Reference Desk


Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes - October 27, 2010



October 27, 2010

On October 27, 2010, 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

James Klonowski, Vice-Chairman

Thomas Yaschen, Secretary

Paula Frame, Planning Commission liaison

Gerald Alexie

Rick LaBelle

Absent: Janice Uglis, Township Board liaison, excused

Mr. Shawn Shortt attended the meeting as the representative from the Building Department.


Chairman Stepnak explained the procedures to the audience.

4. ZBA PETITION #2010-31: David Black, 1357 N. River Road, St. Clair, MI 48079. Requesting variance from Section 76-372 (d) (2) states that "Parking shall not be permitted in the required front or street-side setback", and Section 76-213 (4) (d) "Professional buildings and all offices located in the professional office district. One space for each 120 square feet of floor area, or 1 space for 25 square feet of waiting room, examining room, office or similar use." Ordinance would require 16 parking spaces. Applicant is requesting a variance for 8-space parking lot that includes a handicapped space. The address for this request is located at 34021 23 Mile Road for Black, Black, and Black Law Office.

David Black, 1357 N. River Road, St. Clair, MI 48079 addressed the board.

Petitioner asked if the board knew the property he was speaking about on the corner of Baker and 23 Mile?

Chairman Stepnak informed the petitioner that the board does receive a packet prior to the meetings and one of the requirements of the board members is to go out and take a look at the property and they are fully aware of the project.

Petitioner stated that he brought Mr. Ford the person from whom he purchased the property in case the board needed any witnesses or whatever. He explained that basically the whole story was that they did the same thing in Lapeer, Michigan where they set up an adjunct office where they meet new clients; this particular office would be used to prepare clients for trial. He mentioned that here would not be any secretaries or fax machines; it would just be a quiet place to get away. He stated that they made a mistake in Lapeer of just buying the building and everyone was very upset because then they had to go through architectural meetings and hearings. They also had to put in a big pond and a parking lot with curbs. Everyone at the firm agreed that they should just not buy a building and they should just talk to people at the Township and make sure they are okay with their proposal. He stated that he attended the Thursday morning engineering meeting with Mr. Shawn Shortt and everybody and explained what they wanted to do. He explained that he and Mr. Ford had come to an agreement on the price of the property and told them he could not do it unless it was okay with the people at Chesterfield Township. He explained that it would be a very low usage office and a young man who took his bar exam would spend about 20 hours a week there and they may see two, three or four appointments there. They have not had any parking problems. He stated that anyway, he went to the meeting and met with Mr. Shortt and the other people and asked if there would be any problems at all and they told him he would not have to do anything major. At the meeting he explained that the outside of the building would look beautiful and the inside would be very nice. The property was a dilapidated, run down rental unit and they did not want to put in underground pipes and parking lots like they had to do in Lapeer; otherwise they would not purchase the property. Basically, the people at the meeting told him to go out and buy the property and he wouldn’t have to do all that stuff. He stated that there were some issues about the sign and he was told that it would all be handled administratively.

Chairman Stepnak stated that basically as in Lapeer the Township does require site plan approval, retention ponds, parking lots and on and on and on. He explained that at the Thursday morning the Planner, the Engineer and members of the Township staff have a meeting where they can give people some direction. The ZBA in the past has looked at certain parcels in the community that develop outside of the norm or the regular planning development due to the fact that maybe a parcel has been abandoned for a while with no one living there with the hope the property would be brought up, make it look better and keep the grass cut, etc. He stated that by doing so, they would alleviate some of the engineering and site plan requirements. He asked the petitioner to give an overall view of how the office would be utilized so the board may get a better understanding of the petitioner’s intentions.

Petitioner stated that it would almost be identical to their Lapeer office. In Lapeer, he stated that, they go over there on Thursday nights from 4 to 6 PM and that is the only time they use it unless they have a trial in that county and then they meet the people at the office in the morning. He mentioned that only about 6% of their cases go to trial. He explained that this office would be about the same and they would meet there maybe two times a week for new people only. He stated that all of their work is done in their Port Huron office. All the secretaries, fax machines and other necessary office equipment are at that office. This facility would only be used as a meeting spot.

Ms. Frame stated that she was concerned because Mr. Black told them the office would only be used on a very limited basis. She commented that the board would also have to look at the future usage of the property. The building may not always be owned by Mr. Black and once it transfers, so does the variance. She stated that would be her concern as a Planning Commissioner. She explained that she was also concerned because she did not want to set a precedent. She mentioned that when she went to see the property, she pulled in the parking lot and it was very tight. She does not feel that eight parking spaces would be sufficient and she thought it does require what the ordinance allows.

Mr. Black stated that he wrote letters stating that if they did transfer ownership that they agreed that the status they would take would not go to the new owner. He stated that at the planning/engineering meeting he was asked to write a letter to that effect and he did do that.

