Reference Desk


Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes - June 8, 2011



JUNE 8, 2011

A regular meeting of the Chesterfield Township Zoning Board of Appeals was held on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at the Township Hall located at 47275 Sugarbush, Chesterfield Twp., MI 48047

1. CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Stepnak called the meeting to order at 7:07 p.m.


Present: Marvin Stepnak

Tom Yaschen

Gerald Alexie

Wendy Jones

Carl Leonard

Michele Ficht

Excused: James Klonowski

Others: Shawn Shortt


4. ZBA PETITION #2011-07: Terry Leesch, 140 Eastan, Mt. Clemens, MI 48043. Request from the petitioner is to appeal the letter received by Zoning Enforcement Officer, Mr. John St. Germaine that the duplex property located at 45460 Jefferson must now conform to the current zoning which is R-1-C, (Single Family Residential).

Terry Leesch stated that he had purchased a two unit income. Everything that is there is for a two unit income and he found out that it is not a two unit income.

Mr. Stepnak clarified that the unit is non-conforming.

Mr. Shortt explained that this was a foreclosed home, which Mr. Leesch purchased. The Building Department had done a foreclosure inspection. They wrote a list and found out that it was a duplex. That is when Mr. Leesch was notified that because it was vacant for so long, it lost it’s non-conforming status. Mr. Leesch wants to keep this as a duplex.

Mr. Yaschen asked what year the unit was built.

Mr. Leesch responded 1939.

Mr. Yaschen asked if it has been a duplex all that time.

Mr. Leesch replied that he is not sure.

Ms. Jones commented that she knows that it was a duplex for many years because she recognized it as a relative’s first apartment when they left home. She asked when Mr. Leesch’s purchase agreement was dated.

Mr. Leesch stated that he came up here December 17, 2010, which was three days before the auction. Maybe he made a mistake by just checking with the clerk, he didn’t even know her name, he wanted to confirm that it was still zoned as multi-family. She did confirm for him at that time that it was multi-family; that is what helped him make his decision. December 20, 2010 was when the unit went up for auction, and he was the highest bidder. He closed on it on January 4, 2011.

Ms. Jones asked when the unit was vacant so as to lose being grandfathered in.

Mr. Shortt explained that once it is foreclosed it goes to a sheriff’s deed, which is a six month wait. He knows it was vacant for over a year.

Mr. Stepnak explained to Ms. Jones that when there is a foreclosure once there is an alteration to the structure you lose the grandfathered non-conforming use. The township’s goal is to eliminate non-conforming uses. We want everything to conform to our ordinances. Here we have a single family home that was made into a duplex many years ago. That area is slated for single family; the duplex is out of character for the area. Once a change comes about, we want the property to come back into compliance.

Mr. Alexie asked Mr. Leesch if he would have bought the unit if he had known that it must go back to single family.

Mr. Leesch responded that his hope was to live in the rear unit and rent out the front unit to help subsidize his son’s college education next year. Those were his thoughts the first time he walked through the place. He has been divorced a little over a year and does not need a 2,200 square foot home with four bedrooms, two furnaces, two water heaters and two electric meters. He is now wondering what he has. He has no interest in it if he has to have a single family home. Maybe it would be the right thing for him down the road, but right now it is not.

Mr. Leonard asked Mr. Shortt if this petition is denied what would have to be done with the house.

Mr. Shortt replied that it would have to have only one meter and one water service.

Mr. Leonard commented that then Mr. Leesch could have two furnaces with all the utilities being converted to one meter. He noted that Mr. Leesch could keep everything as is with regard to the layout of the home, just convert the meters, and then rent out a room to someone and work out some type of agreement for the utilities.

Mr. Shortt responded yes. We would not go after him, we would not know. It would all be under one meter.

Mr. Leonard clarified that he would be able to maintain two separate entrances as well.

Mr. Shortt replied that there is a front door and a back door.

Mr. Leonard noted that there is one address there.

Mr. Shortt replied right.

Mr. Leesch stated that there are two mailing addresses – there has always been two; 45460 Front and 45460 Rear.

Mr. Leonard commented that he agrees with Mr. Stepnak. The township would never evolve if everything stayed the way it has always been for the last 60, 70 or 80 years. Maybe there is some way that this could still be utilized.

Mr. Stepnak noted that the problem we have is has the petitioner brought a practical difficulty in front of us. Monetary gain or loss is not a reason for practical difficulty. He did purchase it thinking it was something different than what he purchased. That is not a reasoning for a practical difficulty. It had been a duplex for many years, but that area is R-1-C single family.

Mr. Stepnak asked Mr. Shortt if he has been out to the home.

Mr. Shortt responded that he has not been inside.

Mr. Stepnak asked if the petitioner has spoken with him with regards to working on this.

