SPECIAL MEETING OF THE NOVI PLANNING COMMISSION

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 1997 AT 6:00 P.M.

COUNCIL CHAMBERS - NOVI CIVIC CENTER - 45175 W. TEN MILE ROAD

(810) 347-0475

 

Meeting called to order at 6:03 p.m. by Chairperson Lorenzo

 

PRESENT: Members Bononi (arrived 6:08) Capello, Churella, Csordas (arrived 6:50), Hoadley, Chairperson Lorenzo, Markham (arrived 6:08), Vrettas (arrived 6:10), Weddington

 

ABSENT: None

 

ALSO PRESENT: Planning Consultant Brandon Rogers, Traffic Consultant Rod Arroyo, Douglas Necci Architectural Consultant, Assistant City Attorney Dennis Watson, Landscape Architect Linda Lemke, Dean of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture Stephen Vogel, Victor Saroki of Victor Saroki & Associates, PC, Lee Mamola of Mamola Associates Architects, PC, Director of Planning & Community Development Jim Wahl, and Staff Planner Steven Cohen

 

 

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

 

 

APPROVAL OF AGENDA

 

Chairperson Lorenzo entertained a motion to approve the Agenda.

 

 

PM-97-04-107 MOTION TO APPROVE THE AGENDA

 

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

 

 

VOTE ON PM-97-04-107 CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

 

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

No: None

 

 

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

 

None

 

 

 

 

MATTERS FOR DISCUSSION

 

1. ARCHITECTURAL BUILDING FORM AND DESIGN SEMINAR

 

Brandon Rogers, Planning Consultant introduced Stephen Vogel, FAIA, Dean of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, he is also Chairman of the City of Detroit Historic District Commission, Commissioner of the State of Michigan Mackinac State Historic Park Commission and he has been a consultant recently to Atlanta, Houston, Detroit on architectural design.

 

Victor Saroki, AIA, President of Victor Saroki & Associates, PC, created the Merrill Street townhouse development and was voted Young Architect of the Year in 1996 by the Michigan AIA.

 

Lee Mamola, AIA, President of Mamola Associates Architects, PC, former member of the Novi Planning Commission, he participated in "Can Good Design be Legislative?" a design forum in 1984 that was sponsored by the City of Novi and AIA.

 

Douglas Necci, AIA, Architectural Consultant from JCK & Associates, reviews building facade reviews on all site plans.

 

Mr. Rogers stated the statutory basis of site plan review is in the City and Village Zoning Act. The standards for adoption of a Zoning Ordinance are largely aesthetic in character. Site Plan review has been authorized as a legitimate review function under the City and Village Zoning Act. The Master Plan function speaks to preparing a zoning plan for the control of height, area, bulk, location and use of buildings. A problem that Mr. Rogers pointed out, was aesthetic controls are a matter of taste and peoples tastes vary.

 

Lee Mamola thanked the members of the Planning Commission and the City for the opportunity to have the discussion. He showed several slides of buildings around town, the first was an example of a recently completed building that complies with the Facade Ordinance. Mr. Mamola referred to another building on Grand River which was a slight improvement with a variety of materials which the Ordinance dictates. Other elements beyond a palate of materials are proportion, color, form, and shape. These elements in conjunction with the selection of materials and how they are utilized, make up architecture. Mr. Mamola referred to the 52nd District Court building that was controversial based upon the facade materials used. He stated there were other issues in a building design process that he believed decision makers should be aware of.

 

 

Stephen Vogel spoke about historic guidelines. He stated the Secretary of Interior has promulgated ten standards which are used nationally for historic tax credit projects, for the rehabilitation of buildings. He stated the standards talk about issues that he thought applied to all design issues. Mr. Vogel focused on historic but he also looked at some principles that were implied in the standards.

 

He reviewed the ten standards: 1) a property should be used for itís historic purpose. If it is to be placed into a new use, it should be a use that requires the least amount of change to the defining characteristics of the building. 2) The historic character of a property should be retained and preserved. The removal of historic material or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property, should be avoided. 3) Each property shall be recognized as a physical record of itís time, place and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development such as adding conjectural features or architectural ailments from other buildings shall not be undertaken. 4) Most properties change over time, those changes that have acquired historical significance in their own right, shall be retained and preserved. 5) Distinctive features, finishes and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a historic property shall be preserved. 6) Deteriorated historic features shall be repaired rather than replaced where the severity of deterioration requires replacement the new features shall match the old and design color, texture and other visual qualities and materials, where possible. 7) Chemical or physical treatments such as sandblasting, that causes damage to historic materials shall not be used. Surface cleaning of structures, if appropriate, shall be undertaken using the most general means possible. 8) Archeological resources. 9) New additions, exterior alterations or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale and architectural features to protect the historical integrity of the property and itsí environment. 10) New additions and adjacent or related new construction shall be undertaken in such a matter that if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and itsí environment would be unimpaired.

 

Mr. Vogel stated these were historic standards that are used nationally, they are currently used in Detroit. He presented the standards because they give a sense of the kinds of things that should be looked at from a design point of view when working with commercial facades.

