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PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order at or about 7:00 PM.
Present:Member Baratta, Member Cassis, Member Greco, Member Gutman, Chair Pehrson, Member Prince, Member Lynch, Member Meyer
Absent: Member Larson (excused)
Also Present: Barbara McBeth, Deputy Director of Community Development; Kristen Kapelanski, Planner; Mark Spencer, Planner; Lindon Ivezaj, City Engineer; Tom Schultz, City Attorney; Tom Lindberg, Deputy Police Chief; Rod Arroyo, City Traffic Consultant
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Member Cassis led the meeting attendees in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Moved by Member Lynch, seconded by Member Baratta.
VOICE VOTE ON THE AGENDA APPROVAL MOTION:
Motion to approve the December 9, 2009 Planning Commission Agenda with the addition of the Landings Land Use Study under Matters for Consideration. Motion carried 8-0.
No one from the audience wished to speak.
There was no correspondence.
There were no committee reports.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DEPUTY DIRECTOR REPORT
Deputy Director McBeth stated that there were a couple of items approved at the City Council meeting on Monday evening that the Planning Commission had reviewed as well. The Sign Ordinance Text Amendment relating to the frequency of change of changeable copy signs was approved. The Preliminary Site Plan for Building I at the Novi Town Center was approved by the City Council, and the variances for that plan were approved at the Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday evening. One addition to the table this evening is the 2010 City of Novi meeting calendar which has the Planning Commission dates highlighted in green. There are a couple of changes to the meeting dates at the end of the year in order to accommodate the Library Board.
CONSENT AGENDA - REMOVALS AND APPROVALS FOR COMMISSION ACTION
1. OLDE TOWN OFFICE VILLAGE, SP06-30
Consideration of the request of Heyn Properties for Final Site Plan extension. The subject property is located in Section 16, south of Grand River Avenue, east of Beck Road, in the I-1, Light Industrial District. The subject property is approximately 10.73 acres and the applicant is proposing to build four multi-story medical/general office buildings.
Motion to approve Consent Agenda. Motion carried 8-0.
1. GIGGLE GANG, SP09-31
Public Hearing of the request of Giggle Gang, LLC, for Preliminary Site Plan and Special Land Use Permit approval. The subject property is located in Section 28, east of Beck Road and south of Ten Mile, in the R-1, One-Family Residential District. The subject property is approximately 0.33 acres and the applicant is proposing a group day care home to allow for the care of up to 12 children at 24099 Wintergreen Circle.
Planner Kapelanski stated that the applicant is proposing to expand her family home daycare business which currently supervises six children to a group home daycare business supervising up to twelve children. The subject property is located on Wintergreen Circle which is south of Ten Mile Road. Currently, the property is zoned R-1, One-Family Residential District and the surrounding properties are also zoned R-1. The use, a group day-care home which is for six to twelve children is listed as requiring special land use approval in the R-1 District.
The Planning Commission should consider the findings listed in Section 2516.2.C of the Ordinance. There are various standards that the applicant must meet in the R-1 District in order to obtain approval of a group day-care home. The applicant has met a portion of these standards, but will be requesting three variances for deficiencies. The ordinance requires a fenced in outdoor play area and the applicant will be requesting a variance for the fence since the subdivision regulations do not allow the installation of a fence. There is quite a bit of screening in the rear of the yard. However, the sides of the yard do not have as much screening and the applicant has agreed to add some additional landscaping on the sides for the outdoor play area. The ordinance also requires a minimum lot size of half an acre and the size of this property is 0.33 acres and therefore a variance is needed. The ordinance also requires that the property abut a major thoroughfare and the property fronts on a residential street, but it is fairly close to Ten Mile Road.
Staff is recommending approval of this special land use permit, as the addition of six children to the proposed use would not generate a substantial amount of traffic, the proposed use will not substantially impact the existing properties as the applicant is currently operating a daycare out of her home with no substantial negative impacts on adjacent neighbors and the proposed group daycare home would serve the residents in the neighborhood as stated in the intent of the R-1 District.
Nicole Karr, the owner of Giggle Gang and applicant, came forward and stated she has been a licensed daycare provider in this home for 12 ½ years. Nicole Karr used to operate the day care Monday thru Friday, but the last seven years has operated three days a week: Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Giggle Gang’s clients are mostly mothers who work part-time and the daycare hours are 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. The applicant is requesting this permit to accommodate the families that are currently part of the day care by enrolling the siblings of children who are currently there once they are born. Right now, Giggle Gang’s license allows Applicant Karr to care for six children and there have been times when Applicant Karr wanted to take care of eight children. Licensing allows Applicant Karr to do so if there is another adult present, but does require a change in the specific license from family home to group home. Applicant Karr stated that the day care has wonderful families and she couldn’t imagine having to ask one of them to not return to day care simply because Giggle Gang’s license currently only permits the supervision of up to six children. Applicant Karr has watched many of the children in the neighborhood and the neighbors are in support of this request.
Chair Pehrson stated that this is a public hearing and asked if there was anyone else who would like to speak on this matter.
Seeing none, Chair Pehrson asked if there was any correspondence on this public hearing.
Member Greco stated that there was no correspondence.
Chair Pehrson then closed the public hearing and turned it over to the Planning Commission for deliberation.
