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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 2006 7:30 P.M.
45175 W. TEN MILE, NOVI, MI 48375
(248) 347-0475


The meeting was called to order at or about 7:30 p.m.


Present: Members John Avdoulos (arrived 8:15 p.m.), Victor Cassis, Lynn Kocan, David Lipski (arrived 7:41 p.m.), Michael Lynch, Michael Meyer, Wayne Wrobel

Absent: Andrew Gutman (excused), Mark Pehrson (excused)

Also Present: Barbara McBeth, Director of Planning; Jason Myers, Planner; Tim Schmitt, Planner; Rob Hayes, City Engineer; Kathy Smith-Roy, Director of Finance; David Gillam, City Attorney


The meeting attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Member Kocan.


Member Kocan asked to remove Karim Office Center, SP04-21a, from the Consent Agenda, set aside the rules, and make Consent Agenda Removals the first item on the Agenda.

Moved by Member Wrobel, seconded by Member Meyer:

Motion to approve the Agenda of March 8, 2006 as amended. Motion carried 5-0.


No one from the audience wished to speak.


There was no Correspondence.


Member Kocan said that there might be an Implementation Committee meeting on March 27, 2006. Topics could include outside storage and stacking requirements.


Director of Planning Barbara McBeth told the Planning Commission that City Council approved the Preliminary Site Plan for Brooktown; this plan fell under their purview as it is proposed under the Special Development Option. Ms. McBeth reminded the Planning Commission to contact the Planning Department if they would like to attend the Planning Basics Workshop.


The Consent Agenda was moved to "Consent Agenda Removals for Commission Action."



Consideration of the request of Ted C. Minasian for a one-year Final Site Plan extension. The subject property is located in Section 24, on the west side of Karim Blvd. and south of Grand River Avenue in the OS-1 (Office Service) District. The subject property is approximately 2.99 acres. The Applicant is proposing a two-story office building.

Ted Minasian addressed the Planning Commission. He was seeking a one-year extension of his Final Site Plan approval. The expiration date on this plan is April 5, 2006. The Conservation Easement has been approved, but it has not been executed because he has not proceeded with the project. It is part of the approved site plan; when the project moves forward, the easement would be executed. He said that the easement could be signed now, with the understanding that it not be recorded until the project moves forward. The scope of the project could change. He continues to try to purchase the adjacent property. If that happens, the easement could be changed. He would prefer to wait until the project goes forward before the easement is recorded.

Planner Tim Schmitt agreed with Mr. Minasian’s comments. The easement could be signed and held in abeyance at the City Attorney’s office. He suggested that the executed easement be received by the City Attorney within 120 days. City Attorney David Gillam said that everyone is in agreement that this is the appropriate way to handle this. The document could be forwarded with a cover letter that indicates the easement will not be recorded until such time that the project moves forward. If the plans changes or the project is not built, the easement will be destroyed and it will be a non-issue.

Member Lipski arrived at 7:41 p.m.

Moved by Member Kocan, seconded by Member Wrobel:

In the matter of Karim Office Center, SP04-21a, motion to approve a one-year Final Site Plan extension, with the Conservation Easement being executed within 120 days but held under escrow at the City Attorney’s office until the project goes forward.


Member Meyer was concerned about the letter sent by the Applicant, citing the hard economic times in Michigan as the reason why the plan was not moving forward. He wondered why then, the Applicant was considering purchasing neighboring land to build something even bigger. Mr. Minasian responded that his first choice would be not to even sign the easement. But, he understood that the City has a greater comfort level with his executing the document. It is understood that the easement would not be recorded until the project moves forward.

Chair Cassis said it seemed like all sides are comfortable.


In the matter of Karim Office Center, SP04-21a, motion to approve a one-year Final Site Plan extension, with the Conservation Easement being executed within 120 days but held under escrow at the City Attorney’s office until the project goes forward. Motion carried 6-0.



Planner Barbara McBeth addressed the Planning Commission. She introduced Kathy Smith-Roy, Finance Director, and Rob Hayes, City Engineer. Ms. McBeth said that a CIP Committee meeting, with two members each from the Planning Commission and City Council, was held on February 28 to review the program. At that time a few recommendations were made and have since been incorporated into the document. If the Planning Commission finds the document to be acceptable, Ms. McBeth asked that they adopt it.

Ms. McBeth said that one additional item was identified today regarding a roadway project. This would be the Flint Street extension, north of Grand River heading west toward Novi Road. This may be added to the CIP now, before the CIP is forwarded to the City Council as part of the budget document.

In general terms the Flint Street extension is the completion of the roadway system that was anticipated for some time. City Administration has indicated that it might be time to move forward with that project, with an asterisk in the in 2006-07 projects. There could be funding to be determined at a future time. A conservative rough estimate for that cost is about $3,000,000.

Chair Cassis closed the Public Hearing after determining that there was no correspondence and no one from the audience wished to speak.

Member Wrobel confirmed that the Flint Street extension was not the same item as #29, Flint Street Improvements. City Engineer Rob Hayes said item #29 was a rehabilitation; the extension is new construction.

Member Kocan confirmed that the request was to add $3,000,000 for the Flint Street Extension, to be added to the 2006-07 fiscal year. Mr. Hayes said that the preliminary and general design of the project would be initiated this year; construction would likely be in 2007.

Member Kocan said she sat in on the preliminary discussions. She was pleased to see that the Meadowbrook sidewalk connections have been moved forward. The residents of Meadowbrook Lake have been asking when there would be sidewalks. She did not know what the easement considerations would be, i.e., could someone stop the sidewalk from going in if they did not grant the easement? She didn’t know when the appropriate time would be to discuss this. What are the implications relating to a thirty-year resident not giving an easement to the City?

Mr. Hayes said that first, the City would look to see if they have enough available right-of-way in which to place the sidewalk. On that segment, he was unsure if that was an issue. Typically, the legwork on easement review is performed, then presented to the landowner for consideration. The City tries to work with residents to fit the sidewalk in an easement or in the right-of-way.

Member Kocan said that sidewalk connectivity has been a good thing in Novi. She said the benefits outweigh any of the negative aspects.

Member Kocan noted Items #38 and #39. She said that the language should state the Meadowbrook pathway from the south end of the bridge to Penton Rise, which is on the west side. Village Oaks is the subdivision. Village Lake is the name of the road on the other side of the street. She asked that this change be added to #38 and #39 as matter of clarification.

Member Kocan said that roadwork in the Meadowbrook and Nine Mile area was a recent recipient of Capital Improvement funds. She asked that the City inspect this area because there are some holes already developed. That road is less than six months old. Specifically, there are some bad patches going east toward Nine Mile and Meadowbrook, and going west between Ennishore Drive and the railroad tracks. Mr. Hayes responded that he was aware of these problems with the top course of asphalt. The City’s consulting engineer has gone out to document the problems and has notified the contractor who is still under contract for a spring repair visit.

Member Kocan said that she heard City Council Member Andrew Mutch say he wanted to see permanent generators added into the final project for the awarding of a contract for design and construction engineering services for Country Place and Stonehenge Sanitary Sewage Pump Station reconstruction. She asked when that project would take place. Mr. Hayes said that the award for engineering design was made Monday night at the City Council meeting. A Consultant has been chosen to do that design. If there is space available, then a generator station will be included. Then, if there is a power failure, the generator will kick on and the City can still pump sewage. Member Kocan asked whether this needs to be shown in the budget for 2006-07. Mr. Hayes said that the construction would be in 2006-07 and it would be correct to say these numbers would be added into the document before it went before City Council.

Chair Cassis asked whose responsibility it was to inspect potholes. Mr. Hayes responded that it was the Department of Public Works. They go on inspections and also respond to citizens’ calls. Chair Cassis said that there was a big hole on his street too.

Member Lynch said it appeared that Beck Road will be five lanes between Eleven Mile and Grand River. It will be three lanes between Nine Mile and Ten Mile. It will be three lanes from Nine Mile to the City limit. He asked if it was already three lanes from Ten Mile to Eleven Mile. He asked why the City wouldn’t provide five lanes as far as possible, until the money ran out. Will the City have to go back and add additional lanes at a later date? Mr. Hayes said that the concept of providing a full five lane road for Beck Road was discussed at City Council last year. Their decision was to confine it to three lanes maximum south of Ten Mile. The other existing widths would be left as is to maintain the residential nature of Beck Road. Member Lynch said that this is the one road in the area that connects M-14 and I-96. He thought that if one looked at what was happening in Plymouth, Beck Road is already up to five lanes. He thought this road was considered as the "Plan B" route if the expressways had emergencies. He was not aware that City Council made this policy decision. Mr. Hayes said widening the road further would require significant right-of-way acquisition. Member Lynch understood, and just didn’t want to see the City spend a bunch of money now for three lanes if in five years the road would be five lanes. Chair Cassis said he agreed with Member Lynch’s thought process but that was the decision made by City Council.

Member Kocan said that there was one more section of sidewalk from Orchard Hills West (the new subdivision) north to 7-Eleven. That is not scheduled at all. The sidewalks proposed now will allow pedestrians from Meadowbrook Lake to walk to Mallott (Orchard Hills West), but at some point the City needs to consider plugging in another third of a mile. She noted that there is also a school nearby, and people like to walk in this area.

Moved by Member Kocan, seconded by Member Wrobel:


Motion to approve the 2006-2012 Capital Improvements Program, with the addition of the Flint Street extension - engineering and design within the next two years, and the other corrections that were made with regard to the Meadowbrook Road [sidewalk] running to Penton Rise, and a subsequent discussion as to the completion of the sidewalk; otherwise as presented. Motion carried 6-0.


