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JUNE 15, 2015, 7:00 P.M.
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1.Chair Derusha called the meeting to order.
2.Roll Call
MEMBERS PRESENT:  Les Derusha, Kemal Hamulic, Robert Houtman, Alan Lipner, Russ Slater, Monica Sparks, Thomas Webb
MEMBERS ABSENT:  Richard Lenger (absent with notification)
OTHERS PRESENT: Planner Joe Pung, Staff Secretary Monique Collier and the applicants.
3.Approval of the Minutes and Findings of Fact
 Motion by Lipner, supported by Houtman to approve the minutes of May 8, 2015         
-Motion Carried (7-0) –
4.Public Hearing

Appeal #V-15-06

Applicant:                   Todd & Angie Rickner
Location:                     5380 Eastern Avenue, SE
Request:                      The applicants wish to replace an existing detached accessory building with a new 1,280 square foot detached accessory building; the structure would be setback 8 feet from the rear lot line and 24 feet from the Hardwick Street right-of-way.  Section 3.15.D.3 of the Kentwood Zoning Ordinance limits the area to 250 square feet, Section 3.15.C.2.b requires a minimum setback from the rear lot line of 30 feet and Section 3.15.C.2.c requires a minimum setback of 35 feet from the Hardwick Street right-of-way.  The requested variance are for an increase in building area of 1,030 square feet, a decrease of 22 feet to the minimum setback from the rear lot line and a decrease 11 feet from the minimum setback from the Hardwick Street right-of-way.
Todd and Angie Rickner, 5380 Eastern Ave SE were present representing the request. Angie Rickner stated they are looking to replace their existing detached 576 square foot garage with a new 1,280 square foot garage. She stated they felt it was a lot more practical to put it in the backyard and conforming to the neighborhood than taking their front garage trying to make that larger in order to incorporate some of their recreational product.
Angie Rickner stated they have a 32 foot boat, and a 30 foot snowmobile trailer that they would like to bring inside. She stated currently they store their recreational vehicles in their rear yard. She stated they are in compliance, but they think it will protect their recreational vehicles as well as make their home and neighborhood look neat by having everything contained inside. She stated the back (east) property line is very shaded by the neighbors; there are a lot of trees which currently makes it very difficult to grow anything back there, it is unusable. She stated the expansion of the proposed garage would go back into some of that area. She stated their current garage wasn’t built very well, the foundation is cracking, it’s cracked the doors and it is sinking, there are no footings, it is beyond repair. Todd Rickner stated the current garage is to the point where it is getting to be unsafe, the side walls are buckling, it is tilting and the garage door is split in half.
Todd Rickner stated the garage they would like to build is bigger than the one they have but overall it doesn’t look bad. Angie Rickner stated Commissioner Webb came out and looked at the property. She stated the builder wants to build 8 feet towards Hardwick and then 8 feet back into the yard.
Angie Rickner stated with respect to condition 1 they have a much larger than average corner lot and their existing garage is in disrepair and it wasn’t in the most practical location. She stated right now they have to come across a lot of grass and they want to neaten it up, put some cement out there and be closer to the gate.
Angie Rickner stated with respect to condition 2 they found that the average lots are 6-8,000 square feet in the neighborhood and their lot is over 18,000 square feet making it three times larger than all of their neighboring lots. She stated with the larger garage they will still be preserving a larger percentage of front, side and back open space than any of their neighbors. She stated they have a lot of lawn, landscaping and trees. Other than the unusable piece and the 8 feet which is now cement and another 8 feet the other direction; it really will not change the layout of the land.
Angie Rickner stated with respect to condition 3 they are requesting the variance because they want to keep all of their recreational yard equipment inside for them as well as their neighbors to benefit from a clean looking yard.
Angie Rickner stated with respect to condition 4 she doesn’t believe it will hurt anything in the neighborhood. The increase in size does not really change the amount of open backyard area and most of the expansion being the shaded area on the east lot line which does not grow grass well. She stated even with what they are requesting they are leaving an incredible amount of green and open space to enjoy.  She stated they have an enormous front yard as well as side yard even with the garage it will not take away from any of the grass. The look of the garage will be 15 feet high and it will be vinyl sided, it will be sided like their home it is a very classy looking structure. She sated they will respect keeping open space and greenery. They felt this was the best way to stay in their home, and not enlarge the front garage.
Angie stated with respect to condition 5 their garage will be adding beauty and value to their neighborhood and their current garage and foundation is unrepairable. They will follow all codes and requirements to gain approval for the request and keep the recreational vehicles out of view.
Angie stated with respect to condition 6 the existing garage was built in the 1950’s the foundation has settled and is broken, both doors are not-usable..
