Reference Desk

 

Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes - September 9, 2009

THE CHARTER TOWNSHIP OF CHESTERFIELD

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS

September 9, 2009

On September 9, 2009, a regular meeting of the Chesterfield Township Zoning Board of Appeals was held at the Township Hall located at 47275 Sugarbush, Chesterfield Twp., MI 48047.

 

1. CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Stepnak called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

2. ROLL CALL: Present: Marvin Stepnak, Chairman

Carl Leonard, Vice-Chairman,

Nancy Orewyler, Secretary Paula Frame, Planning Commission liaison

Brian Scott DeMuynck, Township board liaison

Gerald Blake

James Klonowski

3. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE:

Chairman Stepnak explained the procedures to the audience.

4. ZBA PETITION # 2009-17: Edward Looney who resides at 52950 Muirfield Drive, Chesterfield, MI 48051. Variance is to allow fence to remain 1’ from the sidewalk.

Fence was installed by previous owners, petitioner left existing post’s but installed new fence board. The ordinance requires a fence on a corner lot to be setback a minimum of 5’. Location in the address stated above.

Edward Looney, 52950 Muirfield Drive, Chesterfield, MI 48051 addressed the board

Petitioner stated that he was requesting to keep an existing fence as it was put up by the developers of the property. The kids in the neighborhood were coming through his property and destroying the fence. He used the same posts that were put in by the developer and just added more wood to replace the old fence. The fence is higher in back and goes lower near the intersection. He stated that the fence is on a main corner and people throw garbage on his property. Kids in the neighborhood ride their bikes and run across his grass to get to the bus stop and that is why he replaced the old fence boards.

Ms. Orewyler stated that she understood the petitioner’s problems with neighborhood kids. However, she does have a problem with the fence on the corner. She was sure that the petitioner knew that the new ordinances do not allow fences on corners. She does not feel that drivers have a good line of site to pull safely into traffic at that corner. She was thinking if the end piece was removed or the first couple of sections of the fence were shorter. She stated that the petitioner would have to do something to accommodate the safety of people at that corner.

Petitioner asked if Ms. Orewyler was asking him to break down the fence more from where it is at?

Ms. Orewyler explained that the petitioner would have to shorten the fence, take down part of the fence or maybe just remove some of the boards on the fence so that people are safe coming out of that subdivision on to 24 Mile Road. She appreciates that the petitioner did not move the fence and just replaced the boards. However, she feels the safety at that corner is the most important issue.

Mr. Blake stated that he concurred with Ms. Orewyler. He thought that the first two sections of the fence should be taken down.

Petitioner stated that the first two sections would be 16'.

Ms. Orewyler asked if the fence was in 8' sections?

Petitioner answered yes.

Chairman Stepnak stated that the board can make suggestions or ask questions. However, the board cannot redesign the fence or tell the petitioner what needs to be done.

Ms. Frame stated that she agreed with Ms. Orewyler. She would suggest slotting the first two sections of the fence and just leave every other board. She sat at that in front of the petitioner’s home for about 20 minutes and saw that people did not stop at the stop sign at that corner. The cars stopped 20 feet past the stop sign because they could not see the traffic on 24 Mile Road. She was concerned about children on bikes. She explained that people try to teach their kids to stop at a street and look both ways but many times they do not listen. Therefore, she thought if the petitioner would slot the first two sections and removed every other board on the fence and people would be able to see through the fence, then she would feel more comfortable with the variance. She commented that she understood the petitioner's problem, however, as the fence stands right now, it is not safe. She added that the board must consider safety first.

Mr. Leonard explained that safety is the issue and going back a few years ago fences had to be 30' from the sidewalk on a corner lot because there are two sides of the house that are considered the front. He explained that was thought to be excessive and it was brought down to 15' off the sidewalk. It was later amended to 5' so that people could have more use out of their yards. He talked to one of the building inspectors and found out that there were never any building permits pulled for this fence. They thought the fence was put in by the original developer. Another part of the ordinance is that there should be 15' area along the side of the road for clear vision. His concern would not be so much for the traffic from the cars, it was the sidewalk. Children ride bikes and roller blade down the sidewalk and no one would be able to see anything with the current fence. He suggested that if two sections were taken out it would take care of the safety issue. He did not have a problem with the remaining part of the fence.

Mr. Klonowski stated that he concurred with the other board members.

Mr. DeMuynck commented that he understood the petitioner's problem with kids crossing on their way to the 7-Eleven. He stated if the petitioner could do something with the first two sections, he would not have a problem with the rest of the fence. He added if the petitioner can work with that; the board could work with him.

