MONDAY, JANUARY 13, 1997 AT 5:30 P.M.


(810) 347-0475


Meeting called to order at 5:38 p.m. by Chairperson Lorenzo


PRESENT: Members Bononi, Capello (Arrived 5:40 p.m.), Churella, Hoadley, Chairperson Lorenzo, Markham (Arrived 6:25 p.m.), Weddington


ABSENT: Members Csordas, Vrettas


ALSO PRESENT: Planning Consultant Brandon Rogers, Engineering Consultant David Bluhm, Traffic Consultant Rod Arroyo, Assistant City Attorney Dennis Watson, Landscape Architect Linda Lemke, Water Resources Specialist Susan Tepatti, Director of Planning & Community Development Jim Wahl, and Staff Planner Steven Cohen








Chairperson Lorenzo asked if there were any additions or deletions to the Agenda.





Moved by Weddington, seconded by Bononi, CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: To approve the Agenda as presented.





Yes: Bononi, Churella, Hoadley, Lorenzo, Weddington

No: None







Chairperson Lorenzo announced the purpose of the Special Meeting was to have a presentation for the MSPO Site Plan Workshop, presented by Birchler Arroyo Associates, Inc.


Rod Arroyo, Traffic Consultant stated he would be presenting the Michigan Society of Planning Officials Site Plan Review Workshop. He stated last year, Birchler Arroyo was retained by MSPO to update the Site Plan Review Workshop on behalf of MSPO and they have done so in the form of a slide show. He stated the course was developed by Jim Schafer, Naomi Larson and himself. He turned it over to Jim Schafer who reviewed the slide show.


Jim Schafer of Birchler Arroyo Associates, Inc. spoke in regard to how a site plan review and the design standards can help a community develop a site to look and function in an aesthetically pleasing manner.


Mr. Schafer explained that a site plan is a document that can be written text, as well as a drawing. They are specified in the Zoning Ordinance, they are the documents necessary to ensure that a proposal meets Zoning Ordinance requirements. It includes existing and proposed manmade features as well as natural site characteristics, it is a proposal for the use and the development of a parcel. The site plans are to be professionally prepared by architects, civil engineers, surveyors and planners. It is a legally binding document once approved. Often when talking about site plans, the terms, sketches, plot plans, and plats are used quite frequently. Mr. Schafer explained the differences, a sketch is a concept, it is not to scale, it is just a quick way of representing something graphically on a piece of paper. A plot plan introduces the concept to scale. It is cleaner and obvious where various improvements are going on the site. A site plan is a very detailed development plan, it is professionally prepared to scale and it contains a wide array of all of the proposed improvements on a site. A plat is a very specific document that refers to the subdivision of land. It is not a site plan, it refers to a document that is prepared as required under the Stateís Plat Act to subdivide land.


Mr. Schafer explained the reason a site plan review is required. The main reason is to ensure compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. It is an assurance of how the site will be built in relationship to the parcel to adjacent lands, roads and infrastructure. It is also a tool to implement the Master Plan. Finally, it is a Zoning Ordinance enforcement tool. Authority for site plan review in Michigan is derived from the City and Village Zoning Act, PA 207 of 1921. It grants cities the authority to conduct site plan review. He stated the community must also have in their ordinance, specific provisions requiring site plan review, it must detail the types of uses, and it must be specific as to the requirements in the review process.


Communities take on the site plan process in many different ways, it depends on the community size and needs. Typically the review is conducted by one or more of Planning Commission, Administrative staff, Consultants or the Legislative Body. Site plan review occurs after the use has been determined as a permitted use in the zoning district, but should occur before any land development activity is allowed.