 

Victor Saroki spoke about his approach to building projects. He emphasized that a building project starts with the client. A good architect needs to be very respectful of their client, the clientís needs, desires budgets and goals because this is what drives a building project. Mr. Saroki felt when the Facade Ordinance was applied to the buildings, it was important to appreciate that buildings are designed as a whole. Many times a building may fall short by the guidelines in the facade charts, however, if the wholeness of the building is examined, it may have merit. He thought the application for waivers was very important and he thought it should be promoted when appropriate.

 

Mr. Saroki stated when he designs buildings, the context is very important. When buildings have similarities and some relationship to each other, it gives off a nice gesture and he thought it was an important attitude to look at when reviewing building facades and designs. The respect of a building placed in a community, adjacent to other structures is an important quality.

 

Other important elements are quality of materials, excellence in design, permanence and longevity of materials. Mr. Saroki stated design is a subjective issue, he thought it was important that good design be promoted but it was also important to keep an open attitude toward the criteria and standards that are set.

 

Douglas Necci spoke about the review process. He stated he completes an initial review for every application to see if the building complies with the facade chart. Typically about 50-60% of the applications do not comply. He stated 2/3 of the rejections are because of excessive use of concrete block, the Ordinance requires decorative block. Mr. Necci stated he discourages the waiver with the applicants.

 

Mr. Rogers opened it up for questions and answers.

 

Mr. Mamola stated the Ordinance does serve to give architects and designers a hand. His approach to designing buildings is to make a building function well.

 

Mr. Vogel stated 90% of the time, architects can come to an agreement on what a good design is. He stated when buildings are marginalized, this creates problems. Good design is recognizable, he stated there has to be some sort of criteria for what is being done.

 

Mr. Saroki added that design is very subjective, he stated that aesthetics cannot be regulated. Qualities of materials can be enforced and that is the merit of what the Facade Ordinance does, it cannot regulate aesthetics but it can regulate quality. It lets developers know what the standards of Novi are, so they understand what they have to live by and there are no surprises.

 

Mr. Rogers stated the landscaping is usually the last thing the developer needs to do. There is a Landscape Ordinance, that requires high standards and will be strengthened in the new Zoning Ordinance update. The site planning now encourages base planting around the buildings. Screening is required to be shown on the final site plan, the materials and color must be compatible with the building.

 

Mr. Mamola stated the Ordinance must develop a formula to regulate and measure the facades, it does this by stating that each side of a building shall be calculated on itís own merit. He stated it also takes the money available for any given project and spreads the availability of construction dollars throughout the building. Mr. Mamola stated there were often opportunities to put more construction dollars near the most visible areas.

 

Mr. Saroki stated every owner has a budget. He stated the most successful and wealthiest owners are often the most restrictive with their budgets. It is the job of the architect to make sure they get the most value for the money. Mr. Saroki stated there are times when certain sides of a building are of lesser importance than other sides. He thought there was merit to say, ratios of a certain amount of brick did not have to be met on every facade, when the facade is of lesser importance. He thought there should be some examination of this, to allow buildings to have a priority of facades and some sort of pro-rata ratio that could be applied to more brick or more quality materials on front facades.

 

Mr. Rogers stated the rear facade must have a minimum standard of excellence, the articulation in the windows, cornices and all of the detail on the front is the option of the petitioner, they can greatly exceed the minimum standards of the Facade Ordinance. The plainness of the single block material is not acceptable on the rear facades.

 

Mr. Vogel stated the issue of primary facades is present in historic reviews. He stated in some buildings, it includes all four facades while in other buildings it is one facade. Mr. Vogel thought it was important to have flexibility in the issue of context, so focus can be put on certain areas.

 

Mr. Necci stated there was a recourse for the issue of emphasis given to one facade, and that was a waiver.

 

Mr. Rogers stated questions can be directed to the individuals, a record is being made and comments would be seriously considered.

 

Member Capello asked Mr. Mamola if he had any comments that he could add to amending the portion of the Ordinance in regard to the use of new facade materials that have come into the market.

 

Mr. Mamola thought the new Ordinance addressed the issue quite substantially. He had no additions to the Ordinance, other than to keep an open mind to new materials as they come on the market.

 

Mr. Rogers stated the City Council was having itsí second Zoning Ordinance Workshop on May 15, 1997, if there were any changes, he asked that they be directed to himself or Mr. Necci because there was still time to introduce them into the final update ordinance.

 

Member Hoadley thanked the gentlemen for their presentation. He stated he was comfortable with the Facade Ordinance. In regard to waivers, for the most part, when they are not granted, it has been because the building materials have been down-graded instead of up-graded. He stated the City had high expectations to continue high quality building and construction design.

 

Member Markham asked Mr. Saroki if he was inferring that a Facade Ordinance for a series of buildings such as the Town Center runs the risk of sameness?

 

Mr. Saroki answered, no, he was not implying that.

 

Member Vrettas thought what was being said was an open mind should be kept to something different than what was projected.

 

Mr. Saroki stated he intended to say that he thought there was merit to the waiver system and as Member Hoadley stated, the burden of proof is on the petitioner to justify and present their case for the waiver system. He thought there may be legitimate opportunities to allow the waivers. As he understood it, there were areas of town that do not permit the waiver. He did not agree that a district should be isolated from the waiver system, he thought a petitioner should have the opportunity to make a case for a waiver.