Todd Rickner stated they submitted an aerial view of their property and you can see the cement is coming out in front of their garage. He stated they are asking for 8 feet of that cement (8 feet in front and 8 feet in back) He stated they are going to split the difference between the side coming out and the side going over and that will give them the 8 feet difference. He stated they feel this will leave a lot of potential in their yard. He stated their house sits up on a hills if you are going down Eastern you can’t see in their backyard. They believe this new structure will bring the value up on their house and the value around the area. He stated if they didn’t have the privacy fence and the house was sitting level you would be able to see the new structure. He stated they want to keep everything nice and neat. They feel it won’t disturb anything.
Houtman questioned if the side street Hardwick if the code allows two driveways to the same piece of property. Pung stated generally a residential property is served by one driveway. Pung stated there are circumstances where some residential properties do have 2 driveways but normally it is one driveway to minimize the number of curb cuts on to public streets. Houtman stated they will have to have a driveway of some sort to get to the new building. Pung stated you will see corner lots that have a secondary accessory building but without a driveway; they will access the garage without a normal driveway. Angie Rickner stated that would definitely be their circumstance, the snow mobile trailer comes out only in the winter a few times and the boat comes out on the weekends and they go over the grass now and the lawn still looks beautiful.
Derusha asked what the cutoff point would be to have a 968 square foot accessory building. Pung stated a 1 acre unplatted lot.
Hamulic questioned if they had problems with flooding. Todd Rickner stated at the corner of their lot line there is a sewer and they have never had any flooding it is level in the backyard. Angie Ricker stated it is very sandy in the backyard.
Houtman questioned if we have an ordinance for what percentage of a backyard a building like this can take up.  Pung stated 30% of the rear yard can be taken up by accessory structures although somethings do not count towards the 30% such as pools.
Angie Rickner stated they had their home appraised and there was nothing close to their home; it is a very unique property. They are the last home south of all the businesses and being on the corner it is very private.
Webb stated when he was out on the property there was a lot of yard and he didn’t see a problem with keeping green space.
Derusha asked what is their plan B if the variance request is denied. Rickner stated they would ask for smaller, but that would be defeating their purpose with what they want to do and what they want to store in the garage. Todd Rickner stated it would be a 50/50 chance that they would probably sell the house and find something that would accommodate their usage. They love the area and their kids grew up in that house. They want to stay because it is very convenient for their family.
Derusha stated the ordinance states that if you have an acre they can be granted 968 square feet but they are asking for 25% more than what the ordinance allows and that is a real big part of the stumbling block for him. Derusha stated also there has to be something exceptional about their property and unfortunately their property is flat and rectangular. Rickner stated the house is just flat but it sits up higher than the houses around and you won’t see their garage. Angie Rickner stated it will be contained and you will not see the garage at all. She stated they will make it look beautiful. She stated there are a lot of rentals on Hardwick and they put up with people cutting through the yard and garbage and the police. They don’t think the people on Hardwick will have a problem because they are mostly rentals.
Houtman questioned if they are looking at 10 foot doors. Todd Rickner stated yes, they want it to be a lower profile because they want to keep it looking like a garage. It will be formatted with their house and the buildings around them. The garage is pretty much the same height as what they have now maybe a foot taller but you aren’t going to be able to tell.
Houtman questioned if it will be a metal building or framed. Todd Rickner stated it will be framed it will have vinyl sides.
Hamulic wanted clarification on where the doors will be on the garage and how they will access it. Angie stated both the boat and the snowmobile will be in the structure. Todd Rickner stated the fence they have has a gate that is 16 feet wide that opens up and would go right into the garage.
            Discussion ensued regarding minimum lot size in the different zoning districts.
Angie Rickner stated they will still have lots of lawn and yard around the accessory building. It is just going to look like a nicer version of what they have now she doesn’t think anyone would notice that it came 8 feet closer to the road and the rest is behind their home.
Slater questioned how tall  is their current fence. Rickner stated it is 6 feet. Derusha questioned if it was grandfathered in. Pung stated if they came to put it up now it would have to be 17 feet off the ROW on a corner lot; if it were taken down to replace then they would have to come into conformance.
Webb questioned if they wanted to build the current garage as it was would it be grandfathered in. Pung stated that would still require a variance. Discussion ensued.
Derusha stated his concern is that it is a big building.
Discussion ensued regarding their old garages and larger accessory buildings approved in the past. Pung stated that in the past the Board has done a tradeoff allowed for a larger accessory building but restricting adding on to any existing garages.