The site plan review process varies between communities depending on who does the review, how often the Planning Commission meets and the type of proposal. 1) Pre-Application Conference - the initial contact with the applicant, discussion of the communities requirements for site plan review, how it will be reviewed, who will be involved, how long it will take, etc. 2) Application - the community will not be involved in the site plan review unless it is applied for by a developer. 3) Plan Distribution - varies between communities, it depends on who is involved in the review process. 4) First Review - typically is the Preliminary Site Plan review, the Planning Commission would either have staff involved in following up to make sure comments have been addressed or it would come back for review. Mr. Schafer stated if a site plan is approved outright, the next step would be securing permits. An approved site plan does not authorize construction, it is an interim step necessary, prior to the issuance of permits. The next step would be construction and finally inspection. If approval is given with conditions, the conditions must be met before the site plan would actually be stamped "approved" and before permits would be issued. If the site plan was denied, there would be appeal mechanisms that would be available to the developer.


When reading a site plan, knowing the language of the site plan review allows one to read the plan. 1) Scale - the concept of scale is attempting to take large geographic areas and reduce them so they can be located on a plan or a single sheet of paper. 2) Details - used on a larger scale plan to allow a small specific area of a plan to be viewed in more detail. 3) Checklist - is used to make sure all of the different items are addressed when conducting the site plan review. 4) Design - is more than just a pretty site, it will include ensuring that a site is designed in a healthy and safe fashion, it is efficient, convenient, adequate public services are provided, looking at potential for re-use, looking at potential for expansion, ensuring protection of natural environment as well as prevention of environmental harm.


When looking at a siteís characteristics, the topography, wetlands, soils, drainage, woodlands and flood plains are the building blocks upon which the site is designed on the site plan. Many sites have woodlands and wetlands that can be preserved or incorporated into the design of the site. He stated the issue of steep slopes and dune preservation is a key part of the site plan review as the point is to design with an eye towards the future.

Mr. Schafer stated when a site plan is reviewed for traffic issues, the traffic patterns are a function of the use, the design of the site and external features. He stated the goal is to safely and efficiently move people in cars, on the site, off the site and at the point at which people enter and exit the site. The zoning standards and the site plan review standards form the basis for this review. In regard to parking, the focus is on providing adequate safe and convenient parking for people both in and out of their cars. When looking at a site plan, verification of compliance with zoning standards for the number of spaces, how they are designed, where the drives are located, etc. are being looked at.


Pedestrian and Bicycle considerations are also a concern when looking at site plans. He stated sites are designed for people as well as automobiles, therefore, the sidewalks, lighting and parking areas should be pedestrian friendly. Closely related, is barrier free design. The verification of the adequate number of barrier free spaces, that the ramps are adequate and located amply throughout the site and signage is adequate to clearly mark where the barrier free areas are. Overall, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is being sought after.


Mr. Schafer stated when utilities are looked at from a site plan review standpoint, there is a strong reliance on professional design and review assistance. The areas of water, sewer and storm water are under the purview of the consulting engineers. The Planning Commissionís role in the process is to verify that the ordinance requirements have been met via the review of the professional design engineers. In regard to screening, buffering and landscaping, the primary issue is making sure that the minimum ordinance requirements are met, aesthetic enhancements of the site must occur and adequate screening between adjacent uses must be in place. Mr. Schafer gave some examples of berming.


In regard to signage the community is looking at the number of signs, the size, height, location and how the signs are lit. From a legal standpoint, the communityís focus is on design elements and not content. Signage is intended to draw attention to the site and quickly convey to the passing motorist, what is on the site and how to get onto the site.


Mr. Schafer stated lighting is looked at during site plan review to ensure that the zoning standards for glare, the location, height and safety issues are addressed. The site should be adequately lit for safety reasons, in addition, making sure it does not have a negative impact on adjoining properties. Closely related to lighting are performance standards. Performance standards are the section of the Zoning Ordinance that are intended to address the negative aspects of land use. There are specific standards in the ordinance that regulate various nuisances and allow the community to put restrictions on developments so they do not have a negative impact on itsí neighbors.