Ms. Frame asked the petitioner if that letter was written at the Planning Commission meeting because she did not recall that?

Chairman Stepnak stated that he did not think they could use that as a point of reference.

Petitioner stated that he may be referring to the wrong meeting. He stated that the usage the office would use would be a lot less than when he purchased the property. There were people living in the place and there were four to six cars parked at the property at all times.

Ms. Frame mentioned that the property was still residential at that time so it did not matter.

Mr. Yaschen asked if at any given time if there was a meeting with a client would there be one or two at a time?

Petitioner stated that right now they are having meeting at that office at 5 PM on Wednesdays and if there are three meetings there will be one at 5 PM, one at 5:30 PM and one at 6 PM. So there would only be one person in the office at a time and it is planned that way.

Mr. Yaschen asked if there would usually only be one employee there at a time at these times?

Petitioner answered yes, it would be himself or another lawyer meeting with the appointments.

Mr. Klonowski stated that he agreed with Paula in that even if there is a letter there cannot be a variance that is business specific. It would be with the site and it would stay with the site.

If there is a high traffic business that goes in there; there would be a violation of the intent of the ordinance because there would not be adequate on-site parking. The other problem he had was they would be reducing the parking by half and he did not want to set a precedent for other people to come in saying well you allowed this one to cut the parking spaces in half and we would like the same consideration.

Chairman Stepnak stated that he understood where Mr. Klonowski was coming from but basically all petitions stand on their own merit. The overall question would be that there was a building there and would 8 parking spaces be sufficient for the business. He stated that it was a small house and could not be used for anything other than a professional office; either for an attorney or an accountant. He did not think a high volume business would purchase something of this nature.

Petitioner stated that he would be willing to restrict the variance to their ownership.

Mr. Klonowski asked Mr. Stepnak if the house was taken out would the variance still stay with the property?

Chairman Stepnak answered yes. He stated if the house was gone and a fast food restaurant was built on the spot with only eight parking spaces; there would still be a lot of other issues that would have to be addressed.

Mr. Klonowski stated that with a new building there may be a lot more flexibility with the building length wise on one side with the parking in the back where it should be.

Mr. LaBelle had no comments.

Chairman Stepnak stated that by putting another structure in place they would have to put something of commercial grade construction and everything would be different and there would be a lot more issues to deal with.

Mr. Shortt agreed. He stated that all the doors would have to be 36". He stated that they have run into this before. There are residential houses that have been turned into commercial. On 23 Mile there is an insurance office and on Gratiot there are a couple of other businesses of that type. The petitioner came into the engineering meeting and the officials were there and the Planning Administrator, DPW were there. They all thought it was a great idea and he was under the impression it was a go. He stated that they were glad to have him in the community. He stated that the petitioner was going to fix up a vacant house. Everyone knows it is a tight corner coming in from 23 Mile Road and he thought the petitioner was just putting some gravel out with some drainage. For the petitioner’s usage this parking would be more than enough. He explained that if they could put something with the deed of the house stating if the property changes ownership the variance would end. He stated that they are attorneys and could draft something up and have it recorded at the county.

Petitioner stated that he is not a property lawyer, but he does know there can be planning restrictions put on a deed. He stated that he came to the Township and was willing to fix up a real dump. He explained that he has given $100,000 to Mr. Ford and has put more than $60,000 into the property for improvements. He stated that he is proud of the place. It is beautiful and the neighbors have all thanked him and the dentist located next door thanked him for fixing up the property.

Mr. Alexie explained that he goes up and down 23 Mile probably two or three times a day. He stated that he remembers what was there before and it was a dump. He commented that the office looks beautiful and it looks as thought the petitioners have done a lot of work and put a lot of money into the place. He mentioned that the only problem he has would be reducing the parking by 50%. He asked if there was any place on the property to get maybe four more parking spaces?

Mr. Shortt answered that the only way to do that would be to buy the house next door because they do not have the setback. He stated that he was actually surprised that the petitioner got eight in there. The main thing would be the turning radius and they did not want anybody backing out on to 23 Mile Road.

Chairman Stepnak stated that in this community they have entertained these types of developments; such as doctors, insurance agencies, etc. The petitioners are asking for a 50% reduction in the parking spaces. Last meeting, he stated that he kind of got lambasted for not approving parking spaces, however, this time he does not see a problem with it. He thought the property was cleaned up and there was nothing else to do with the site other than purchasing both pieces of property and with the current economic conditions that would possibly be a long way down the road; even then it may not be cost effective to buy the two parcels and merge them in one shape or form. He asked Mr. Shortt how the petitioner has been working with the Building Department?