Moved by Member Gutman, seconded by Member Prince:
ROLL CALL VOTE ON THE MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF SPECIAL LAND USE PERMIT FOR GIGGLE GANG, LLC, SP09-31, MOVED BY MEMBER GUTMAN AND SECONDED BY MEMBER PRINCE:
In the matter of the request of Giggle Gang SP 09-31, motion to approve the Special Land Use permit, subject to the following: a) Planning Commission finding under Section 2516.2.c for the Special Land Use permit whether, relative to other feasible uses of the site, the proposed use will not cause any detrimental impact on existing thoroughfares due to the fact that the addition of six children being supervised on the property at any one time would not generate a substantial amount of additional traffic; The proposed use is compatible with adjacent uses of land in terms of location, size, character, and impact on adjacent property and the surrounding neighborhood due to the fact that no changes to the footprint or façade of the house are proposed and signage is not permitted or proposed; The proposed use is consistent with the goals, objectives and recommendations of the City’s Master Plan for Land Use; The proposed use will promote the use of land in a socially and economically desirable manner; The proposed use is in harmony with the purposes and conforms to the applicable site design regulations of the zoning district in which it is located as noted in the staff and consultant’s review letters; b) That the applicant receives the required variances for the lack of a fence around the outside play area, the deficient lot size and the fact that the property does not abut a major thoroughfare from the Zoning Board of Appeals; c) And compliance with all conditions and requirements listed in the staff and consultant review letters for the following reasons that the plan is otherwise in compliance with Article 4, Article 24 and Article 25 and all other applicable provisions of the Zoning Ordinance. Motion carried 8-0.
Member Cassis asked Planner Kapelanski if staff sent out notices on the public hearing to the neighborhood.
Planner Kapelanski answered that notices were sent out according to the State requirements and a notice was placed in the newspaper.
Member Cassis questioned how many notices went out for this public hearing.
Planner Kapelanski answered that the Community Development Department sends out notices to everyone within 300 feet of the project. That would include about four houses in each direction, so probably about 20 notices total were sent out.
Member Cassis asked if there were any responses.
Planner Kapelanski answered no, the City did not get any responses.
Chair Pehrson stated there were zero approvals and zero objections.
Member Cassis then asked Applicant Karr to come forward, and asked if Giggle Gang was going to continue operating only three days a week.
Applicant Karr answered the day care would continue to operate three days a week.
Member Cassis asked the applicant if the daycare had any plans to increase the number of children being supervised at any one time to twelve.
The applicant responded the day care had no plans to supervise twelve children, but would be supervising approximately eight or nine children, along with having an assistant present.
Member Cassis asked Applicant Karr if the people brought their children to her house.
The applicant stated that people bring their children anytime between 8:00 am and 5:30 pm. As far as traffic, usually there are only one or two cars in the driveway at one time, because parents are allowed to come and go throughout the day. There are several families who drop off two children at a time because they are siblings, so there is maybe four cars coming to the house throughout the day.
Member Cassis asked if they all came at 8:00 in the morning.
The applicant stated no, and that there are three or four cars dropping off six children total because some have siblings.
Member Cassis asked the applicant if she was licensed.
Applicant Karr stated that she has been licensed with the State of Michigan for twelve years. The State of Michigan is now requiring Applicant Karr to secure a group home license to care for the siblings of the members she has now when the babies are born. The applicant also stated that the City requires fencing around the outside play area and the property to abut a major thoroughfare or section line collector road, but the State does not require those things. The applicant stated that her backyard is completely landscaped on the west side. The State of Michigan does not require fencing for licensing and the applicant is willing to do additional landscaping since the neighborhood does not allow fences.
Member Greco stated that at first he had concerns like Member Cassis since the property is in a residential neighborhood. It sounds like the applicant has done a good job with her business and there have been no complaints from neighbors and that they support the endeavor.
Motion made by Member Gutman, seconded by Member Lynch:
ROLL CALL VOTE ON THE MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF PRELIMINARY SITE PLAN ON GIGGLE GANG, SP09-31, MOVED BY MEMBER GUTMAN, SECONDED BY MEMBER LYNCH:
In the matter of Giggle Gang, SP 09-31, motion to approve the Preliminary Site Plan, subject to the following: a) The conditions and items listed in the staff and consultant review letters being addressed on the Stamping Set; b) That the applicant receives the required variances for the lack of a fence around the outside play area, the deficient lot size and the fact that the property does not abut a major thoroughfare from the Zoning Board of Appeals; and c) The applicant providing additional landscaping along the side yards of the property for the following reasons that the plan is otherwise in compliance with Article 4, Article 24 and Article 25 and all other applicable provisions of the Zoning Ordinance. Motion carried 8-0.
MATTERS FOR CONSIDERATION
1. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICES STORAGE DOMES, SP09-33
Consideration of the request of the City of Novi Department of Public Services for Preliminary Site Plan approval. The subject property is located in Section 14, north of Eleven Mile Road and east of Delwal Drive, in the I-1, Light Industrial District. The subject property is approximately 32 acres and the applicant is proposing to construct two 30 foot by 60 foot dome style storage buildings adjacent to the current DPS storage dome.
Planner Spencer stated that this proposed project is in the DPS yard and is located on the north side of Eleven Mile Road between Meadowbrook Road and Delwal Drive. This is a 32 acre site and the surrounding uses include light industrial uses and vacant land to the west, offices to the east, vacant land to the south and the I-96 freeway to the north.