The Public Hearing was opened on Zoning Map Amendment 18.659, the request of Eugene & Regina Neugebohr, c/o Matthew C. Quinn, for recommendation to City Council for rezoning of property in Section 15, on the north side of Grand River Avenue, west of Novi Road, from I-1, Light Industrial, to TC, Town Center District. The subject property is 1.575 acres.

Planner Tim Schmitt located the property on an overhead map. It is almost directly across from the existing Flint Street exit onto Grand River. The site is east of the railroad track. It is adjacent to the General Filters building and the Baby N Kids’ bedroom store.

The property is master planned for Town Center Commercial, as are the properties to the north, east and south. To the northwest, the Master Plan designation is the Downtown West designation, which was added in the most recent Master Plan for Land Use update. The property is currently zoned I-1, Light Industrial, as are the properties to the north and west. To the east is the TC, Town Center, Zoning District. To the south is the TC-1 Zoning District.

There are no regulated wetlands on the property, but there is a creek running through the east edge of the property. There is a substantial floodplain on the site. There are some regulated woodlands on the property, and they will be reviewed at the time of Preliminary Site Plan submittal.

The Applicant is requesting a rezoning to TC, Town Center. This request is in conformance with the Master Plan for Land Use. This is the last property along Grand River that is master planned for Town Center. Town Center uses include office buildings, retail, multiple family development, and mixed uses are encouraged. The I-1 zoning allows for offices, and any number of light industrial and warehousing uses, some of which may be considered Special Land Uses.

The floodplain on the current FEMA map engulfs nearly the entire parcel. In many ways, building in a floodplain is very problematic. However, FEMA is updating the maps for Oakland County. The available date for these new maps has been jockeyed about, although the City expects them soon. The updated FEMA map renders this site more buildable. The creek is obviously an area where flooding could be expected, but the west side of the site is a higher elevation.

The Engineering Review revealed no major infrastructure concerns. It is expected that the demand on water and sewer will be reduced by the TC zoning. The Traffic Review has reviewed the proposal and has provided anticipated trip counts. A Town Center retail use of 4,000 square feet would yield approximately twice as many 24-hour trips as a Light Industrial use of 6,000 square feet.

The Planning Review discusses the Flint Street extension, which was just added back into the Capital Improvements Program. This proposed road would run directly to the west of this property. It was shown as a dotted red line on the map provided at the Planning Commission meeting. Should this extension be built, this parcel would clearly fall into the natural Town Center zoning break. Given that this has been the City’s plan, it is natural to include this site into the Town Center District. The Planning Department recommends that the Planning Commission send a positive recommendation to City Council. Again, the request conforms to the Master Plan and falls within the natural boundary of the Town Center District.

Member Kocan asked for clarification of the Flint Street location. Mr. Schmitt replied that there is an offset. Flint Street is approximately four parcels to the east, given where the City currently owns property. The extension plan was engineered long ago, before the lawsuit occurred. Mr. Schmitt felt that the plan was based on the location of the stream. The property anticipated for use in the extension once housed a dilapidated home that the City subsequently purchased. The other option would have been to place the ring road at the location of Baby N Kids, which was an active retail operation at the time. Ultimately, the exact location of the planned road would have to researched.

Chair Cassis clarified that the ring road was designed and voted upon by City Council. The plan was rejected during the mayoral realm of Matthew Quinn. The plan was to relocate some of the local businesses out near Wixom, but the plan was rejected.

Matthew Quinn represented the Applicant. He displayed a copy of the proposed ring road. He noted that the City bought the old Thompson Glass building. He said the proposal would include the road going directly across Grand River, as the City anticipated purchasing that property as well. This is the standing plan, and when funding becomes available, this plan should go through. It could certainly help the traffic flow around this corner. Mr. Quinn sought a positive recommendation from the Planning Commission.

No one from the audience wished to speak. Member Wrobel read the correspondence into the record:

· Thomas Duke, 37000 Grand River, Farmington Hills: Approved of the rezoning.

Chair Cassis closed the Public Hearing.

Member Lynch asked for clarification of the Flint Street loop and the ring road discussed in the Capital Improvements Program. Mr. Schmitt replied that the parcel adjacent to this property is the land that was just added back into the CIP.

Member Wrobel asked what prompted such a significant change to the FEMA map. Mr. Schmitt replied that FEMA is updating the entire county, based on more detailed elevation information and the development which has occurred since the last update. Each floodplain area is being surveyed in an effort to provide more accurate information. With this FEMA update, this Applicant would have to apply for a Letter Of Map Revision with FEMA. This is an affidavit which states that based on the elevations, the land is not a floodplain.

Member Kocan was confused about the location of Flint Street, specifically on the south side of the street. Mr. Schmitt responded that the plan provided by Mr. Quinn was the "pie in the sky" version of the plan. The black lines specify the actual planned location on the north side, but the south side location has not really been determined.

Member Kocan said this property is next to a new Master Plan designation called Downtown West. At this time there is no description of this district. She asked whether the Master Plan and Zoning Committee has taken up this cause, or was it something that should be added to their agenda. She suggested that it was time for the City to define what Downtown West should be. Director of Planning Barbara McBeth concurred, stating that it was something that the Master Plan and Zoning Committee could consider.

Member Kocan said that she didn’t know if the district should contain any residential, in light of the density the City is approaching. Chair Cassis said that a Downtown West discussion was recently held with City Council. Member Kocan agreed, and said that part of that conversation included a dialogue on whether the Downtown West designation should be a cultural-type of district.

Moved by Member Kocan, seconded by Member Wrobel:


In the matter of the request of Eugene and Regina Neugebohr for Zoning Map Amendment 18.659, motion to recommend approval to City Council to rezone the subject property from I-1, Light Industrial, to TC, Town Center, for the reasons that the request is consistent with the Master Plan and uses already in the area, and the subject property is the logical border between the Light Industrial and existing Town Center. Motion carried 6-0.


The Public Hearing was opened for Planning Commission’s recommendation to City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance to increase building height, increase density, and allow modified room counts in the TC-1, Town Center Zoning District.

Planner Tim Schmitt explained that there are three distinct amendments for the Planning Commission to consider: Building heights, mixed use developments and room counts. The Planning Department recommends that three separate motions are made, because they are distinct issues with different discussion points.

The amendment is the result of McKenna Associates request for Triangle Development regarding the future development of the vacant twenty acres along the north and side of Main Street. The Planning Commission is well aware that the property was originally approved for a large downtown mall-type facility. Only two buildings were built. The property has a long and varied history. Mr. Nona and Triangle Development have purchased the property and are currently formulating plans, a concept of which was provided to the Planning Commission in their packets. The plans have not been reviewed. This concept was provided to give the Planning Commission an idea of what their future development could look like. They are under no obligation to bring this plan back for consideration.

Their request for these text amendments affects the Town Center Zoning Ordinance, specifically TC-1. It will facilitate the project they will be proposing.

Building Height:

The Applicant is requesting a change to the building height maximum from 65 feet to 78 feet. There are two impetuses behind this request. First, the Applicant wishes to propose first floor retail and office; this increased height would allow for a higher floor to floor measurement on the first floor. There would be higher measurements on the subsequent residential floors as well. Second, the Applicant has asked that the reference to stories be removed, to allow unlimited stories within that 78 feet. The Applicant’s documentation and the strike-through version of the Ordinance both address this issue.

The Planning Department recommends a slightly different approach. After speaking with the Applicant and determining what they are trying to achieve with the additional height, the Planning Department recommends the language found in Part 3 of the strike-through version. The Planning Department recommends three sub-conditions to allow the 78 feet. This height would require a mixed-use (residential and non-residential) building. The building would have to have 150 feet of building frontage on a public road. The street-wall effect is preferred over a parking lot full of big buildings, which isn’t the City’s vision for the Town Center District. Taller buildings off of Main Street are acceptable, but it shouldn’t be the focal point. The 150 feet building frontage would allow multiple landowners in the district to use this provision should they choose to redevelop in the future. The 78 feet, in conjunction with the 150 feet, is a very good ratio. The building will not seem as tall with this proportionate sizing. The text regarding building stories should remain in tact. There are certainly areas where the City may wish to consider removing some of the story language; some districts already don’t have a story requirement. In the districts with residential options, the Planning Department feels it is important to leave this language as is. It would prohibit a future Applicant from proposing an eight-story building with eight-foot ceilings. This is not the look that the community has been looking for. If parking is provided on the first floor, and it is screened, the parking level would not count against the story requirements. The language would still allow for five stories of otherwise usable floor space. The Planning Department also recommends that the Ordinance building height language become the absolute maximum number, so there are no future issues about whether architectural extensions can exceed the building height. The roof level will be looked at as the building height. A provision is added that allows rooftop appurtenances to exceed the building height if they are set back a certain distance from the roof edge. The Planning Department recommends that 78 feet be the absolute maximum.

Mr. Schmitt said that this is the entirety of the building height issue. The Planning Department has also recommended a few additional provisions. Mr. Schmitt referred to the Planning Commission packet and said that he provided the members with two different amendments to the Ordinance. One version was proposed by the Applicant. The other version is the Planning Department’s proposal. Mr. Schmitt asked that when the Planning Commission made their motions, they identify which of the versions they are describing.