Mr. Shortt stated that the petitioner has been working well with the Building Department. He commented that he was under the impression that this was already a done deal. He mentioned that Mr. Gayeski and he had already talked about the fact that there is a ditch in front where they can pitch to that for drainage on the site. He stated that the main concern was that the site had a place to turn in and back out and face 23 Mile on the exit from the property.

Chairman Stepnak asked if the petitioner had to pull any permits?

Mr. Shortt answered yes.

Chairman Stepnak asked how the petitioner has been working with the Building Department on that?

Mr. Shortt answered fine. The petitioners have put in handicapped ramps and converted the garage.

Petitioner stated that they have done everything that was asked of them and have converted things to commercial. They actually stopped things at this point and are waiting for approval from the ZBA before continuing.

Mr. Klonowski asked if the petitioner actually required that much square footage for the office?

Petitioner answered no. He stated that basically they would only need a small room for meetings.

Chairman Stepnak asked so basically the building is being used for one-on-one meetings with clients?

Petitioner answered yes.

There were no public comments.

Chairman Stepnak stated that for the record, there was a notification of this meeting to property owners in the area and in the Bay Voice Newspaper.

Motion by Chairman Stepnak to approve Petition 2010-31 by reducing the parking spaces from 16 to 8. The petitioner did give the board a site plan and he believes they are utilizing the space to the best that it can. There was no way, shape or form to put in any additional parking on the site due to the original structure of what was once a residential home and has been changed to be more in line with the ordinance going to 01 which is office. The petitioner has worked with the Township in trying to bring the building up to code for their use and also make it in line with the way 23 Mile Road is developing.

Supported by Mr. Yaschen

Ms. Frame asked Chairman Stepnak to add to the motion that if the business changes the variance would become void.

Chairman Stepnak requested that the petitioner draft a letter in recordable format to the Township in that regards the board will move ahead. He asked the petitioner if he would be willing to comply with his request?

Petitioner answered yes, he already did that.

Mr. Yaschen continued support.

Ayes: Stepnak, Yaschen, Frame, Alexie and LaBelle

Nay: Klonowski Motion Granted


ZBA: 2010-03. Erik Heiderer for Kevin Kouki, previously approved on 2/10/2010 for

a 5’ height variance on garage (detached) located at 28925 Field. Although his build

is above flood plain, as noted in the minutes he must have the (FEMA) letter to submit with building plans. He is asking for an extension until letter is received.

Erik Heiderer, 44045 Gratiot, Clinton Township, MI 48036 addressed the board.

Chairman Stepnak stated that it was not published as a public hearing therefore he would not be conducting it as such. He asked the petitioner for a brief thumbnail of the petition.

Petitioner stated that he was in front of the board in February of this year for a variance on a detached garage and the variance was granted. At this time they were just asking for an extension on the variance. He explained that when they went through DEQ and FEMA because they were putting fill on the property, there was a delay and it has taken this long to get all the improvements. They got the DEQ approval and hopefully they will get the letter from FEMA relatively soon. He stated that since the six month variance is up, they just need an extension.

Chairman Stepnak asked what time frame the petitioners were looking at?

Petitioner stated that as soon as they get that letter, they will start.

Chairman Stepnak stated that the petitioner had to give him a time: a month, a day, a week…

Petitioner answered as soon as FEMA comes in within a week or two, then Kevin would start the next day with the plans.

Chairman Stepnak explained that the board would probably entertain a six month extension because once the petitioner pulls permits from the Building Department basically the variance goes into that and another set of clocks tick. He stated that basically the board would be talking six months and that would be until April. He asked if that was correct?

Ms. Frame answered yes.

Chairman Stepnak asked the petitioner if six month would be what he was looking for as an extension?

Petitioner answered yes absolutely.

Mr. Shortt stated that he knew the petitioner was anxious to get going on the project and he was just waiting on the report from FEMA. He explained that he has everything ready and reiterated that he was just waiting on FEMA.

Chairman Stepnak stated that they were talking six months that would make it April 27, 2011.

Motion by Mr. Yaschen to approve a six month extension on Petition # 2010-03 which would be until April 27, 2011.

Supported by Ms. Frame

Ayes: All

Nays: None Motion Granted


There was no new Business.


Motion by Ms. Frame to approve the minutes from the ZBA meeting on October 13, 2010.

Supported Mr. Yaschen

Ayes: All

Nays: None Motion Granted


Chairman Stepnak thanked Ms. Frame and Mr. Shortt for attending the meeting and welcomed Rick LaBelle as the new member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Chairman Stepnak commented that there was one item on the agenda for next month.


Motion by Ms. Frame to adjourn the meeting at 7:37 PM

Supported by Mr. Yaschen

Ayes: All

Nays: None Motion Granted

Thomas Yaschen, Secretary

Grace Mastronardi, Recording Secretary

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