The property is in the I-1 zoning district as are neighboring properties all around it with the exception of the I-96 corridor. There are a limited amount of natural features that surround the built area of the site. The site has a creek and wetlands that surround the developed area. There are no woodland or wetland impacts associated with this development.
The DPS Department is proposing two additional dome type structures. There is one currently on the site. It is approximately 1,800 square feet and is supported by blocks on the sidewalls. Vinyl is stretched over the top of the metal frame. The materials meet the Façade Ordinance requirements since this is a substantial continuation of the existing building and it is of the same basic materials.
Looking at an air photo of the site, the existing dome is on the bottom right hand portion of the site. There are some storage bins to the east that will be relocated north of the salt storage dome which is further over to the east. The City is planning on planting additional trees south of the proposed structures and the salt dome. Additional trees may be planted around the storage dome and where the storage bins are, provided locations for planting can be found.
There are no engineering or fire concerns and in general the plan complies with the requirements of the ordinance. Planning staff recommends approval subject to some minor corrections on the stamping set submittal. Engineer Lindon Ivezaj is here to answer any questions as the applicant.
Chair Pehrson turned the proposal over to Planning Commission for consideration.
Member Gutman stated that everything seems to be in order on this. The City has provided one storage facility already and the plan for the new facility looks very similar.
Motion made by Member Gutman, seconded by Member Meyer:
ROLL CALL VOTE ON THE MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF PRELIMINARY SITE PLAN FOR DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE STORAGE DOMES, SP09-33, MOVED BY MEMBER GUTMAN, SECONDED BY MEMBER MEYER:
In the matter of the Department of Public Service Storage Domes, SP 09-33, motion to approve the Preliminary Site Plan subject to the following: a) The conditions and items listed in the staff and consultant review letters being addressed on the Stamping Set for the following reasons because it is otherwise in compliance with Article 19, Section 2400 and Article 25 of the Zoning Ordinance and all other applicable provisions of the Ordinance. Motion carried 8-0.
2. SET A PUBLIC HEARING FOR JANUARY 13, 2010 FOR ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AMENDMENT 18.239 RELATED TO SALES OF LIQUOR AT GAS STATIONS
Planner Kapelanski stated that at previous meetings, the Planning Commission was presented with an amendment to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages at gas stations. The Planning Commission considered the amendment and asked staff for additional information which was presented at a subsequent meeting. Additional information has also been included in the packets this evening.
As of late, this issue is coming up more often, and even today staff had a gas station call and ask if the City had any regulations related to alcohol sales. The Community Development Department has also had one pre-application plan submitted that showed a substantial amount of area within the proposed gas station, devoted to the sale of beer, wine and liquor.
Staff believes that this would be a good time, if the Commission wishes, to consider whether it would be appropriate to have an ordinance in place when a formal submittal is made, and to provide guidance if staff receives any additional questions about this use.
This evening the Planning Commission is asked to set a Public Hearing for the upcoming Planning Commission meeting and make a recommendation to staff regarding possible ordinance language for the sale of liquor at gas stations. The Planning Commission would have several options: 1. Total prohibition of sales as previously presented; 2. Leave the Ordinance as it is, allowing gas stations to obtain liquor licenses from the State; or 3. To develop standards that would fall somewhere in between the two, for example, allowing liquor sales at stores of a minimum size.
The Staff would like a recommendation on this land use question so that we have an answer to applicants when they come forward and ask whether these sales can be permitted.
Also, at a previous Planning Commission meeting, the Commission indicated a desire to hear from the Police Department on this issue and Deputy Chief Lindberg is here to answer any questions you may have as well as the staff.
Member Cassis asked Deputy Chief Lindberg if he was in a position to have an opinion or does the Department have an opinion about whether we should have liquor in gas stations.
Deputy Chief Lindberg answered that in previous communications from our Department we do not recommend that gas stations be allowed to sell liquor.
Member Cassis asked what the reasons for this were, so we can educate the public on what the position is.
Deputy Chief Lindberg stated that, starting more globally, Oakland County, Michigan has the lowest fatality rate in not only the country, but the world at .37 fatalities per hundred million miles driven. That does not happen by accident, but through a collaborative effort from Law Enforcement, Engineering, Traffic Improvement Associations and a whole multitude of things that have gotten us to that number. One of the those things that has been done, and is noted in an article that was provided for the Commission and written by Louisiana State University, and one of the reasons jurisdictions or states have a lower traffic fatality rate is because they do monitor the liquor establishments within their jurisdictions. Having more liquor establishments or places that sell alcohol in our City creates more opportunities for people to purchase alcohol and the Police Department does have some resources that we have to expend on that. We do quarterly liquor inspections where an officer goes in and makes sure the license is in order and looks and makes sure everything is in order. We do the decoy operation where we expend resources where we take people who are under 21 into the establishments to see if they are complying, etc.
We are not advocating that we reduce the number of liquor licenses because we know the economic impact that those have. However, we also want to make sure our voices are heard and that we are being responsible. The Commission can read in the communications that have been provided for them, there are certain concerns associated with the sale of alcohol at gas stations. If an individual is there to purchase gas, we know what marketing strategies are and how many times have we gone into a store and bought something that we hadn’t anticipated. All of those things come into play and the police department does not think it is a good idea for alcohol sales to occur at gas stations.