Member Kocan asked for clarification on the new building height. Mr. Schmitt responded that this was new language, requiring the building to be along a publicly dedicated roadway in order to be designed with a 78-foot height. That would prevent buildings standing in the middle of a parking lot being 78 feet tall. This language would require the building to be on the road with the appropriate setbacks, creating the effect of a downtown.

Mixed Use:

Mr. Schmitt said the second text amendment request is regarding mixed-use. Currently the Town Center density is calculated one of two ways. It can be calculated using the residential development standards, similar to how Main Street Village was calculated. It can be calculated based on a mixed-use building. There has not been a project in the TC or TC-1 districts to use the mixed-use provision. The Planning Department has held a lot of discussions regarding how to handle calculating a mixed-use building. There has to be associated parking and landscaping standards with a building. If the mixed-use square footage is counted, the density will increase; if it is not counted, can the building actually be built?

Mr. Schmitt said the Planning Department recommended that the new language for Town Center incorporate some of the language found in the GE, Gateway East District. This language could be adopted for the entire City. The Gateway language provides definitions for mixed-use buildings and mixed-use developments. This language can now be found in Parts 1 and 2 of the Planning Department’s proposal. Mixed-use language would remain in the Ordinance. The City is not in a position to remove this language throughout the Ordinance. However, the Planning Department is recommending that the mixed-use development definition be included for the entire Ordinance. Essentially, it would require a developer to have a plan that included both residential and non-residential uses. He noted that Number 3 allowed a Performing Arts Center that is dedicated to the City to count toward a non-residential use – language taken from the Gateway East Ordinance.

To qualify as a mixed-use building, each use type must be at least 10% of the net site area or the gross floor area. That is a relatively small number on paper; when looking at twenty acres, it is several thousand square feet. The GE language also states mixed-use with conventional multiple family, age-restricted or senior housing facilities, the use does not qualify.

The Planning Department recommends that mixed-use developments be the way one calculates density in the Town Center districts. It makes clear what is counted toward density. It is the extent of the development. There is no need to extrapolate what a mixed-use building is, or what actually qualifies; it is the development.

Room Count Equivalencies:

The proposal also modifies the way room counts are calculated. Single Family Residential density is, e.g., 1.65 dwelling units per acre, or 3.3 dwelling units per acre. The Multiple Family Residential density has an additional layer which the Planning Department considers a safety net. It is a limiting factor on how density is calculated. In addition to a maximum units per acre, there must also be a certain square footage for every unit. Currently, the Town Center number is 1,200 square feet. An acre, 43,560 square feet, divided by this 1,200 square foot standard, would yield a certain number of rooms and units. Either rooms or units are the limiting factor. In the mixed-use density, the standard is 800. This number is recommended for application throughout the Town Center District. This is a cleaner calculation. It brings the room counts in line with the acre density. They are still different, but at least their numbers are closer. For example, under the old method, a certain sized parcel may yield 50 units, but with room counts, the site is limited to just 35 units. This new calculation method would bring those two numbers closer together.

Mr. Schmitt explained that this does not increase the density. It changes the way the City calculates density and allows an Applicant to build a number of units closer to the maximum allowed. The Master Plan for Land Use anticipated that number, because that number is the final limiting density number. It doesn’t change any of the planning processes or what is planned for, it just changes the way the City arrives at the density number.

The Gateway East district number is slightly lower than this number. However, there is a different mix of bedroom types. It is somewhat hard to compare the two numbers.

Mr. Schmitt reiterated that room counts can limit density. A three-bedroom unit would include counting three bedrooms and in almost all cases there is at least one more room (living room, den, etc.), for a total of four rooms. The Applicant requested that a standard relating to the counting of rooms be reconsidered. They have asked the City to remove the limiting percentages on the types of units. Theoretically then, they could propose all one-bedroom units whereas now they would be limited to 50%. The Applicant would like to address this further with the Planning Commission. The Planning Department does not recommend removing that stipulation. The limits are a good thing. It prevents a monoculture of residential units.

The second part of their proposal is the key. Their proposal would put a basement on dwelling unit size of 800 square feet. Every unit would have to be 800 square feet under the proposed language. The Planning Department does not necessarily endorse this, there is no major issue, but this is a policy question that must go before the Planning Commission and City Council. Both proposals have included this language.

The 800 square feet number builds into an equivalent room count. When a plan is reviewed in the Multiple Family Residential districts, a floor plan is required. It must show where the bedrooms and kitchen will be located. Under the Applicant’s initial proposal, that would not be required. What would be required is a showing of how many square feet each unit would be, e.g., Unit A would be 800 square feet; Unit B would be 1,300 square feet. Within that, each square footage would have a room count assigned to it. There would be no need to provide floor plans. Essentially they would be proposing white boxes.

Mr. Schmitt said that Planner Jason Myers put together a graphic for the Planning Commission to review. This is a difficult topic to understand. 1,600 square foot boxes could be designed in a multitude of ways. The graphic showed typical designs – with room count possibilities ranging from one to four. Because there are so many ways to divide up a 1,600 square foot box, the Planning Department does not endorse this part of the proposal.

As a generalized approach, the current calculations with mixed-use developments, the room count is almost always going to be the limiting factor. If this is changed to an equivalent room count, the theoretical maximum could be achieved. Historically, the City of Novi has not endorsed proposals that get to the theoretical maximum. That is the major policy shift with respect to the equivalent room count. Does the City want to make it possible to hit the theoretical maximum density? This would essentially eliminate the second limiting factor in the Multiple Family Residential District. In terms of tangible numbers, an estimate of two people per unit is used. The Buildout Analysis agrees, and it is close to the census data. Obviously, the more units, the more people. The equivalent room count allows the developer to get closer to the maximum.

The Planning Department proposes leaving the current minimum room sizes in the Ordinance: 400 sf/efficiency; 500 sf/1BR, etc. Those numbers would apply to nonmixed-use developments. These would be for traditional Multiple Family Residential developments. With mixed-use standards, the minimum sizes for each of those units would be consistent with what the Applicant is proposing: 800 sf/efficiency(loft or studio); 1100 sf/1BR, etc. The density does not change. Under the Planning Department’s proposal, the percentage does not change. This scheme will accomplish a couple of things. There will be far more clarity in how the City is going to review a mixed-use development. The City never had to deal with this before. It will increase the number of units that can be physically built, but will not increase the plan density. The plan density is still limited by the actual dwelling units per acre. It will create slightly taller buildings. Is it tangible? For comparison’s sake, the Novi Special water tower is 131 feet tall. It is built twenty feet lower than the surrounding grade, netting 111 feet in height. The Applicant would like to propose buildings that are about thirty feet shorter. There have been spirited discussions in the Planning Department regarding this issue. These are some major changes. Philosophically, some go against what some planners believe. The proposal set forth is a good compromise between allowing the developer to go forward and protecting the City’s vision.

Mr. Schmitt said that the original Town Center Visioning was provided to the Planning Commission for review. It gives a historical perspective on what the Town Center Steering Committee was thinking when the original Ordinance was designed. The Planning Commission has hindsight now, to look at what has changed and what didn’t work. The Planning Department wants this Ordinance to work.

Chair Cassis noted that Triangle Development developed the Gateway Village project. He asked for clarification on the density and square footage industry trends versus what Triangle is proposing. Mr. Schmitt suggested that this information be forthcoming from the Applicant. Mr. Schmitt said that Gateway Village was a consent judgment, but it was somewhat modeled after the Gateway East Ordinance. If the Gateway Village Plan was reviewed against the Gateway East Ordinance, they would be pretty similar.

Chair Cassis said he was hoping to provide a concrete example for the Planning Commission to consider. Mr. Schmitt said that Gateway Village was a pretty good example. The Planning Department wanted to make this Ordinance work for everyone – they didn’t want it to be a designer Ordinance. This should allow people to redevelop the concrete property or the Novi Town Center. This Ordinance should apply universally. As a practical matter, it will apply to Main Street. That said, this is a major impact on the community. The Planning Department tried to propose something that is consistent with everything that has gone on in the community.

Mr. Schmitt summarized that the height issue must be considered. The mixed-use issue must be considered, and the Planning Department feels this is more of a clean-up issue than anything else. The room count issue must also be considered. Some say that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Some of the Planning Department is hesitant to propose changes on this issue.

John Jackson from McKenna Associates addressed the Planning Commission. He has been working with the City on these text amendments. These were issues that came up during the first Main Street development. Some items are proposed as a result of the planning community learning how to develop a downtown atmosphere.

Mr. Jackson noted that while two versions of the Ordinance were provided for review, McKenna has reviewed the Planning Department’s version and they concur with most of the proposal. He addressed each of the issues.

Building Height:

Mr. Jackson said that the additional building height was necessary. He displayed pictures for the Planning Commission to see. The current allowed height is 65 feet, five stories. He is asking for 78 feet, no reference to stories. They did not have an issue with the Planning Department’s proposal. The five story cap can be put on the books, as long as the parking floor is not counted. That made sense to them. The other conditions made sense too. The additional height is more historically and traditionally accurate. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has developed design guidelines, and depictions of those were shown by the Applicant. The first floor has to have more prominence and impact in order to be pedestrian oriented. The upper floors would be x feet, and the first floor would be x plus four or five feet. The reason for that is to create that ground level sidewalk transparency. Pedestrians can see what’s going on inside and there is a connection between the buildings and the street.

