stated that is why he is requesting to please consider an office use.
    Jones asked the square footage of the building. Kwekel stated the top floor is around 1,200 square feet and there is a basement. Jones questioned if he has a current party interested. Kwekel stated he did, but they are no longer interested. He stated about a year ago he had a retail use and they had a buy sell in place, but their contingency of the sale was for commercial use and he could see he wasn’t going to get anywhere with that. Kwekel stated after about a year they had two commercial users and two office users were interested in the property and they both made their offers contingent on him getting it rezoned to office. Kwekel stated right now he does not have a buy sell agreement. Jones asked if there were concern for someone who might be interested in the building because of its proximity to the skate park. Kwekel stated over the years it has been tagged and he received a call from a City official that it had been tagged with gang signs and they went there and covered it up best they could. Kwekel stated over the years replaced windows because of the softball field. He stated their biggest concern over the years after 6pm the property was a softball park, it became a parking lot and the kids would just hop the fence, it was easy convenient and they didn’t have to go around the block. He stated he thinks they have been good neighbors.
    Pemberton questioned how many parking spaces he has. Kwekel stated he wasn’t sure but if he had to guess at least 15. Pemberton stated that comes into the equation when you have commercial use and that will play a role in what kind of tenant or buyer you might be able to find. Pemberton stated he sees the property to have greater prospect under form based code. He stated if Division starts to go the way we think it will this parcel will be a hot parcel just because it is in the proximity of the form based code. He stated the only thing that comes to mind is lighting.  Will there be any problem to adding lighting to surround the building that would be secure enough but not a detriment to the house next door? Schweitzer stated he believes that could be accomplished and the most effective way is if you put your light poles on the east lot line. Schweitzer stated we do require the lightning cut off at the property line and the way the lighting technology is now he thinks it can be accomplished.  Pemberton stated it makes sense to him to expand the use, you have to do something to make this property worth something to somebody. Pemberton stated its got potential it is just a matter of finding the right people that can put up with the ingress/egress.
    Kwekel stated he recently got a call from a minister that said he was looking for a small building in that area to gather his church and was wondering if a church is a permitted use in office. Schweitzer stated it is a permitted use but at this point you have to make it known that your request would include a place of worship as an option. Schweitzer stated our experience in the previous years have been we have had a lot of startup churches and it is not unusual from them to start out in a tenant space within a multi –tenant retail building and as the congregation grows they relocate elsewhere. Schweitzer stated in this case he thinks it is possible you can have a congregation start there but as they grow they are going to have to look elsewhere, but it may be an interim use. If they want to add a church to the use restrictions it can be done prior to the public hearing and be added to the request.
    Kape asked if the City had any interest in purchasing the property. Schweitzer stated Park and Recreation did take a look at it, but as they looked at their business plan it didn’t fit in to the immediate priorities. There has been conversation between the property owner and the City about purchasing. Discussion ensued regarding Deputy Administrator speaking to the State about a possible State grant for park purposes/use.
    Benoit asked about spot zoning. Schweitzer stated we discussed that and he was hesitant to consider this spot zoning because we are talking about a very small piece of land and some unique circumstances. Schweitzer stated having a property zoned open space is very unique there were a series of use variances that were approved there. In the last few years the City said we will no longer allow the zoning board to consider a use variance going forward therefore it would have to be rezoned. Benoit questioned if there would be a document agreement signed the property owner and bound over by all future property owners. Schweitzer stated conditional zoning involves a development agreement that goes with the property.
    Fox asked if they planned to make any modifications to the building. Kwekel stated as a tenant would require they would make the modifications as needed. If it were purchased then he wouldn’t have to.
    VanderHoff asked what kind of businesses expressed interest in the property. Kwekel stated the first one was a small real estate office and the second one was an attorney. VanderHoff stated if someone wanted to put a small church in there that would be very temporary with 15 parking spots. VanderHoff stated he has no problem with the rezoning. Kwekel stated he would prefer to sell the property.
    Jones asked if he can add a church in his request. Schweitzer stated he will get back in touch with Mr. Kwekel and if religious place of worship is an allowable use in the C4 we will have him submit an email indicating his desire to amend the initial application to include the church. Since it is allowed he could add it to the list of allowable uses that he will restrict it to.
  16. New Business
    There was no New Business
  17. Other Business
  18. Commissioners’ Comments
    VanderHoff stated he will not be back in town until March 17 and will miss the next meeting. He said we should accommodate property owners. It doesn’t do any good for  buildings to sit vacant.
    Fox stated they are doing a fundraiser at Celebration South February 19, 2016 7:00p.m. The movie Race is coming out and they are admitting the first 50 young men 18 and younger in for free.
    Holtrop stated GR Auto Gallery was down to 4 cars outside the building. Schweitzer stated there was conversation and GR Auto Gallery understood they had to get it under control.  Holtrop stated the west side had 4 cars but the east side was empty.
    Kape asked about the couple that recently came to the LUZ committee meeting that were putting a church on Shaffer at 44th Street. Kape noted that the Mosaic Church on Shaffer moving. Schweitzer stated Mosaic is going to share the space at St. Paul Methodist Church on Breton near 32nd Street.
    Pemberton stated he will be gone the February 23 meeting. He shared an article from the Business journal talking about office in the greater Grand Rapids area. He stated the Class A vacancy on the southeast side is 7.6%. Discussion ensued. He stated he will leave the literature for staff.
    Jones noted on the last page on the Year End report the committee list needed to be updated.
    VanderHoff questioned what was going on at the Saladdin Temple property. Schweitzer stated we understand there is a church interested in developing it they have had nothing solid in terms of a site plan in how they wish to develop but it has been purchased and they are considering their options on how to redevelop the site. Discussion ensued.
  19. Staff’s Comments
    Schweitzer stated we are looking for a consultant for the form based code to assist in its development and get ready for adoption. There were 4 proposals submitted and we will interview 2 Thursday February 18 and hope to have a recommendation to the City Commission the first meeting in March.
  20. Adjournment
    Motion by Commissioner VanderHoff, supported by Commissioner Pemberton,                           to adjourn the meeting.
  21. Motion Carried (8-0) –
  22. Bridson absent -
    Meeting adjourned at 8:10p.m.
                                                                Respectfully submitted,                                                                                                          Ed Kape, Secretary