Chairman Stepnak explained that the fence was probably put in by the original developer of the property. It was probably the white picket fence and was used for advertising for the builders. He understood that the petitioner thought the fence looked dilapidated and he would just replace the wood with new panels, so it looked better. He stated that the board was considering a couple of ordinances in this matter. The fence should be at least 5' from the sidewalk. He commented that he did not have a problem with the fence at the back of the yard. He explained that his problem would be with the fence at the front of the property. He commented that when driving around there are very few places where any type of fence was allowed in the front yard. He stated that his biggest problem with the fence was the lack of clear vision. He referred to the petitioner’s photo of the intersection. He commented that the mini van in the photo is practically out on 24 Mile Road before the driver can make the turn. He explained that the cars probably stop and crawl forward. The problem would be that the vehicles have to go farther onto 24 Mile Road in order to make the turn because the drivers do not have a clear line of vision with the fence. He reiterated that the board cannot tell the petitioner what to do; the board can only suggest changes the petitioner may want to make in his petition. He stated that it was up to the petitioner to present the changes to the board. He explained that if the board did not approve the variance, there was no appeal process. The petitioner's next step would be the court system.

Ms. Orewyler read a letter in favor of granting the variance from the petitioner’s neighbors Michael & Jacqueline Thomas. The letter was retained for the ZBA’s records.

Val Derieu, 52931 Muirfield, Drive, Chesterfield, MI addressed the board.

Ms. Derieu commented that the petitioner's fence was actually one foot from the sidewalk.

She stated that there was a fence in Hillcrest Meadows that may be grandfathered in that is very high and a huge safety problem. She explained that the beginning of the petitioner's fence is short and she did not believe there was a real problem at that intersection. She elaborated further on the reasons that the board should approve the variance. She stated that there was an entire subdivision up to Higgins Elementary that has these fences. She asked why Zoning Enforcement only had a problem with this fence?

Mr. DeMuynck asked Mr. Looney if he was contacted by anyone from the Building Department or did someone issue a stop work order on the fence?

Petitioner answered someone red tagged the fence.

Ms. Derieu stated that she talked to Mr. St. Germaine and was told that when zoning drove by they noticed that the fence was new and that was the reason the fence was tagged.

Chairman Stepnak stated that the problem was handled on its own merit. He stated why one thing is approved and another turned down would depend on the make-up of the board at the time.

Mr. DeMuynck explained that just by looking at the fence with the nice shiny boards up there; it probably threw up a flare to the ordinance officer or zoning officer driving by. On the other hand, if the fence had looked old and worn probably nothing would have happened. He commented that he did not have a problem with the fence. However, he explained that the board keeps talking about the safety issue and from a traffic standpoint. He informed the petitioner that there is a wide county easement there from 24 Mile back to the sidewalk which is county property. He stated that the motor vehicle code states that a driver must stop 15' prior to a stop sign. He explained that he was just playing devil's advocate and asked if someone pulls up, gets into an accident there and does not have a clear line of sight... He asked if the petitioner knew where he was going with this?

Ms. Derieu spoke up agreeing that it would be the homeowner's liability.

Mr. DeMuynck stated that he was very expertise in traffic and law enforcement. It happens all the time and the petitioner could be held liable. His point being that the board was willing to work with the petitioner, but the fence as it stands now is a liability with the location of the fence, the stop sign and the sidewalk. He reiterated that the board would be willing to work with the petitioner. However, he stated that the petitioner must look at where the board is coming from as far as clear vision and the motor vehicle codes for the State of Michigan. The sign is placed there by an order from the County and that is where it must be. However, if there would ever by a serious accident on that corner; they will investigate that and if there is a sight vision problem; the petitioner may be held liable.

Leroy Breazeal II, 52943 Muirfield, Chesterfield, MI addressed the board.

Mr. Breazeal asked the board if basically they gave the petitioner two options; either to tear down the first two sections of the fence or put the fence 15' feet back from the sidewalk?

Chairman Stepnak stated that the board did give the petitioner options. They were simply giving the petitioner suggestions. The problem would be that the board cannot design the fence for the petitioner. He explained that the board has simply concurred that they have a problem because of the lack of clear vision. The board would like to see the fence further from the road way or the side walk in the front yard. Therefore, the board has suggested that the petitioner either remove some of the boards or bring the fence back.

Mr. Breazeal stated that the petitioner and his neighbors would like a decision to be made on the variance that evening.

Mr. Marty Brennan, a neighbor (did not sign in), addressed the board.