Member Cassis stated that he was intrigued with the idea that if we allow so many gas stations in the community, you would probably have to have more man resources in the police department to monitor and exercise all of those preventive actions that the Police Department does by inspections and so on. So that multiplies the amount of time the Police Department goes out there and provide personnel to do that job.
Deputy Chief Lindberg answered absolutely and we do quarterly open liquor inspections and an officer or officer’s go in and they are in uniform and they have a checklist and make sure everything is in order. Last quarter we checked 92 establishments in our City. So that is an officer that could be out in the community or in the subdivisions doing patrol and that is a resource we are expending to do the inspections. If there is a violation, there is a subsequent hearing that could go at the LCC where the officer is there and not on patrol. The decoy operation is where people are out and our officer’s are out for an entire night. Fortunately we have some grant monies for the decoy operation right now. That is not always the case and we will spend our dollars to do the decoy operations and if there is violation it could be 30 minutes to an hour for processing and then again another hearing at the Liquor Control Commission. We are expending a lot more resources if the City has more establishments that sell alcohol. The more licenses, the more resources we expend to watch those.
Member Prince asked Chief Deputy Lindberg how many gas stations would he anticipate would make applications to obtain these licenses were we to approve an ordinance that would allow it.
Deputy Chief Lindberg said he could not answer that but because of the regulations that are currently with the Liquor Control Commission, they have to have $250,000.00 worth of inventory outside of gasoline and alcohol and there are certain proximities that are required related to the distance between the point of sale and gas pumps. I think there are a number of gas stations that would apply. I think we found in some surrounding communities that have permitted the sale of alcohol at gas stations that a fair amount of stations do apply and the truth of the matter is that the LCC doesn’t necessarily have all the resources to police it on their end. The police officer doesn’t necessarily have the knowledge to go in and do an inventory of a gas station to make sure there is a quarter of a million dollars worth of inventory out there. We would not want that resource being expelled to check that. Does the LCC have the ability to do that consistently? From what I am hearing, probably not. I think you would have some additional people in our City currently operating gas stations that would go before the LCC trying to get a liquor license due to the economic times. In the package that Deputy Director McBeth supplied you there is a map showing where the gas stations are and there is a possibility that there could be a dramatic increase in the number of gas stations selling alcohol.
Member Meyer asked what your thoughts were on a matter that was before Master Plan and Zoning Committee. It was brought to our attention that one of the developers felt that the establishment of the gas pumps was simply an ancillary piece to the building that would be selling the liquor. What are your thoughts about that and that selling gasoline would actually be secondary to the actual selling of liquor.
Deputy Chief Lindberg thought there was some validity to that in doing research to come here tonight as well as the going over the information that was supplied to me from Planning. The overhead profit from gasoline right now is relatively low which is why this has become a topic not only in our community of Novi but surrounding communities as well. You might find a business owner that has found the profit margin is much greater selling the alcohol than it is selling gasoline. But the sale of gasoline is the business that the owners are familiar with and know. That might raise the question in all of your heads that if the owners know how to operate a gas station and train employees for gasoline sales, how much training is there going to be for an employee that is selling alcohol? I think there is some real validity to the statement that there is a higher profit margin in our community for the sale of alcohol than the sale of gasoline.
Member Meyer thanked Deputy Chief Lindberg for attending this evening and representing the police force here and for your service to our community.
Member Lynch thanked Deputy Chief Lindberg for attending and it answered a lot of questions and concerns. Member Lynch asked if people have a problem buying liquor right now in Novi. Member Lynch stated that we want all of our businesses to be profitable and there is not a problem selling coffee, donuts and things like that. One of the developers was Tim Horton’s which is the nicest gas station in America and is suppose to be coming to Novi. Member Lynch stated that he still thinks that this decision is a policy decision that certainly is above us and should be made by City Council and I am still uncomfortable with the Planning Commission making what I feel is a policy decision. We then have Deputy Chief Lindberg come in and say it is a bad thing and I am not going to go against that. I still think this is a policy decision and I am uncomfortable with rendering any other judgment. I still do not understand why this is being brought to Planning Commission.
Member Baratta asked Deputy Chief Lindberg let’s assume there is not a lot of profit in gas and that if I had a gas station and ceased selling gas and opened up a liquor store, the availability of alcohol would seem to expand and you would have more establishments to sell that product. My question is and I agree with Member Lynch is you have a gas station and just because they sell gas, what is the problem with selling the alcohol and I do not see how it increases the sale of that product just because it is a gas station versus a restaurant or some other facility.
Deputy Chief Lindberg stated that you are asking me for my personal opinion and that may be tainted by some personal bias and I appreciate that, but please take it for what it is worth. I would have some concerns in that there is some real expertise in training to sell alcohol. If you were to go into a gas station, there is certain expertise to having that customer service. When you cross them over is where personally I have some concerns and I think you also find there is turnover in gas stations with employment. Whereas, a lot of the convenience stores have more consistent employment because many of them are family owned outside of the franchise. Your next question might be that Busch’s or another grocery store sells alcohol and those cashiers are trained to scan the food products and are they really trained in the sale of alcohol and that is an absolute concern. But, this is a new area, a new venue for us to consider and that is something I feel relatively strong about and we need to make sure that the people that are selling the product are trained to sell that product. If the focus of that is to be a gas station, that is their area of expertise, just like Member Lynch said a minute ago with me and that is a very significant concern that I have. Every argument you have about alcohol I can’t get into here, but I can just drive down the street. But again, how often do you walk into a place because you are there with the intent on buying something and you see whatever they are displaying and you end up buying it and that is another thing you might think about when you walk into a gas station that sells alcohol.