Mr. Jackson showed an example from Oxford that included a first floor at least five feet taller than the subsequent floors. This allows space for awnings, signage, window displays, etc. This design is traditionally accurate. It also helps attract high end users. This allows for dramatic showcases and displays. He said that one their buildings proposed a 16-foot floor-to-ceiling measurement; this number could go as high as 18 feet.

Mr. Jackson said that people worry about the canyon effect with taller buildings – will there be significant impacts on light and air? Urban design principles are taken into consideration when designing a project. A canyon effect is created when the distance between buildings across the street is less than the height of the buildings. The opposite is a problem too – when the buildings are so far apart that the visitor feels isolated. A one-to-one ratio – typical of a Main Street atmosphere, is ideal. If a plaza is present, the width can be expanded as much as three times the height, without jeopardizing the sense of enclosure and pedestrian comfort. Mr. Jackson said their proposed ratio is between 1 and 1.2.

Mr. Jackson had been asked by Mr. Schmitt to describe how this change would be applicable in the Main Street area. He displayed a design, showing the existing 35- to 40-foot tall wall with the proposed 78-foot tall building next to it. There is a street running between the two buildings. There is parking on either side of the street. The canyon effect is not there. There is a nice relationship between the buildings.

Mr. Jackson displayed a photo with the eastward-looking Main Street viewshed. The existing buildings were shown on the left, and the proposed 78-foot tall building was on the right. This is the perspective most would see. He showed an elevation of the proposed building. They were not seeking to add another story. He said that the architectural element on the right required the 78-foot height allowance. He showed another elevation, from a side street perspective. There would be onstreet parking and wider sidewalks, so the pedestrian comfort level is maintained.

Mr. Jackson said that their architectural team was cognizant of the fact that a taller building allows for more architectural interest and detail. The proposed design is lively and pedestrian friendly.

Mr. Jackson superimposed the building height proposed against the water tower that Mr. Schmitt spoke about. He was trying to show the relationship between the two heights.

Mr. Jackson said that the Ordinance proposal would limit the 78-foot height to mixed-use buildings. He said that they have two other completely residential buildings that they wanted this building height to apply to as well. They also wanted the parking level language to apply to those buildings. They provided a schematic cross-section of what the building might look like from the street. They would aim to have lobby space and other active spaces along the road, with four stories of residential above it. However, in the back of the building, there might be one floor of parking at grade, and five floors of residential above it. The reason why they think this is important on this part of the project, not only on Main Street but on the side streets as well, is that they are trying to make the down town more three-dimensional. Right now there is just one street going down the middle. In order to try to create the critical mass and the livelihood in the area, the Applicant felt it was important to provide those same kinds of amenities on the side streets and secondary streets as well. By allowing the additional floor of parking in the residential buildings, the Applicant is able to avoid designing a gap devoted to surface parking. They are trying to provide a continuous street wall or building frontage along Main Street. Anytime this is interrupted with surface parking, the pedestrian comfort level is compromised. Again they are seeking the parking level language and the 78-foot height for all of their buildings.

Mixed Use:

Mr. Jackson said that he didn’t have much to add regarding the density calculations for mixed-use buildings. Using the calculations for a mixed-use against the entire development is something that they have promoted for a while. As Mr. Schmitt pointed out, the density is based on the bedroom count. There is a catch in the limit on the density.

Room Count Equivalencies:

Mr. Jackson felt that Mr. Schmitt did a nice job explaining this issue. The bottom line for this Applicant is they are looking for flexibility. They do not know how people are going to use these spaces. What the Applicant would like to do is work with the City to try to come up with something that protects the City from having a nightmarish density calculation, but still gives them flexibility. If people want a bedroom, a den, an office and a living room, how does that compare to someone who wants three bedrooms? They understand the language must still address density and intensity of the development.

Mr. Jackson proposed some changes to these numbers. He asked for a reduction in the minimum size of the units from what Mr. Schmitt had proposed. A one-room unit could be 700 square feet; a two-room unit, a 900-square foot minimum. They wanted to ensure that these are obtainable units. Not all of these can be million-dollar units. The young couples and seniors are being considered.

Mr. Jackson said that they wish to change the limit on efficiency units. Historically, communities and planners have been concerned about an overabundance of small efficiency units. However, today, there is a desire to have studios and lofts. There may not be the typical bedroom spaces, but the large space is in tact. They are suggesting an increase to the percentage to at least 10% of the units. These units would have undefined interior space. They agreed with the 50% minimum for two-bedroom units.

Mr. Jackson felt they were on board with trying to maintain the density within the range of density that the City is looking for. They wished to emphasize their need for flexibility. They must be able to lay these rooms out as the market dictates, without having the City come back and say that they have exceeded the number of rooms by two.

Mr. Jackson also wanted to point out some other Ordinance language. Currently, the Ordinance says that the building is set back thirty feet from the property line. That wouldn’t be a problem if the entire Main Street was under single ownership. But unfortunately, it is not. The right hand side of his display showed buildings facing Novi. Down Main Street, there is another building in close proximity to it. The separation between those two buildings is probably closer to 40-45 feet. It creates a continuity that is necessary when a town center environment is being created. He showed another display, and noted that they don’t own all of the buildings. According to the Ordinance, a building proposed for the right of the white space would have to be set back thirty feet. New development that came in would have to be set back thirty feet from the property line. This means that sufficient parking would not be available along Novi Road. It would start to create a gap between the development along Novi Road and the development along Main Street. As a quick visual, he showed what it would look like if a building were to be placed the way they wanted to place it. The thirty-foot requirement could create an unintended consequence.

Mr. Jackson said that in another scenario, an existing building is adjacent to the property line. They would like to propose a building right next to that building. With the thirty-foot setback requirement, they could not do so. They would like to address this issue with the City. Somehow, language that could address this issue would apply to the perimeter of the Town Center zoned property, where the area is adjacent to residential or some other non-town center oriented district.

Chair Cassis closed the Public Hearing after determining that no one from the audience wished to speak and there was no correspondence to share.

Mr. Schmitt re-addressed the Planning Commission. He quickly reviewed the setback issue as it relates to the proposal Triangle Development will bring forward. At this point, he felt that there was no reason to address this through a text amendment because the Planning Commission and City Council have the express ability to waive setbacks in the Town Center District, with one of the conditions being nearly the same as the scenario Mr. Jackson described – when it would create an undesirable layout or when a common parcel line would provide a more appropriate relationship between the buildings. He felt this was a site plan issue and he recommended leaving it as such. He said that the Planning Department recognizes that the property line against the 200 building is going to be a problem. With the bankruptcy and how this site unfolded, this has always been noted as a potential problem. This was already considered once with the Main Street condominium. The City knows there are quirks, and they will work to integrate the new development as much as possible. Again, he recommended this issue be dealt with at the time of site plan review. It would be worked in with a waiver provision.

Chair Cassis said that with such a big development, the City will try to make the design look congruent. This would provide consistency. Mr. Schmitt agreed, citing the fact that this entire area was meant to be one district – one development. The City wanted this area to be seamless. He said that Ms. McBeth worked hard to integrate the Post Bar into this development and Vic’s. He said the City has used the waiver provision before, and they will likely use it again.

Member Kocan asked whether the Applicant withdrew his request for room count equivalency, and would rather seek modification to the minimum size. Mr. Schmitt thought Mr. Jackson should respond.

Dave Nona of Triangle Development addressed the Planning Commission. He said he did not mean to infer a withdrawal of the room count equivalency. They need flexibility in the units’ design. Because of the size of the development, they can’t foresee the appropriate mix of units. They want flexibility.

Mr. Nona said that with Gateway Village, the average unit size is 1,250-1,300 square feet. Generally, the average bedroom count is less than two. The average number of people per unit is about 1.5-1.6. There are a lot of single people living in these units. Chair Cassis said the City is concerned about the number of people who will populate the complex. This number will affect the infrastructure and so on. Chair Cassis asked what the market demands are. Mr. Nona said there are many single women. They are couples. They have very few families with children. They might have a single parent with one or two children. The average number of people at Gateway is less than two per unit. He suspected that the Main Street project would be more urban in nature. It would be more attractive to younger people and single people. The average number of people per unit is expected to be less than what is at Gateway. It will definitely be less than two. He understood the concerns of the Planning Department – the thought of five-bedroom, 1,100 square foot units – that would be a tenement. A single or couple may only need one bedroom, but they want a library, a media room, an art room, etc. Technically, it is still a one bedroom, but according to the present computations, these other rooms would be counted as a bedroom. They want some flexibility in this area. Their plan is not to load this place up with bedrooms. In terms of overall density, they are currently at about 410 units. This is about 21 units per acre, which is in line with Mr. Schmitt’s numbers. If there is another way to accomplish this flexibility, Mr. Nona said they would consider it. They can live with the present Ordinance, if they can get some assurances from the Planning Commission and the Planning Department that there will be some flexibility in the review of the plans. The present Ordinance will allow a theoretical maximum density of 430-440 units. They just would like flexibility in the design of the units.

Mr. Schmitt was asked for any suggestions that would allay Mr. Nona’s fears. Mr. Schmitt responded that ultimately, it will be a question of importance – flexibility for the Applicant or control for the City? Chair Cassis could understand this, if the thrust of concern was concrete and buildings. However, the theme here is the underlying density of the site. Chair Cassis asked if there was some kind of answer to the question of the ratio of concrete versus the number of people.