Mr. Brennan made comments in favor of the board approving the variance.

Ms. Frame reiterated that she sat in front of the petitioner’s home for about 20 minutes and saw about six or seven cars that did not stop at the stop sign at that corner. The cars stopped 20 feet past the stop sign because they could not see the traffic on 24 Mile Road. She claimed that nobody stopped at the stop sign. She was concerned about children on bikes and on the sidewalk at 24 Mile Road. Even though the sign was chest high, if there is a five year old on a bike, no one in a car would be able to see the child on the other side of that fence. She commented that the main concern of the board was safety.

Mr. Leonard suggested putting in a split rail fence to eliminate kids from cutting through his property.

Petitioner answered that the kids would just jump over a split rail fence and that it would not look right. He stated that he would be willing to agree to take off every other plank off the fence because then people would be able to see through the fence in that area. Furthermore, he thought that would look better than going with the split rail fence.

There was a discussion among the board and the petitioner about how the kids in the neighborhood broke the boards and tore down a lot of the old fence.

Mr. Leonard stated that if the petitioner starts pulling off every other board, the kids may still be able to pop off the boards and tear up the fence. He commented though, he did not know how the petitioner would stop kids from cutting through his yard. The problem with the clear vision of the sidewalk and street is serious. If a kid comes down the sidewalk and someone hits the child. He knew he would feel terrible. He commented that the kids are not looking for the cars and there is a real problem when the drivers cannot see them. The traffic and cars do not really concern him. His concern would be the kids zipping back and forth on bikes and skateboards. and the cars are not slowing down until they get right up to 24 Mile Road. He stated that the board would like to work with the petitioner, however, safety would their first concern.

Chairman Stepnak claimed that the board would really be looking at three variances:

First, the fence in the front yard, second, the fence being one foot from the sidewalk and Third, that there should be 15' area along the side of the road for clear vision

Ms. Frame stated that the new fence was solid and she thought even if the petitioner would take out every other plank; it would still be a very solid fence. She did not think kids would be able to rip down the new part of the fence because it would still be a nice sturdy structure.

Chairman Stepnak asked if she was just suggesting taking down the every other board in only the front yard?

Ms. Frame answered yes, the first two sections in the front yard.

Ms. Orewyler commented that the board’s only concern in this matter would be the safety issue. The board would be allowing the petitioner a large variance in keeping even portions of the fence. The ordinance states the fence has to be a split rail or a decorative fence especially one foot from the sidewalk. She suggested that the petitioner take down the first two sections of the fence and instead put up a split rail.

Chairman Stepnak called for a five minute recess so that the petitioner may discuss his options with his family and neighbors.

Chairman Stepnak called the meeting back to order after the short recess.

Petitioner stated that he would like to remove every other plank from the first two sections of the fence at the front of his home.

Chairman Stepnak stated that the petitioner has proposed to amend his petition and would remove every other plank from the first two sections of the fence.

Mr. Leonard commented that a portion of the fence in the middle looked as though it was leaning toward the street. He suggested that the petitioner talk to someone in the Building Department and figure out what to do about that problem.

Motion by Chairman Stepnak to approve Petition # 2009-17 to allow the current fence to remain in place at 52950 Muirfield Drive, The fence would be allowed to be one foot off of the sidewalk. The board would also be allowing the fence to remain in the front yard provided that the petitioner remove every other plank off of the first 16' of the beginning of the fence which would be street side toward the back of the house. The board believes that the petitioner has shown a practical difficulty due to the area he is currently living in. The board believes that by granting the variance the Township will still have a clear vision corner.

Supported by Ms. Frame

Ayes: All

Nay: None Motion Granted

Chairman Stepnak instructed the petitioner to go see the Building Department for the proper permits.

5. OLD BUSINESS:

There was no old business.

6. NEW BUSINESS:

There was no new business.

7. APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF PRIOR MEETING:

Motion by Ms. Orewyler to approve the minutes from the meeting on August 26, 2009.

Supported by Mr. DeMuynck

Ayes: All

Nays: None Motion Granted

8. COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR:

Chairman Stepnak welcomed Mr. Blake back from an illness. He commented that he really appreciated having Ms. Frame back on the board. He stated that it was great to have a representative from Planning in attendance at every ZBA meeting.

9. ADJOURNMENT:

Motion by Mr. Blake to adjourn at 7:49 PM

Supported by Chairman Stepnak

Ayes: All

 

Nays: None Motion Granted

 

Nancy Orewyler, Secretary

Grace Mastronardi, Recording Secretary

 

 

 

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