Accessory structures and uses are accessory type activities that occur on a site, they could include outdoor storage of materials or vehicles, they are accessory to the main use of the site. The site plan review makes sure they comply with the zoning standards for size, location, setbacks and uses. Mr. Schafer gave some examples of accessory uses.


When hazardous materials are talked about during the site plan review to identify uses or activities that could result in pollution. There should be specific standards in the Zoning Ordinance that would enable the community to know what is on the site, where it is in case there is any kind of a spill, fire or release of any kind and how the development proposes to contain it in such a case.


Mr. Schafer summarized that site plans, by State law must be approved if they conform with all Zoning Ordinance standards. He spoke in regard to the Administrative aspects of site plan review. In regard to motions, they should include certain elements: 1) site plan name and number; 2) date of plan; 3) conclusion; 4) reasons for actions; 5) any conditions; 6) who will verify that conditions are met, if applicable. Mr. Schafer stated conditions on a site plan must be based on Zoning Ordinance standards. They must be included in the motion and they must be directly related toward attaining the Zoning Ordinance standards.

Some appropriate instances to consider delaying action would be where the application was incomplete, where there are extensive changes necessary to comply with Ordinance standards, where the applicant requests a delay in writing, or when necessary information from an agency or an applicant has not been received. In instances where it might be inappropriate to delay action would be where the agency delay could be handled as a condition, or where minor changes would not impact site layout or design. In any event a formal motion is needed to delay.


Mr. Schafer spoke in regard to permit issuance and inspection. Again he stated that Final Site Plan approval does not authorize construction. It does authorize the petitioner to seek permits. Prior to issuance of permits, all conditions of the site plan approval must be met and all of the other agency and permit reviews must be met. The approved site plan then becomes the basis for legal action in the future development of the site and for compliance inspection. Mr. Schafer stated the official file is essential and should include the original application, minutes or records of all of the meetings that occur regarding that site plan, one copy of all of the plans submitted, two copies of the approved site plan, and copies of all correspondences and reviews.


Mr. Schafer stated when an applicant comes in seeking an amendment to an approved plan, the Zoning Ordinance clearly spells out the process. The requests should all be in writing, they should include a Revised Site Plan that includes a revision date, the amendment should be recorded in the official file. The focus will always be the same, compliance with Zoning Ordinance standards. Performance guarantees are assurances that improvements will be constructed per the approved plan. Typically they take the form of a bond, a letter of credit or cash and are based on a percentage of the estimated cost of the improvements, when the site is completed, the bond is refunded.


In regard to sign height for visibility, Member Hoadley asked if there was any way for the consultants to evaluate situations so the Commission can make the proper decision?


Mr. Arroyo answered there are certain instances where the land form will make a good case for a variance, however there also can be some type of flexibility in the placement on the site as well as the height that determines itsí visibility. Mr. Arroyo stated there will be some instances where there will be a legitimate need for a variance.


Member Hoadley suggested there needs to be flexibility where judgement can be used to obtain what is desired for the community as well as convenience for the people who are using the facility. Member Hoadley also asked if there was supposed to be a legal description on the site plan and stated it was not mentioned in the presentation.


Mr. Schafer answered, yes there is. He stated the legal description is one of the specific elements of a site plan that is always required.


Member Hoadley asked when there is a change in the size or dimension, does the legal description have to be changed with it?


Mr. Schafer answered, yes, definitely.


Chairperson Lorenzo asked if there were any further questions or comments from the Commission? Seeing none she thanked Mr. Schafer for his presentation.







Member Hoadley announced to the audience that a series of seminars are planned for the benefit of the Commission as well as the public. They are to inform and educate the community about the various different planning issues.





Moved by Capello, seconded by Churella, CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: To adjourn the Special Meeting of the Planning Commission at 6:30 p.m.







Yes: Bononi, Capello, Churella, Hoadley, Lorenzo, Markham, Weddington

No: None




Steven Cohen - Staff Planner


Transcribed by: Diane H. Vimr

March 14, 1997

Date Approved: March 19, 1997