 

Mr. Necci stated there was an additional section for TC and TC-1 which addresses facades. It states that they should be substantially of brick and stone and dryvit or EIFS should be viewed as stone.

 

Member Weddington thanked the gentlemen for their presentation. She felt that the Facade Ordinance has served the City well. In terms of commercial and industrial buildings that have been built in the past few years, she thought there was more quality than in some of the residential. Member Weddington asked if there were any comments on what could be done to increase the creativity and variety of residential developments.

Mr. Necci stated in order to meet the Ordinance, one of the things that was happening was the addition of gables. It requires two gables difference.

 

Member Weddington asked why gables had to be required?

 

Mr. Necci thought the stronger reason was because it was something that was in bulk.

 

Mr. Vogel commented he lives in a subdivision that was built in the 1920's, under the auspicious of the City Beautiful Movement, it has winding boulevards, etc. He stated there were all types of homes but they all hang together because the controls are generic and they did not allow a lot of variety. He thought there was room for a lot of variety but he also thought there were some critical basic issues.

 

Mr. Rogers thought the Similar/Dissimilar Ordinance needed to be revisited.

 

Member Vrettas asked Mr. Vogel if the section of Detroit had ordinances or rules and regulations that Novi might be able to look into?

 

Mr. Vogel answered his neighborhood had a few deed restrictions, however, there were other historic neighborhoods in Detroit that have specific ordinances. He stated he would be happy to provide copies of them.

 

Member Vrettas stated he was looking for developers who take pride in their work and want to have unique communities. He stated he was tired of the "cookie cutter" houses.

 

Member Hoadley agreed with Member Weddington, he thought a bigger problem in Novi than "cookie cutter" houses, was putting too large of a structure on too small of a lot. Member Hoadley stated they meet the setback requirements for the lot, however, they build upward. He was looking for ideas to add something to the Ordinance that would put the right type of house on the right sized lot.

 

In regard to Member Vrettasís comment, Mr. Vogel stated it was a national phenomenon. He referred to a national movement that was referred to as New Urbanism. It talks about going back to some of the basic principles about how to put communities together, he stated he would also send some literature on it.

 

Member Churella stated the homes in Highland Park are different because they were designed individually. He stated if an individual does his design work and brings it to the City he can get the approval to have it built. Unless people quit buying the "cookie cutter" homes, they will continue to be built.

 

Member Vrettas proposed to draw the information from Mr. Vogel, provide it to the consultants and ask them to do some looking into reorganizing the Ordinances to fit the suggestions.

 

Member Bononi addressed her comments to Mr. Mamola. She stated she was interested in his comments regarding the use of multiple building materials. She saw it as a problem, particularly on smaller buildings. She asked how the Commission could amend the Ordinance to specifically look at buildings that are 20,000 square feet or smaller. Secondly, she agreed with the reallocation of resources in buildings to building front and/or sides that are visible as opposed to requiring building materials in a loading dock area. Member Bononi asked about looking at a downgraded building material and cost as being lesser than a more expensive material if the design is not as good.

 

Mr. Mamola stated he submitted a plain cinder block painted building for a national award consideration, he did not get it but he felt enough pride about it that it was worthy of submission. Mr. Mamola stated there were many beautifully designed buildings that use that material, he did not think that concrete block alone was an undesirable material.

 

Mr. Saroki thought the comments were excellent and very well taken. He stated in the modern movement of architecture, buildings were getting stripped down and simplified to lesser materials. He stated, today there is a movement in architecture that is growning and bringing ornateness and detail back into buildings, therefore, he did not think the number of materials should be regulated. Mr. Saroki stated most homes in America are designed by non-architects. Homes in the State of Michigan only require an architect if the home is over 3,500 square feet of living space, all commercial buildings must be designed by architects. Mr. Saroki stated, try to promote architects to build the homes because when architects are involved, better projects result.

 

Member Weddington thought that some of Mr. Mamolaís comments and Member Bononiís comments were relevant. She stated the Ordinances may be too specific and thought the generics would lead them in the right direction.

 

Mr. Rogers thanked the panelists for their input and he also thanked the Commission for participating. He stated everyone would receive a copy of the minutes and he looked forward to any literature that any of the participants would like to send to Steve Cohen or himself.

 

Chairperson Lorenzo thanked Mr. Rogers and the gentlemen on behalf of the Commission. She stated it was very thought provoking and interesting and very much appreciated the individual and collective thoughts on the matter.

 

 

 

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

 

None

 

 

PM-97-04-108 TO ADJOURN THE SPECIAL MEETING OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION AT 7:25 P.M.

 

Moved by Weddington, seconded by Markham, CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: To adjourn the Special Meeting of the Planning Commission at 7:25 p.m.

 

 

VOTE ON PM-97-04-108 CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

 

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

No: None

 

 

_____________________________________

Steven Cohen - Staff Planner

 

 

Transcribed by: Diane H. Vimr

May 12, 1997

 

Date Approved: May 21, 1997