Mr. Schmitt understood the concept. He understood that the demographics are changing. He said that he, himself, was an example of a two-person family living in four rooms. From the perspective of reviewing this type of plan, there would be a disconnect between what would be shown on the paper, and what would be built. The Planning Department would not really know what would be built. It would go to the Building Department with unknowns, somewhat like a tenant build-out for an office building. This would be somewhat unusual. Each unit would essentially be different. Would it be a bad thing? It would provide flexibility and they would probably sell better. He would not dispute that. From the Planning Department’s perspective, the City wouldn’t know if they were going to end up with 50 units with five bedrooms, or 50 units with two bedrooms and one person living in it. That said, Mr. Schmitt could not commit a ratio of people to concrete. This is why the Planning Department has an issue with this item. This is the switch upon which density is calculated. It changes the limiting factor. The Planning Department would have very little idea at the time of Preliminary Site Plan submittal of what is going to be built. Generally, the Planning Department can tell the Planning Commission what to expect in terms of unit types.

Member Avdoulos arrived at the meeting at 8:15 p.m. He said that a couple years ago, they worked on a height issue with Providence. Their end number was 115 feet with a limit on the stories. Director of Planning Barbara McBeth concurred. The height was 115 feet, seven stories maximum, and there was a dimension from the grade to the top of the highest occupied floor. This was based on a recommendation by the Fire Marshal, that the Fire Department would be able to reach the top floor. Member Avdoulos said he has worked on many projects alongside the Fire Department, through which the concern was that department’s ability to reach the highest occupied floor.

Member Avdoulos said that Mr. Jackson presented a clearer picture of the request. He agreed with the Planning Department that there must be a fixed number on the stories. That must be provided for building codes anyway. That determines which classification a building falls under, what kind of square footage is allowed, what kind of fire suppression is needed, etc. He performed some calculations and he found that 78 feet easily accommodates five stories. There is flexibility for architectural appurtenances and parapets and detailing. The project should be nice, and he felt that allowing this flexibility isn’t going to hurt. The dimensions discussed earlier suggest that the building will be 54 feet to the fifth floor, from grade. Even if that jockeyed by six feet, that would bring the building to just sixty feet. He felt that this number should be run by the Fire Department. Mr. Schmitt said that the Fire Marshal has already weighed in; they do not have a problem with fighting fires in the Main Street area. This is consistent in height to Fox Run, and they can fight fires there.

Member Avdoulos said that in order for a building to receive the 78-foot height, it would be a maximum of five stories, with a minimum width of 150 feet on the street. He asked if there was anything in the equation to address four stories at sixty feet – can that width be reduced? Mr. Schmitt said that the minimum width wouldn’t apply, because that number is intended to kick in if the Applicant wants to exceed 65 feet.

Member Avdoulos said that the first level parking issue was clear to him. Mr. Schmitt said that five stories of residential could be placed above the parking and the faux front of the parking area. It might look taller from the rear. He asked if the building could be set into the ground to accommodate some of the height needs. Mr. Jackson said that part of their plan is to recess the parking partially. Member Avdoulos thought that in order to apply the same floor-to-floor height consistently, the parking level would have to be recessed.

Member Avdoulos thought it was helpful for the Applicant to discuss urban planning techniques and traditional architectural design techniques to establish distances between buildings and heights. He said that the Planning Commission and City Council members would be in agreement - they wouldn’t want to create a canyon-type atmosphere. He felt that creating a Main Street through the use of these techniques could result in a very nice design.

Member Avdoulos did not have an issue with the height, as long as the five story maximum is maintained.

Member Avdoulos had one concern with the density issue. He said there was a base that is used to calculate the density. He asked if the intent is to build a shell, and design it as people purchase. Mr. Jackson answered affirmatively. Member Avdoulos has seen a little bit of this when he has watched condo projects go up. The problem is that the Building Department needs to confirm if there is adequate parking or plumbing fixtures, etc. Member Avdoulos didn’t want this to become a difficult exercise for the City employees. He would like to see projects that come into the City and succeed. He understands that flexibility would be good, but he still hasn’t fully absorbed the scope of their request.

Member Avdoulos said that the Master Plan described the density preferred in various blocks around the City. He reiterated that Mr. Nona said the Main Street plan would not surpass that amount. That would be a good thing, and would ensure that the utilities in the area are adequate.

Chair Cassis said he serves on the Novi School District Utilization and Redistricting Committee. Mr. Koster gave them the breakdown of where the City gets its students. The ratio of students per household are: Single Family Residential = .7821 students/unit; Apartments = .2182 students/unit; Condominiums = .1632 students/unit; Mobile Homes = .1656 students/unit.

Member Kocan said she never thought there would be a downtown Novi. To see something of this magnitude that would finish an entire area, instead of being done piece meal like it has been done in the last ten years, is encouraging. She still had concerns about it though. She said the Applicant keeps saying things that she wants to hear, but there are no Ordinances in place to enforce them. Will there really be enough retail and commercial in this area to accommodate this pocket of people? The Applicant has told City Council this is important because it is a resident-driven development. This ties into the Town Center concept that this is a pedestrian-oriented area. Will it be a downtown area? This label makes Member Kocan think of Northville and Plymouth with their small specialty shops. She does not shop on Main Street, nor does she frequent the bars and restaurants. She was concerned that the area would just become more bars and restaurants and not no so much a downtown or residential development. She wanted to ensure that there would be amenities for the residents. Member Kocan just recently drove through Main Street Village, and she had no idea that there were so many units in such a small area. She thought this would be even greater.

Member Kocan cited Royal Oak as a city where pedestrians walk all around, and she found that to be exciting. She congratulated the Applicant for taking on a project of this magnitude.

Member Kocan considered the concept of affordability. She considered the square footage minimum, and asked why the City wouldn’t consider a 400 square foot minimum. Why not smaller? She didn’t know what the magic minimum number would be, but she was pleased to see that the Applicant was asking for a 700 square foot minimum, because that translates to more affordability. She didn’t know if young people could even afford that in Novi, but she hoped that this was a direction that the City could go, to allow young marrieds or single parents a choice of residence in the City of Novi.

Member Kocan said that the Applicant will be marketing to singles, and from the numbers presented by Chair Cassis, it appears that there are not a lot of children that live in this type of development. Density is determined by the number of units allowed per acre, and the number is automatically multiplied by the number of people. This is a concept that Member Kocan was trying to get a handle on, because it is very important. How does the unit or room count translate to the number of people? What she is hearing is that the numbers will still comply with what was in the Build-out from the Master Plan. Mr. Schmitt concurred, and said this development would not change the numbers he produced for the Build-out Analysis. In fact, he felt he estimated a little high on what this project would bring. This was perhaps because he added a couple of additional parcels that are not under this ownership. This proposal is well within what the City expected and planned for. The Applicant is not changing the numbers that the City uses to calculate, they are asking to change the limiting factors.

Member Kocan was still hesitant to change the limiting factors. She was not sure what impact that would have. She asked if a 1,600 square-foot unit is originally counted as a one- or two-room, could it be changed down the road to three separate units? Would this end up adding four times the amount of people? She didn’t expect that to happen, but it is something that could happen. From a planning point of view, the Planning Commission has to plan. What is the ultimate build-out? What kinds of roads are needed? What parking is needed? Will the residents be able to park in specified parking areas? She noted that the health food store has a packed parking lot but not that many customers in the store. That concerned her. She said that the store doesn’t have much foot traffic on a Friday night, because Gus O’Connor’s takes up all of the parking. She is in tune with this issue. She wants to make sure that this development provides enough parking. The only way to know if there is enough parking is if the Applicant knows how many people to expect, and that can only be known if there are caps.

Member Kocan asked the Applicant if he would ever be able to offer something under $150,000 in this area if, for instance, a 500 square-foot unit was an option. Mr. Nona said these units would probably start at $200,000, but he did say he had units at Gateway that start at $189,000, which is an effort to bring Novi affordable units.

Member Kocan was pleased with Staff’s proposal for the Ordinance text amendment. She was glad they left the story maximum in tact. The presentation given at City Council suggested that not everything would be at the same height. Today she did not think she heard that same thing. The Ordinance reads that the height allowance can only be along a public road. She asked if all of the roads in the development will be made public. Mr. Schmitt said that he did not know at this time. By looking at the plans, it is highly unlikely. Main Street is anticipated to be public. Everything else shown on the plan implies that it would be too great of a feat to make all of the roads public. Public roads require different setbacks, utilities, dedication, etc. It is not of a great enough benefit to the Applicant to make the off-shoot roads public. This will be discussed at the time of Preliminary Site Plan submittal. Internally, the Planning Department discussed the stepping back of the buildings and things like that, because planners are designers at heart. They did not see a scheme that would present that. Mr. Myers researched at length, the distances required and right-of-way sizes and building heights. The Planning Department did not come up with a good solution. Good architecture will take over here. It will be interesting. There will be architectural variation because frankly, that is what would be good. Mr. Schmitt does not choose to regulate aesthetics, and this is one place where he couldn’t even begin to do so.

Member Kocan asked the Applicant’s opinion on the roads. Mr. Nona said that even though they might want to dedicate the roads, he didn’t know if they would be able to. Right now it would only be Main Street. The roads and financing are two different things. The development is the Applicant’s their responsibility. In terms of putting in the streets, the underground utilities and infrastructure, the Applicant is responsible they are responsibility. Dedicating the roads to the City is a different issue. They would like to be able to dedicate them after they are completed; they will be built to City standards. The City may not be willing to accept them. That is a dilemma for them. This ties in with the issue of restricting the height of buildings to only those on publicly-dedicated roads. Does that mean that they cannot have the height allowance on the other roads? Some of these buildings are ell-shaped. Part of the building fronts Main Street, the rest fronts a side street.