Member Baratta said let’s assume I have lived in Texas for many years and own a market and the gas stations down there have more than just markets. They all sell gas and have restaurants adjacent to them. I am looking at it as you have a gas station and traditionally all you sold there is gas and today you have the mini-market that has a gas pump and in some instances they don’t even own the gas, they get a fee from the oil company to sell the gas and they get a commission. So truly what they are is a market that happens to sell gas. So, I am trying to get to, to basically find out because I have a gas pump if I own this market, would this increase the sale or availability of alcohol to a driver.
Deputy Chief Lindberg said that he wished he could come to you with data to support that and be able to tell you that. But, the truth of the matter is with hours of research that I have done, some of the people on Chief Malloy’s staff and through our direction have done including research that planning has done, there is not a lot of data that separates what you have described from a gas station and the alcohol sales. It more is almost a common sense approach we take, just like you have to do here. This is really a land use issue and you are asking for some statistical justification or some input from me. To answer your question, I can’t answer that because they sell gas that would increase the sales of alcohol, but I believe that is the truth. I believe there is going to be the instance where an individual is driving by and needs gas and ends up buying alcohol and has an issue as a result of it. I refer you back to the Louisiana State University Study that was supplied to me and in the states that have the lowest traffic fatality rate related to drinking and driving do a much better job at regulating liquor sales within their communities. One of the things that they site in that study is the drive-thru sale of alcohol and the states that allow that have a higher traffic fatality rate relating to alcohol. States that have less regulations on their establishments have a higher rate, though it doesn’t specifically say it in this study. I think common sense and the next step is those that sell it in gas stations and allow those vehicles to get on the road, would probably fall into the same category. And again sir, I apologize, but the data just isn’t there where they separate it out and indicate where the alcohol was bought at. We do a good job when there is an alcohol related traffic fatality of tracing back and looking to see if it is a bar or somewhere somebody has been drinking at, under the Dramshop Rules, that is something our traffic investigators do. But typically, it is very difficult if they have not been at a bar or restaurant to trace back where they bought their package liquor, their beer etc. This is standard across the country, we’ve tried, we’ve looked at that research and its just not something that is there and I hope that answers your question.
Member Baratta asked if there is a fee charged for this inspection for an officer to go into a liquor store.
Deputy Chief Lindberg said that there was no fee and without being an expert in that area, there are regulations and financial consequences and incentives where we are required to police the liquor licenses in our city and there are some financial returns as result of that. If we do not police those establishments and then there is a problem, we can suffer some financial losses from the Liquor Control Commission and kickback from their license fees etc. We are not compensated at all for going in and doing that, it is part of our process.
Member Greco stated that we have had this issue before us for two meetings and I think the issue of a gas station selling alcohol seems like something that should not go together. When you look at it from a quick look, something to turn away and say we don’t want that. But I think at the last two meetings where this was discussed, I’ve been hearing comments from the Planning Commission that we want more data before we make this decision, especially since it is not a decision that every community is making. My understanding is that Farmington Hills has chosen not to regulate alcohol sales at gas stations. West Bloomfield did pass an ordinance. I do appreciate both the staff and the officer coming here, because I think the information that was provided in the packet this week is something I think we were looking for. I am not sure and I am not going to make a decision tonight on whether I support or don’t support it, but there probably is something there worth having a public hearing on and I appreciate you coming to the meeting. One of the things I am concerned about is saying blanket statements, and one of the things the deputy keeps bringing up is data and lack of data. I think everyone’s experience both outside and inside of Novi is that we have a outstanding police force that does a great job of enforcing the laws, particularly the drunk driving laws. I think that is everyone’s impression inside and outside of the city. I am sure that the department has particular hotspots or areas where they are more likely to find a drunk driver. The middle of a subdivision of might be an area where you would not catch a lot of drunk drivers whereas maybe by the Town Center area or the Main Street area would be more where they could be caught. I believe the police have an idea where the problems may occur. My question is, do we have any data regarding this Sunshine gas station. I would imagine that if it is a problem whether it is drunk driving or not, that there would be open container pullovers or arrests and is there anything you are getting back from your officers about this particular area being a problem.
Deputy Chief Lindberg answered no to Member Greco. But, the market is very new and the owners were very accommodating when they were opening up and adhered to the entire ordinance. I will take you back a few minutes when I made a statement that it is very difficult to track where packaged liquor, beer, and wine are purchased when there is an accident or driving issue. I am not aware of any runs or police complaints that have come in the parking lot there where we’re getting teen’s hanging out and none of that is happening. Our officer’s in the district are aware of what is there and have established a relationship with the ownership. But, there are no concerns at this point with the land use of Sunshine Market and activities that are going on there that I am aware of.
Member Greco asked whether increased tickets along Novi Road have been issued for open containers or anything like that.
Deputy Chief Lindberg answered no to Member Greco.
Member Greco said that his only comments would be for the Commissioner’s. The information provided does satisfy me as at least something we should consider and I am not sure where I fall on that consideration. But, I still do want to be careful on what we are doing with respect to this situation. I recall when I recently just moved to the community and there was a big uproar with a Hooters coming into Novi and how awful that would be and the outfits that they wear and it is a place where people would not want to go and it would bring the wrong element. And, as far as my understanding goes, they seem to be a good business corporate citizen for the city. I don’t know if we are looking for a problem that doesn’t exist; but I think given the data and given the presentation tonight, I am probably going to support moving for a public hearing.