Derusha stated he would feel comfortable replacing the existing garage with the same footprint. Derusha stated the problem is the precedence this could set. Todd Rickner stated the next person has to have what they have or the yard or property. Todd Rickner stated they will make it look nice. Angie stated they have been in the house 30 years and they don’t want to go anywhere. She understands why the ordinance is in place but they do have a unique property in the sense of the space and the corner lot being next to commercial and a lot of rental.
Houtman stated opening the Pandora’s box phenomenon bothers him.
            Discussion ensued regarding other variances that were granted.
            Derusha opened the public hearing.
            There was no public comment.
            Motion by Hamulic, supported by Slater, to close the public hearing.
-Motion Carried (7-0) –
Lipner stated point 1 is met based on the size of the lot and the privacy of the backyard itself. Lipner stated point 2 is met because of the size and the privacy of the lot in the R2 zoning district and this area is unique. Lipner stated point 3 is met based on the use of the property and the size.
Houtman stated he concurs that points 1 and 2 have been but point 3 has not been met he doesn’t see that it is a property right similar to that possessed by other properties in the same zoning district.
Slater stated he agrees with Lipner that 1,2 and 3 have been met.
Hamulic stated points 1,2 and 3 have been met.
Webb stated points 1,2 and 3 have been met. He stated the visibility of the structure is much less and the house sits up high and the only time you will see the garage is if you are going down Hardwick and you’ll pass the house before you see it because of how high the land is.
Sparks stated points 1, 2 and 3 have been met.
Derusha stated he has a problem with point 1 you are talking about all the R2 zoning district in the City of Kentwood. Derusha stated points 2 and 3 have been met.
Lipner stated point 4 has been met nobody from the neighborhood has come to voice complaints with the privacy of the fence it will barely be noticeable and not any different than where we are today. Lipner stated point 5 is tough because the ordinance is calling for a much smaller size, but this is unique to this property therefore point 5 has been met.  Lipner stated point 6 is hard because they are asking for it, they want to do it. He doesn’t think point 6 has been met.
Houtman stated point 4 has been met and point 5 and 6 have not been met. He stated point 5 will clearly impair the intent and purpose of the ordinance. And point 6 is clearly an action of the applicant and has not been met.
Slater stated point 4 is met. Slater stated point 5 is met, the request goes beyond the ordinance and becomes a security issue. He stated point 6 is met because of the same issues.
Hamulic stated points 4, 5 and 6 have been met.
Webb stated point 4 has been met. Webb stated point 5 is met in his opinion the intent and purpose to the ordinance is to keep yards from being over ridden with buildings and the yard will not be overwhelmed in this case. He stated point 6 is met he doesn’t think they would have done this if the current garage was in good condition.
Sparks stated points 4, 5 and 6 have been met.
Derusha stated point 4 is met. Derusha stated he has an issue with point 5. He stated point 6 has been met because we are trying to replace a garage that is falling down.
Derusha questioned the color of the building. Angie Rickner stated their home is aluminum sided yellow in the 70’s so it won’t match it perfect. They do have plans within the next year to re-side their house and update it as well.
Derusha ask if we could put a restriction on color. Derusha stated he doesn’t want this building to be an eyesore because it doesn’t look like anything in the neighborhood. Todd Rickner stated it is going to be vinyl sided.
Webb stated in his opinion of being out at the property everything was neat and tidy.
Motion by Hamulic, supported by Webb, to approve V-15-06.
1.That there are exceptional and extraordinary circumstances or conditions applying to the property that do not apply generally to other properties in the same zoning district. The lot is larger than other lots in the area and other lots in an R2 district. Due to the slope and existing vegetation and fencing the backyard is not very visible.
2.Due to the exceptional and extraordinary circumstances applying to the property, the condition or situation of the specific piece of property for which the variance is sought is not of so general or recurrent a nature as to make reasonable practical the formulation of a general regulation for such conditions or situations.
3.That such variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right similar to that possessed by other properties in the same zoning district and in the vicinity.
4.The variance will not be detrimental to adjacent property and the surrounding neighborhood.  Due to the topography and fencing the structure will not be very noticeable and similar to the current conditions.
5.Due to the exceptional and extraordinary circumstances applying to the property, the variance will not impair the intent and purpose of this Ordinance.
6.      That the immediate practical difficulty causing the need for the variance request was not created by any action of the applicant. Had the existing garage been in good condition they would not need to replace it.
-Motion Carried (6-1) –
-Houtman dissenting-
Motion by Slater, supported by Sparks, to adjourn the meeting.
-Motion Carried ( 7-0) –
Meeting adjourned at  7:59p.m.
                                                                        Respectfully submitted,
                                                                        Alan Lipner, Secretary