Member Kocan asked what the reason would be that the City wouldn’t accept the roads – because they don’t meet City standards? She wanted to confirm that it just couldn’t be reduced to the City Council taking a poll and deciding they just didn’t want the roads. Mr. Schmitt said that City Council is not under an obligation to accept the roads. Additionally, they would have to be built to public standards to be considered. By looking at the plans, it appears that the Applicant will be proposing parking lot drive aisles. Until the dimensional requirements are reviewed, he couldn’t give a more educated guess. The ell-shaped buildings would qualify if there was 150 feet of frontage along Main Street. It would not be the City’s intentions to penalize for providing an interesting architectural design by wrapping around a corner. The practical application of the Ordinance to the proposal is the big buildings can be tall, the little buildings can’t. There is only a 13-foot difference. Mr. Schmitt hoped that something could be worked out within the scope of those measurements.

Member Kocan said that the City wants to know what to expect. The Applicant wants to know all of the rules before they go before City Council. Mr. Jackson suggested that if their roads were designed to City standards, then perhaps the buildings could be 78 feet, all without being subject to whether the City accepts the roads or not. That way, they would know up front that if they met the physical standards that the City is trying to achieve, then they could complete their building design without obligating the City to accept the roads.

Member Kocan was not crazy about the tunnel effect, citing Sheldon Road in the middle of Northville. It is not aesthetically pleasing to her. She has been told that Main Street is wider than Sheldon Road and so it should not have the same effect. The tunnel effect – the canyon effect – is a big concern to her. Mr. Schmitt said that all indications are that Main Street is wider. He could not say how wide Sheldon Road is, in terms of right-of-way, but Main Street’s right-of-way is well-proportioned to the building height. In doing this research, the Planning Department is pretty comfortable with the proportions that this Applicant will be proposing. The buildings will be a little taller, but they are not going to be out of line with the feeling.

Member Kocan said there is an industrial building on the back side of this property, and brownstones will be proposed for the abutting property. There will be requirements for berms. Is there a plan for the industrial company to move? Mr. Schmitt was not aware of that industrial owner wanting to sell his building. He is a well-entrenched property owner. Mr. Schmitt guessed the price on his property was very high. Member Kocan did not see room for residential berming, for residential next to light industrial. She believed there would be some sort of requirement for this. Mr. Schmitt said the Planning Department’s gut reaction was that a treatment similar to what exists at Main Street Village will probably be recommended for this site. That design includes a brick wall. Again, going back to the continuity and setback issue, continuing this treatment would help – even if they are distinct projects with distinct architecture. Similar treatments would help make them feel more similar. Obviously, the Planning Department will wait and see what the Applicant proposes. This is just a concept plan, and it does not have enough detail for the Planning Department to consider. Mr. Schmitt said that Main Street Village is owned by Singh. Main Street Village II is also owned by Singh. Member Kocan noted that the development has a lot of crumbling brick and porches. Mr. Schmitt said that he would pass that along to the appropriate department.

Member Kocan was pleased with the Planning Department’s version of the Ordinance. She wondered what Mr. Schmitt’s response was to the change in minimum sizes. Mr. Schmitt wasn’t sure how anything could be incorporated into the Ordinance to assist the Applicant on this point. If the Planning Commission wants to entertain the equivalent room count, he respectfully requested time to consider how to incorporate it. He said that the chart in its current form needs to stay. It provides density calculations and percentage limitations. It has parking standards. The chart can’t go away; the question is how to incorporate the new request. This can be determined, it will just take a while to do so. The request to change the one- and two-bedroom size minimums to 700 and 900 square feet, respectively, may make things more affordable, which is one of the City’s philosophical concerns. It doesn’t have a major effect. The change that is more of a concern is upping the studio efficiency number from 5% to 10%; however, if a 400 square foot efficiency is proposed to be 700 square feet, this is essentially a wash. He did not think this would change the fundamental analysis very much.

Member Kocan did not like changes at the table. Ms. McBeth said this was a change that wasn’t considered previously, and she offered to have the Planning Department take a further look. They had been worried about limiting the number of units that might be considered affordable. This developer or another developer may be intending to offer some, but it shouldn’t be the Ordinance that limits them from doing so. The Planning Department would not object to reviewing a smaller size unit to determine the rationale behind the request.

Member Kocan stated she was leaning toward accepting the language that is in the Planning Department’s proposal, with looking at the new numbers proposed, i.e., 700 and 900 square feet, as long as there are no negative implications of doing so. For affordability and diversity purposes, it may behoove the City to do so.

Member Wrobel thanked the Applicant for coming forward with a Main Street plan. He thought that the incomplete status of Main Street has been an embarrassment to the City.

Member Wrobel said that the five stories reminded him of Birmingham, but he was afraid of the canyon effect. Since these buildings will be larger than what is already built, he wanted to take in the aesthetics of the entire area. Will these buildings stick out like a sore thumb?

Member Wrobel liked the idea of a higher first floor for retail. This provides a more downtown look. He supported the five story maximum. Based on what he has heard, he felt he would endorse the Staff proposal.

Member Meyer said that the Planning Commission is considering amending the Ordinance to increase the building height, density and modify room counts in the Town Center zoning. He noted that the Applicant stated that he could live with the existing Ordinance, with some flexibility. Then Member Meyer heard that the City is trying to maintain control. It appeared to him that the City would lose some control if the units were designed as white boxes. He hoped that the motion made at this table would somehow indicate that the City is going to accept what the Applicant has indicated, namely that they can live with the present Ordinance with some flexibility, or the City is going to change the Ordinance.

Member Meyer said that one must also understand that Mr. Schmitt is not entirely supportive of the amendment. He felt that asking for waivers would be the appropriate manner in which this Applicant should proceed. Member Meyer said that the Planning Commission needs to keep its focus on the fact that in one sense, the City owes this Applicant for indicating what they want to do with a piece of this wonderful City that has gone unattended for so long. His concern was that these beautiful façades faced Main Street – what would be seen from Grand River? Hopefully the Planning Commission can come to an agreement that the Ordinance doesn’t need to be amended if the Applicant is willing to live within the Ordinance. What they are asking for is some flexibility. Member Meyer said that he understood that the City would want some idea of what is planned for the little white boxes.

Mr. Nona said that they would be able to provide white box layouts, each with three different plans. They can make it available to the Planning Department. Their white box could be an open loft, or a one-bedroom with an open area, or a one-bedroom with a living room, or a one-bedroom with a library, or even a two-bedroom. If the unit size remains the same, the unit would have the same density value. The Applicant could make the information available so that the City is ensured that he wasn’t going to try to sneak a five-bedroom unit into the mix.

Chair Cassis asked if the Applicant was suggesting that a certain sized bank of density be calculated then, as units are sold, the Applicant would "withdraw" density from the bank. Mr. Nona said that if the City and he can agree upon a density, then he would provide three or four different layouts for each of the categories. Then, if something significant changes, he will work it out with the City. Within that framework, they want flexibility in placing their units. Additionally, a plan layout may change along the way, if they receive feedback from the customers that they can use.

Member Meyer would not support the amending of this Ordinance, because he preferred to approve this design though the assistance of waivers where necessary. He felt there was a sense of collaboration established regarding the density and room equivalencies.

Member Lipski had no issue with the height increase. He felt the five story limitation should remain in effect. He thought a higher ceiling in the retail area made good sense. It made for a more attractive building.

Member Lipski was concerned about the density. He agreed with many of the stated comments. He thought that this region of town lent itself to be more in tune with Birmingham or Royal Oak, and not the availability of affordable housing. He was not adverse to providing affordable housing; he just felt that in this area, the City should be careful in reducing the amount of square feet per unit. He was troubled that he was asked to weigh in on the matter when the Planning Department has stated that their review is inconclusive. The impact should be known before the Planning Commission makes any recommendation for change. He felt it might be premature to make a decision this soon. The City needs to have more knowledge on what this development is going to be. What is the volume of people? What is the quality of the units? What will be the resale value? How will the residential interact with the retail? How will this development feed off itself in order to create a downtown? He did not think anyone was asked to answer these questions.

Member Lipski did like the vision and the dream, he just couldn’t escape the vision of Franklin Park Towers and its environment. He wanted to preserve the elegance in Novi. He didn’t want to do it to the detriment of young couples and people that would like affordable housing near their relatives. He just had a pie in the sky vision for Novi. This area, he suggested, should be something of a premium nature. That said, he wasn’t a fan of making changes when there are unresolved contingencies. At the same time, he wanted to do whatever encourages this developer to move forward. This is a risky undertaking, and if this City can offer changes to make this project economically feasible for the Applicant, then that would be great. The flip side is that the City is always confronted with a development theme which is, get as many saleable products within a certain amount of space. He did not see this attitude with this developer, but he felt the City had to be cautious because this Applicant is not necessarily going to be there forever. The City needs to know what the long term impacts are going to be.