Member Cassis stated that being in the restaurant business, the health department does have a program to educate and certify the handler’s of food. Do you have or do you need to have something like that to educate people on the sale of alcohol?
Deputy Chief Lindberg stated that the Police Department does not in itself, but we facilitate a lot of that training with the Liquor Control Commission. In years past, we have had Town Hall meetings where we have gotten management from a number of different liquor establishments together and one of our officers has been the facilitator of that. If a certain establishment has an issue where we have issued a violation, the first thing we recommend to them is get the tips training from the LCC. Not only is it available for them in person, but it is also online and it helps build the training that they are trying to get their personnel, so they do not have the same problem again. The Novi Police Department does not have their own program; but as good partners, we will make everything available and tell the different establishments that this is available and we are there to help. If this gets approval, we will do the same thing with every establishment that comes into town. Having our own program, no; but facilitating and helping people find the programs out there yes, absolutely.
Chair Pehrson said that he was going to add his thoughts to the discussion. I don’t think we are rationally aiming to make Novi or Oakland County a dry county. But, as a point of reference relative to training, I do have a relative who is employed by one of the larger petroleum based outlets based down in Texas and they actually have to go through a corporate mandate where their employees go through a week’s worth of training to try to spot, identify, and make public anyone that comes on the premises that might have been drinking, that might be drunk or that might have the appearance of drinking, to the point where they suspend sales at 11:59PM on any given night. If the tape register shows that any liquor was sold at 11:59:01, they are subject to a $100,000 fine and 3 years in jail. So they put the onus on the store operators to self police their own. That said, I think what we are looking to do is take away the possibility. What the petroleum based outlets in Texas have found in research that the this individual was able to provide me is that for every trip that is now being made at these stores in Texas, just as a point of reference, for every 1 trip for gasoline, there are 3 other trips made to the facility just for alcohol and it has become a mini-mart. Whether that turns into something where Deputy Chief has to have his guys find drivers on Novi Rd. with an open container or that leads to something, I think that will be very hard for them as the Deputy Chief has indicated to find out about. But, there is a trend in at least that little bit of demographic data that says this is becoming more of a real convenience for those that want that. How far do we want to go relative to legislating or allowing areas alcohol sales at gas stations to take place. I think it is good that we are having the debate and good that we are setting this as a public hearing. I thank the Deputy Chief for coming in and for your letter as well; it was quite good.
City Attorney Schultz stated that the question before the Planning Commission is really kind of narrow. Right now the principle use for all of these for a gas station is for the dispensing of fuel, a market and all the things that go along with it are considered accessory uses. The question that you are really going to be deciding if you continue on with this is, is the sale of alcohol along with all those other sundry things customarily incidental to the fuel dispensing or should it be. It is not just a policy question of the sale of alcohol at gas stations; it is a land use question. Is this sale of alcohol at gas stations incidental to the dispensing of fuel, should it be? As your going through, that is really the question you are after.
Moved by Member Meyer, seconded by Member Prince:
ROLL CALL VOTE ON THE MOTION TO SET A PUBLIC HEARING FOR ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AMENDMENT 18.239 RELATED TO THE SALES OF LIQUOR AT GAS STATIONS FOR THE PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING TO BE HELD ON JANUARY 13, 2010, MOVED BY MEMBER MEYER AND SECONDED BY MEMBER PRINCE.
In the matter of Text Amendment 18.239, a motion to set a public hearing for January 13th, 2010. Motion carried 8-0.
3. THE LANDINGS LAND USE STUDY
Deputy Director McBeth stated that this was a matter that the City Council considered as part of their presentation on Monday evening and at the conclusion of the discussion the City Council forwarded the concept to the Planning Commission for further study and a recommendation on the zoning of the subject property.
The Landings property is City-owned property on the south side of Walled Lake. The majority of the property is shown on the Future Land Use map as public park. The current zoning of the Landings property is B-3, General Business Staff’s request this evening is that the Planning Commission send this matter to the Master Plan and Zoning Committee for discussion and then staff will bring this back for a full Planning Commission discussion in January or February of 2010.
Moved by Member Gutman, seconded by Member Greco:
ROLL CALL VOTE ON THE MOTION TO REFER THE LANDINGS LAND USE STUDY TO THE MASTER PLAN AND ZONING COMMITTEE FOR REVIEW MOVED BY MEMBER GUTMAN AND SECONDED BY MEMBER GRECO.
In the matter of the Landings Land Use Study, a motion to refer the Landings Land Use Study to the Master Plan and Zoning Committee for review. Motion carried 8-0.
MATTERS FOR DISCUSSION
1. PRESENTATION BY ROD ARROYO, TRAFFIC CONSULTANT
Deputy Director McBeth stated this would be a continuation of the series of presentations by our Consultants regarding their various areas of expertise. Rod Arroyo has been the Traffic Consultant for a number of years and he will be presenting this evening. Traffic Consultant Arroyo has provided his presentation slides on the Council table..
Traffic Consultant Arroyo thanked the Planning Commission for having him here and noted he was asked to come before the Planning Commission this evening and to give a brief overview and background about his firm, Birchler Arroyo but to primarily focus on traffic and circulation related issues as they interact and interface with the entire site plan review process.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo has been working with the City of Novi since 1986 and had the opportunity to work on a Traffic Study of South Lake Drive when the City was considering some changes in that area.