Mr. Shortt noted that the petitioner did speak with him. Mr. Leesch was anxious to start repairs. Mr. Shortt informed him that whatever he did, it might be converted to a single family, so he should keep everything in check. He noted that if it did revert to a duplex there should be a tenant separation wall between the units. There are also different fire code and building code requirements that he would have to abide by.

Mr. Stepnak noted that there would have to be some structural changes.

Mr. Shortt replied yes.

Mr. Stepnak noted that if we go along with this this evening we would make it non-conforming for quite some time.

Mr. Shortt stated that the rear unit is 700 square feet. The second floor in the front is another unit. He noted that there were quite a few violations when the inspection was done for plumbing, electrical and heating.

Mr. Leesch stated that he found out later how long the house was unoccupied. There were a lot of repairs to be done. There has been a lot of vandalism. He thinks there was even a squatter in there for a short period of time. Someone was paying for water.

Ms. Ficht asked how long he had been told it was unoccupied.

Mr. Leesch responded that he is finding out now from the neighbor that it was unoccupied for almost two years, maybe more. He stated that he thought that it was ironic that shortly after the foreclosure inspection he got this letter regarding the zoning. He asked at what time did this revert back to single family zoning. Was it at the time of the letter or long before he purchased the place.

Mr. Shortt replied he thinks after it was vacant for six months.

Mr. Leesch asked if that is written somewhere so he could have been educated on that.

Mr. Yaschen read the letter dated April 27, 2011 from John St. Germaine, Code Enforcement Officer.

Mr. Stepnak stated that it never really reverted back – it was always R-1-C. The point is that after it was not occupied for a period of time it lost the non-conformity. If Mr. Leesch had purchased the home right at the time when the other people had moved out, and occupied it himself or had someone else occupy it immediately, then we would not be discussing anything this evening.

Kandi Chiles spoke in support of Mr. Leesch.

Mr. Shortt commented that work on the house was started without permits.

Mr. Leesch replied that he pulled foreclosure permits immediately after he purchased the home. The ceiling was done wrong in the front unit. It was literally falling and was a hazard to go into. He had to rip out the existing ceiling before he could have anyone come in there. He did not do a whole lot of repairs before the foreclosure inspection.

Mr. Shortt noted that there was a big red sticker on the front door that stated do not occupy until a city cert inspection approval has been completed. No work was to be done until he came in and saw us on it. That is when he got notified – after the inspection. Mr. Shortt noted that he does not know which clerk Mr. Leesch talked to – it was not from the Building Department, as they would not know what zoning it was.

Mr. Leesch stated that the clerk he spoke with looked at a map.

Mr. Shortt commented that the zoning map would show it as R-1-C. As far as the Building Department, they will make it comply with whatever the ZBA approves it for. They would make sure that there would be a tenant separation wall and everything would be brought up to code. If it is approved as single family everything would be brought up to code on that also with minimum safety standards.

Mr. Leonard noted that if it was single family then Mr. Leesch would not have to deal with the wall separation.

Mr. Shortt replied no. Mr. Leesch would have to modify the home to one meter.

Ms. Chiles asked if this was approved as a single family, would Mr. Leesch be able to rent out the front unit as long as they have the same address.

Mr. Shortt replied it would be like having a relative move in upstairs.

Mr. Leesch replied that does not work – he cannot do that.

Motion by Mr. Alexie, supported by Ms. Jones to deny ZBA Petition #2011-07 because a hardship has not been proven to us, and he can still bring it back to one family, and if he wanted to he could still rent out what he wanted to rent out.

Mr. Stepnak added that the dwelling can be utilized in its current state, no practical difficulty has been proven and it does not fit in with the area.

Vote On The Motion

All Ayes Motion Carried

Mr. Leesch asked what his next step would be if he wished to appeal this decision.

Mr. Stepnak advised him that this is the final step in the township and his other options would be the legal system and he would have to seek legal counsel.

Mr. Leesch asked how he could have prevented this in the beginning. He checked with the clerk and did the wrong things.

Mr. Stepnak replied that he does not have the answers on that.

Mr. Leesch noted that the rear unit is 100% up to code. He asked if there is anything he can do or what the ZBA could do to allow him to move in there now and finish the rest and get out.

Mr. Stepnak advised Mr. Leesch that would be a question for Mr. Shortt’s Building Department during regular business hours.



Motion by Mr. Yaschen, supported by Ms. Ficht to approve the minutes from the May 25, 2011 meeting.

All Ayes Motion Carried



Motion by Mr. Alexie, supported by Mr. Yaschen to adjourn the meeting at 7:38 p.m.

All Ayes Motion Carried

Tom Yaschen, Secretary

Christine A. Hunyady, Recording Secretary

Go To Top