Chair Cassis thanked the Applicant for his courage. He has seen the history of Novi’s downtown developments. He hoped that the Planning Commission and City Council would not try to impose a certain concept to the detriment of a successful development. He cited the Novi Town Center as a development in which City Council told the developer that they had a vision of how the building should be shaped, to the detriment of the project. Main Street has a similar story. Several developers came to Novi and said if City Council wants the design as such, then they couldn’t do it. It is not profitable and would not succeed. Then came a man and his extended family who succumbed to the design orchestrated by a bureaucracy. Bankruptcy. Chair Cassis encouraged the City to think twice before telling a developer and design team who have a track record what they should do. This developer has just put up another development in the City and he knows the market. He has felt the market. Chair Cassis said that this developer has seen the trend in the demographics of who would live in a development such as this. He asked that the City not make another mistake. He understood that the City wants to preserve the taste of their community.

Chair Cassis understood Member Wrobel’s concern for the height increase. The request is edgy and novel. This development will be the new adventure for downtown Novi. One can look at the proposal and think that the buildings are going to be too tall and the property too dense. He wondered if the City can have the courage to take the jump onto a little higher plateau, and trust the judgment of this developer, to be successful and finally bring a conclusion to the Main Street area. What is this development going to bring to that area? Is density good? Yes, because it will breathe life into the restaurants and area businesses.

Chair Cassis looked at the architecture of the proposal and it seemed like it was of a first rate quality. Architecturally, it is very pleasing. It looks very good. If one looks at the surrounding area of that quadrant, there is a concrete mixer across the street. There is a brickyard. There is a warehouse. There is a sprinkling of many different uses. This is a multi-million development with a first rate look. Chair Cassis hoped there is enough good will. He thought that Mr. Schmitt worked very hard on this review. Chair Cassis said that this plan represents thirty years of future. He said that luckily the City can compare itself to Northville. There are tall buildings there, amidst 100-year old homes. Those homes didn’t seem to be bothered by that downtown. In fact, people come from all over to visit Northville because it is so pleasing. Can Novi hope to get that kind of mixture? This City has wanted a downtown in Novi. Every resident in Novi says that he wants a downtown. Chair Cassis was hopeful that this will be a successful project. It will bring tax base to the community. The City wants this developer to be successful. The Fire Department said they can handle the safety aspects of this proposal.

Chair Cassis said that he hoped that the developer and Mr. Schmitt could agree on a middle ground where there will be flexibility for the developer, so that he can accommodate the market. Chair Cassis reminded the Planning Commission that the housing market is in tough shape. That is why this developer’s courage is commendable. He needs the City’s help to see who will come in and support his development. The City wants that – it doesn’t want this development to be empty.

Member Lynch confirmed that this vote is a recommendation to City Council on an Ordinance change. He wanted this developer to succeed, because if he succeeds the City succeeds. Member Lynch asked whether this developer wouldn’t succeed if he didn’t vote for the Ordinance change. It sounded to him as if everyone wants to grant the waivers and they all want him to succeed. The question is whether the Ordinance really needs to be changed in order for this to happen. If the answer is yes, that the Ordinance must be changed in order for the development to succeed, then he will vote in one way. If the answer is no, the Ordinance can remain the same and as a group everyone can work together to prevent bureaucracy from getting in the way, that is fine too.

Chair Cassis asked Mr. Schmitt to explain what the Planning Commission is voting upon. Mr. Schmitt responded that there are three fundamental changes: Building height, mixed-use calculations, and room equivalencies. The City and the developer are in agreement with the first two. Even the details on the edges of the room equivalency are generally agreed on, it is literally that singular issue. The City would like to take another look at the 700/900/10% request. Generally, both the Director of Planning and he do not think it will be a major problem. Ultimately, is the development going to be successful if the Ordinance is changed? He could not answer that. There is a set of economics behind this proposal to which the City is not privy. If a developer comes forward and purchases one of the most high-profile pieces of land in the City, he is not going to request Ordinance changes unless he knows he needs them. They must think that they need all of this. He did not doubt that, because every person that comes into the City is told to reduce the number of waivers and variances. They are told to be in compliance with the Ordinance. Be in compliance with the Master Plan. He would not encourage someone to come forward to request changes to the Ordinance. They must need these changes. He would guess that the developer, if asked, would say most definitely, he needs these changes in order to be successful.

Member Lynch said that the issue is not with this developer. He has heard all sorts of accolades. The issue is that if the Ordinance is changed, the City has to worry about the next developer that comes forward. Isn’t that what happens? Everyone has looked at this proposal and all are in agreement. It looks beautiful. It is the best thing for the City. Right now there is an Ordinance in place that stands in its way. Why can’t the City authorize a deviation? Doesn’t it do that, when it’s a detriment to the City? Can’t the City deviate from the Ordinance and grant specific waivers for this project? Mr. Schmitt said that theoretically, the Applicant could request variances. Obviously, the Planning Department tries to limit those as much as possible. The City and Developer agree on what is before the Planning Commission – except for the one issue, which is a fundamental change in the way the City does business. That is why the Planning Department has had as big of a problem as they’ve had – the parties have met to work through the Ordinances, and conclusions have been made upon which most everyone would agree. The one issue alters the City of Novi’s strategy with respect to mixed-use development. That is really the crux of what everyone is having a problem with. The City believes that there is not a problem with the current system. The Planning Department understands the desire for flexibility for marketability reasons. Again, the City is not privy to the economics of this development.

Chair Cassis told Member Lynch that if he was afraid that another developer would take advantage of these changes, he should be aware that this change only applies to the TC-1 District. Mr. Schmitt responded that the City is not worried about future developers. This proposal is written with some pretty tight language. It is just the one issue that remains contentious.

Member Kocan said that if the City doesn’t change the Ordinance, the developer could come in with a request for a height variance. The Planning Commission cannot grant that. City Council cannot grant that. It would have to be granted by the ZBA. There is no guarantee that it would be granted. Mr. Schmitt said that "guarantee" is the most important word in that scenario. The development community wants to know, when they come forward, that what they are proposing is generally going to be accepted. There may be ancillary issues, but if they are proposing 78-foot tall buildings, they want to know coming forward that the 78-foot height is acceptable. This Ordinance change gives this developer a certain amount of guarantee up front as opposed to their going through the variance process on the back end. If the Planning Commission sends a negative recommendation on this Ordinance amendment, and City Council denies the height, then Mr. Schmitt would have to offer a negative professional opinion to the ZBA, because the policy decision appears to have been set.

Member Lynch asked whether a negative recommendation on this would send this Applicant through another bureaucratic layer. Mr. Schmitt responded that this Applicant will probably have to go to the ZBA for other issues anyway. Member Lynch said that everyone wants to do the right thing, but it seems like the City is getting in its own way. It seems like a negative recommendation just starts another process. The time spent at this meeting could have been spent by the developer seeing his vision come to fruition. Member Lynch thought that perhaps he did not understand the process and that it wasn’t as bad as the way he saw it at present. He understood that the City needs Ordinances to maintain control, but they can’t stand in the way of doing the right thing. That was the point he was trying to make. He was still concerned that when he is asked to vote he will still be confused. If he said no, i.e., he rejected these changes, he is afraid that he is pulling the rug out from under this Applicant and the City.

Chair Cassis suggested that the Planning Commission thrash this out and make it easy for everyone to understand.

Mr. Jackson asked to clarify one point. Some proposed amendments are more necessary than others are. The calculation of density based on a mixed use development is necessary. The building height is necessary. The flexibility issue – they would really like that change too. If the developer cannot calculate his density based on a mixed-use development, then this proposal will not work.

Member Avdoulos said that the developer is looking to set the ground rules, and then have on a piece of paper what the City is going to accept. Then, the developer can go ahead and design. Otherwise, if they wait for waivers or a visit to the ZBA, then their designing will be done on pins and needles. The proposal may or may not be approved. Providence Hospital came in to change the Ordinance, because the height restriction in their area was 65 feet. For them to properly house operating rooms, patient rooms and mechanical equipment, they wanted a taller building. They came forward, presented their case, and the City agreed to change the Ordinance to allow x height. Then, they could go back and design the building and the structure. In the meanwhile they worked on site plan issues. The submitted plan basically met the requirements because the Ordinance was revised.

Member Avdoulos said that he designed an 11-story hospital in Ann Arbor in an area where only two stories were allowed. In this case, Member Avdoulos requested a 200-foot envelope, brought the drawings and showed the Planning Commission what was required. The City told him to go ahead. That allowed his engineers to get working. He worked on the site plan. The idea is to get the framework out there now and get the approval now. As Mr. Schmitt said, this Applicant wouldn’t come in and ask for this unless they needed these changes. This is a recommendation to City Council. They will look at what we’ve recommended and they will go through the information as well. Member Avdoulos felt these were the proper channels.

Member Avdoulos said that the existing building on Main Street is about 500 feet long. The buildings proposed by this Applicant are half that size. There are spaces in between. The narrow alley-look will not occur. The project is oriented in a way that there is a lot of north, south, east and west. This will create pockets of daylight. This is an interesting configuration. Sometimes the City gets nervous and hesitant, but he has been looking at the way this design is laid out and the height. He thought the proposal worked. This allows the Applicant to go ahead and produce nice aesthetically pleasing quality buildings.

Mr. Nona knew that the purpose of this meeting was to address Ordinance issues. He heard some questions being presented about the site plan and the type of project being proposed. He said that they would be coming back in two or three months with a lot of plans. This project is going to have approximately 400 condo units and 250,000 square feet of office and retail. Half of it would be medical office; half would be retail. He has a tentative agreement with a major medical user for a medical building along Novi Road. That is ready to go. That is why they would like to have the process expedited. They want to come back in front of the Planning Commission in April or May for a site plan approval.