In 1988, Traffic Consultant Arroyo first got involved with working on thoroughfare plans for the City and in 1989 formed a firm with David Birchler. Shortly thereafter Birchler Arroyo started doing work on behalf of the City as well. Some of the things Birchler Arroyo has been involved with include some corridor plans and some area plans for spaces throughout the City and some access management recommendations.
Obviously Birchler Arroyo reviews site plans and plats that have come before the Planning Commission for consideration and Birchler Arroyo has also done land use planning work for the City such as the Landing Study that was recently completed. Birchler Arroyo has also worked on Master Plan Updates on behalf of the City and has assisted with zoning issues as well.
In terms of some of Birchler Arroyo’s traffic expertise, Traffic Consultant Arroyo noted he is an approved MDOT Management Instructor meaning he has taught access management courses on behalf of the Michigan Department of Transportation across the state. Birchler Arroyo is also pre-qualified by MDOT to perform traffic impact studies.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo continued by stating it is important to first talk about a few basic definitions related to traffic analysis because these terms are used often and there might not always be a full understanding of what those terms mean, especially for members of the public of.
Review letters and analysis often talk about trips, which is defined as one, single direction movement. So when an individual goes from their home to their work, that is one trip. Then when that same individual goes from work to their house, that is another trip. So when a traffic study or review letter says a single family home typically generates ten trips per day, that is ten one-way trips.
Another thing you will hear quite often particularly when retail developments are involved, and a gas station would be a good example are references to pass by trips. Those are trips that are already on the roadway. For example, let’s say a motorist is going home from work for the evening and stops in the gas station, gets gas and continues on their way home. That is called a pass-by trip, meaning the car was already on the road and it didn’t add new traffic to the roadway, it just captured traffic for a moment and returned it on to its primary destination. That is another thing that is taken into consideration when a consultant is reviewing or preparing traffic impact studies.
Another term often included in reports is level of service, meaning how well an intersection or roadway is operating. That is graded from A to F, level of service A being the best, less congested and level of service F being the worst.
Another thing often referred to is the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. This is a federal document that is adopted by the Michigan Department of Transportation and it provides various policies and guidance for things like traffic control devices, when traffic signals are necessary, when stop signs should be installed, what type of markings should be put on pavement, what types of signs are required. The federal manual ensures uniformity from state to state.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo continued on noting the Planning Commission should also be aware of access, site distance, internal circulation, loading and unloading and parking issues. There are a lot of things Birchler Arroyo looks at and every single issue cannot be discussed tonight, but Traffic Consultant Arroyo did want to go over some of the major ones that probably have the most relevance to a typical site plan review.
One of those items is site access, where very often the question is, is there a need for a deceleration lane, a deceleration taper, passing lane or center left turn lane. Deceleration and acceleration lanes are lanes that get through traffic or turning traffic out of the through traffic stream and into a separate lane. This tends to enable vehicles to get out of the way and not have as much of a speed variation on the main roadway and that enhances safety. There are warrants that address that.
Member Meyer asked Mr. Arroyo how the distance of deceleration or acceleration lanes are determined, whether it is supposed to be 100 feet or 200 feet or 300 feet.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo answered in saying that the City has standards in the Design and Construction Standards that specify a standard length for acceleration and deceleration lanes. The length can be increased if a traffic study shows that there is a need for additional length. The typical length of a deceleration taper is 100 feet and that is what the City’s standards call for. But the lane might be longer for a larger retail development that is heavily traveled and that is examined as part of a traffic impact study. Some organizations will try to base a deceleration taper length on a ratio that is related to the speed limit. The City of Novi has adopted regulations very similar to what Oakland County uses. Oakland County has more of standard length that has been applied on a regular basis. But, there are applications where speed is taken into consideration because it obviously does affect the needed distance. If there was a development that was affected by a high speed situation on an adjacent roadway, that could impact the needed length of the acceleration or deceleration lane. The length in combination with the taper of the lane would help to facilitate a smoother transition to a safe turning speed.
Passing lanes are full lanes used to enable a motorist to go around a vehicle that is waiting to turn left. A motorist would be traveling in a through lane and would stay in that lane if they were turning left and the through vehicle would go around you. That is really more of a rural or semi-rural approach to the way left turns are addressed. The disadvantage to that is a through motorist who comes up to a motorist who is turning left has to shift all the way over one lane to go around the motorist turning left and then come all the way back a full lane. You have a lot of shifting of through traffic which is not the greatest situation. What is actually better and applied in more instances and can be used in both sides of the road is a center turn lane. That way, through traffic only shifts over a half a lane basically because you are building a full lane in the center and it makes it a much safer situation and a place of refuge for the left turners to stop and wait for a gap to make the left turn.
Once again the City has warrants in the Design and Construction Standards that address when turning lanes are required. One of the things that is important is that the City is requiring turning lanes based on the amount of traffic that is going to be using them and not just because it sounds like a good idea. Turning lane requirements should be based on some type of scientific analysis and that is part of what Birchler Arroyo assists the City with when traffic impact reviews are done.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo showed a warrant for a left turn passing lane out of the Design and Construction Standards. In order to determine whether a left turn passing lane is warranted, Birchler Arroyo will plug in the peak hour left turns that will go into the driveway and then further down the diagram Birchler Arroyo will plug in the two-way 24 hour volume on the main roadway. Then they are plotted out to see where they fall on the graph and that indicates whether or not a passing lane is required.