Of the retail space, Mr. Nona felt that a third of it would be eateries and restaurants. The rest would be service retail and some specialty. In terms of parking, all of the residential units will have secured parking below grade. There will be an average of 1.4-1.5 secured parking spaces per unit. In terms of the overall parking computation, he is allowing two parking spots per unit, even though the requirement is less for the one-bedroom units. Because of the intensity of the project, he has to build a parking deck next to the medical building. Their traffic consultant will come before the Planning Commission to discuss the parking deck. To give the Planning Commission an idea of the quality of the project, Mr. Nona said that three architects and a planner are working on the project. Mike Burgeois is working on the medical building. Alexander Boegarts and GAV Associates are working on the remainder of the site. McKenna Associates is the planning firm. Their parking consultant is Rich and Associates. Their traffic consultant is Reid, Cool, Michalski. He wanted to assure the board that this would be a quality development. It may not be Birmingham, but it won’t be Franklin Apartments. The buildings are not all going to be the same height and same design. Some will be one-story. Some will be three-story. Some will be four-story. Some will be five-story. The designs will be different to give it a feeling of variety, but with a theme. The back side of the units will be very similar to the front side of the units. The view from Grand River is going to be aesthetically pleasing. Some units may front that direction. The buildings will be brick. Mr. Nona said that they have every intention to screen the project from the industrial site in an appropriate fashion. They will design a nice streetscape. They are proposing two roundabouts. There will be nice entrances. They will have a very detailed package for the Planning Commission in less than three months. They will be able to review it.

Mr. Nona suggested that on the first two issues, if there are no contentions, then the Planning Commission can make their recommendation. On the third issue, he thought that maybe he could work it out with the Planning Department. He hoped there could be some resolution that would provide for flexibility.

Member Lynch had every confidence that the Applicant would do a wonderful job. He was most concerned about the City getting in its own way of working these issues out. He said that height would be one motion, which looked fine to him. The mixed-use text amendment is a necessity and he understood why the Applicant was asking for it. He agreed with Mr. Schmitt, that providing the Applicant with white-box approval is not a good thing. He did agree that there must be flexibility offered to this developer. If this can be done as a group, then that is what he suggested. He didn’t want to stumble around within the Ordinance.

Chair Cassis was looking for a motion.

City Attorney David Gillam addressed the Planning Commission. He reminded the Planning Commission that their obligation at this meeting was just to make a recommendation to City Council. As Mr. Schmitt indicated, this is a policy decision, at least the one issue that is in contention is. From a planning standpoint, the Planning Commission is making a recommendation to City Council. Ultimately City Council is going to make a policy determination as to whether or not to make the amendment to the Zoning Ordinance. In terms of what is going to go to City Council, it is going to be a single Zoning Ordinance text amendment that will encompass all three areas of change. Ultimately, the request will be an all or nothing as far as City Council is concerned. What Mr. Schmitt has asked, is that for the purposes of guidance to City Council, and guidance to the Applicant, the Planning Commission should make three separate motions or resolutions. Mr. Gillam cautioned that there are concerns and the Planning Commission has a desire to work with the Applicant on site plan issues. This is not a site plan issue tonight. These are text amendments to the Zoning Ordinance. This is what the Planning Commission must consider.

Chair Cassis said that there will be another day when the Applicant comes before the Planning Commission and more specificities will be determined. Mr. Gillam doubted that there was anyone at the Planning Commission table or within City administration that did not want to see this project succeed. The responsibility of the Planning Commission for this meeting is to look at the proposed changes for the Zoning Ordinance, and from a planning prospective, are those changes appropriate? That is the recommendation that is needed.

Member Kocan stated that the site plan would come to the Planning Commission. In those instances where the site plan is five acres or greater, Preliminary Site Plan approval shall be by City Council after review and recommendation by Planning Commission. Member Kocan said that Mr. Gillam summed it up well that this is a recommendation to City Council. There will be additional information that will go to City Council. There will be arguments from the developer based on what the Planning Commission decides to recommend. City Council will read the Planning Commission minutes and make its own determination. She was prepared to make a positive recommendation for all text amendments as proposed by staff. She did not want someone saying no to the whole thing because he wants to say no to one element. Mr. Schmitt said that there are six parts, including the addition this evening. They have been lumped together into three categories.

Member Kocan said that language must be added to the definitions, though that is not a request from the developer. There must be a height recommendation. There must be a mixed-use development vs. mixed-use building recommendation. Mr. Schmitt said that their first motion should cover height, Parts III and IV. The second motion would cover mixed-use development, Part I and II. The third motion would cover room count changes, with specific emphasis on the equivalency concept, Part V. He suggested that within the latter, the 700/900/10% proposal should be addressed.

Chair Cassis asked before if the two situations could be married. Could there be a density range placed in a bank? This could address the unit once someone has come forward and asked for a design of such and such. As the customers come forward, the developer can gauge the market and glean what is marketable. Mr. Schmitt said that it seemed feasible. He had some concerns, but it was something that the Planning Department could look into. Chair Cassis emphasized that it is only wall placement within the building envelope that is being discussed. Mr. Schmitt said that at their request, the Planning Department could look into this issue. He did not know if it would change their fundamental thinking, but certainly if that is what the Planning Commission would like, the Planning Department would recommend a positive recommendation on that concept, so that City Council knows and the Planning Department can look into it and try to get some language together for City Council to act upon.

Chair Cassis asked for Ms. McBeth’s comments. She responded that the Planning Department could look into it. They have been working on this for several weeks, as Mr. Jackson stated. They were looking for the best way to approach the issue and ultimately, they could not come up with a positive recommendation on the equivalency issue. The Planning Department can look into Chair Cassis’ suggestion. They have reviewed other Ordinances and other Ordinances are and very similar to the they way Novi’s Ordinance is currently. They can review this issue and discuss it with the City Attorney’s office.

Member Kocan said that there are three decisions. One could be not to change anything. One could be to consider the Staff recommendations. One could be to consider the Applicant’s recommendations.

Moved by Member Kocan, seconded by Member Lipski:


With respect to a request to amend Ordinance 97-18, Section 201, which includes the definitions for mixed-use building and mixed-use development as proposed by Staff, motion to send a positive recommendation to City Council for the revision of those Ordinances. Motion carried 5-2 (Yes: Avdoulos, Kocan, Lipski, Lynch, Wrobel; No: Cassis, Meyer)*

* [See below] Motion carried 6-1 (Yes: Avdoulos, Cassis, Kocan, Lipski, Lynch, Wrobel; No: Meyer)

Moved by Member Kocan, seconded by Member Lynch:


With respect to a request to amend Ordinance 97-18, specifically Section 1602 with regard to height and Section 2400 with regard to height, bulk, density and area by Zoning District, motion to send a positive recommendation to City Council to include the revised language as proposed by Staff in their proposed revision to those Ordinances. Motion carried 6-1 (Yes: Avdoulos, Cassis, Kocan, Lipski, Lynch, Wrobel; No: Meyer)

Moved by Member Kocan, seconded by Member Lipski:


With respect to a request to amend Ordinance 97-18, specifically regarding Section 1601.10 with respect to equivalency of units, motion to send a positive recommendation to City Council to revise the Ordinance to the language as proposed by Staff in their proposed revisions, without the changes as proposed by the Developer this evening based on the limited time that the Planning Commission has had to digest the information [Changing the Minimum Dwelling Unit Sizes (Efficiency from 800 sf to 700 sf, and One-bedroom from 1,100 sf to 900 sf), and changing the Maximum Percentage of Efficiency units from 5% to 10%]. . Motion carried 4-3. (Yes: Avdoulos, Kocan, Lipski, Lynch; No: Cassis, Meyer, Wrobel).


Chair Cassis asked whether his vote on the first motion could be changed from a no to a yes. Mr. Gillam said this was form over substance; it wouldn’t change the vote.

Moved by Member Lipski, seconded by Member Wrobel:


Motion that Chair Cassis’ request to change the recorded version of the vote on the first of these three motions be yes, in the affirmative, in favor of the motion as stated by Member Kocan. Motion carried 7-0.



Planner Tim Schmitt said this was a request from City Council regarding a request from a resident to look at storage requirements in the Residential Districts. This is very much the expertise and purview of Cindy Uglow, the City’s Neighborhood Services Coordinator. The Planning Commission will have her expertise available, either through the Implementation Committee and Planning Commission or just the Planning Commission. Ultimately the Planning Department is asking that this item be set for a Public Hearing or referred to the Implementation Committee. No language has been formulated as yet.

Member Kocan had a number of questions to ask. She thought a Public Hearing date could be set, but that the review should begin at the Implementation Committee level. April 26, 2006 would be the first Planning Commission date available for this Public Hearing.

Mr. Schmitt said that he would research whether the City has already visited this item before.

Moved by Member Kocan, seconded by Member Lipski:


Motion to send the topic of Outside Storage in Residential Districts to the Implementation Committee for review, and set a Public Hearing date for the first available Planning Commission meeting. Motion carried 7-0.


There were no Consent Agenda Removals.


There were no Matters for Discussion.


Member Kocan said that the Implementation Committee should hopefully meet on March 27, 2006.


No one from the Audience wished to speak.


Moved by Member Lipski, seconded by Member Kocan:


Motion to adjourn. Motion carried 7-0.

The meeting adjourned at 10:52 p.m.













Transcribed by Jane L. Schimpf, March 20, 2006 Signature on File

Date Approved: April 5, 2006 Angela Pawlowski, Planning Assistant Date