The same thing would apply to a right turn deceleration lane or taper. Birchler Arroyo plots the peak hour right turns on the x axis and the two-way 24 hour volume is plotted on the y axis and if the meeting point falls in this area, then a right turn taper is required. If the meeting point falls over here, a right turn lane and a taper is required.
Some projects are required to have Traffic Impact Studies In that instance, the applicant is going to give the City this data and Birchler Arroyo can review it and as long as it is valid a recommendation is made based on that. Smaller projects are not always going to have Traffic Impact Studies, so one of the things Birchler Arroyo does during our review is to do a quick calculation as to how many right turns and left turns will be going into the driveways that are proposed as part of the development and then make a recommendation based on the aforementioned warrant charts.
One of things that the Planning Commission deals with is driveway spacing, particularly opposite and same side driveway spacing and sometimes a request for waivers. Quite often there are existing driveways that are already in place and it is impossible to put a driveway in on a vacant piece of property that meets these standards because the lots are narrow and existing driveways were built back when the driveway spacing standards were not in place. The driveway spacing standards are intended to provide for safe and efficient access. For example, if a new development came in fronting on an arterial roadway and proposing a new driveway and there were already two existing driveways, there would be a concern about outbound left turns from the new driveway conflicting with outbound left turns from the existing driveway. If two driveways are too close together or offset just a little bit, it becomes very difficult for a motorist to monitor traffic in both directions and also monitor cars exiting the driveway when they are making a left turn. That offset can create issues, so the City has a minimum spacing requirement of 150 feet if the offset is in this direction. When the offset is in this direction, it is actually a much more adverse offset and much more concerning because if a motorist is on a roadway and desires to turn left into the new driveway and there is a center turn lane, that motorist will be using the same center turn lane as a vehicle heading this way that wants to turn left and go into this driveway. So additional separation is needed and in this case this separation distance is based on the amount of traffic that is using the side streets. The more traffic that uses the streets, the greater the separation should be. The City has a minimum separation requirement of 200 feet and it can go up to 400 feet and potentially it could be more if a traffic study showed there would be significant queuing in the left turn lane that would create issues.
The same-side driveway spacing is based on speed. Speeds can range from 25 mph to 45 mph and the chart in the Design and Construction Standards goes up to 55 mph. Same-side driveway spacing comes into play when the City is trying to ensure driveways on the same side of the street are far enough from one another so the through-motorist on the roadway can react to each driveway separately. If driveways are too close to one another, it is hard for a driver moving at a certain speed to perceive what is going on because there is so much activity. With this type of spacing put into place, a driver can have time to react to a driver turning into the through traffic stream, decelerate if necessary, without crashing into the back of the turning driver. That is the theory behind the driveway spacing standards. The driveway spacing standards are based on national studies that have been published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
Another important factor in the review of site plans is site distance and being able to see as a vehicle approaches a main roadway or being able to see in a parking lot. Once again, the City has standards that are based upon national studies and determined based on the speed of the roadway. For example, if a roadway has a 35 mph posted speed, according to City standards, a motorist will need about 360 feet of site distance if they’re here waiting to make a turn, so 360 feet of site distance is required. That means there is clear view at the intersection. There cannot be any tall structures or tall landscaping blocking a driver’s view. Those are some of the things Birchler Arroyo will look at. The City’s landscape architect will also look at that issue. The landscape architect’s expertise, particularly regarding how tall some of the vegetation might get at maturity, is needed. Some of the plant species can be trimmed and some of it cannot and the City wants to make sure the appropriate species are being used and to make sure that signs and other permanent fixtures are low to the ground or on a pole high enough so a motorist will be able to see in both directions and maintain adequate sight distance.
Internal circulation in a parking lot is essentially treated the same as a road network. The local street is like the aisle in the parking lot. The collector would be a main aisle that connects a number of different rows and then the arterial is the primary access drive coming in to a large development. One of the biggest safety issues in a parking lot is being able to see at the end of an aisle and motorist will notice if they’ve gone into a particularly older shopping center the parking lots may not be designed to current MDOT requirements. A motorist could be faced with a situation where they are approaching an aisle in a parking lot and cannot really see the vehicle coming because there is a large SUV parked at the end of the aisle. That is a big issue since vehicles have become larger and larger. Novi addressed this in the ordinance many years ago by requiring end islands to be constructed so that, assuming the vegetation is low, a driver would be able to see through the landscaped area and have clear vision at the driveway aisles.
Member Cassis asked Traffic Consultant Arroyo if he was familiar with the Town Center by the Coney Island and the vacuum cleaner shop.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo answered he was familiar with that site.
Member Cassis asked Mr. Arroyo if he considered the parking lot and entrance and exit situation dangerous.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo stated that he has been there a couple of times but has not really spent time observing traffic entering an exiting the site and driving through the parking lot and he could not give a response based on his limited knowledge of the site.
Member Cassis stated that if it ever comes back and there is rearrangement of the Town Center parcel, changes should be made because it is very dangerous.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo stated that the concept of MDOT standards has been a major safety enhancement that has been included in the City’s ordinance. Sometimes it is not vehicles that block vision, sometimes it is a dumpster that was placed at the end of an aisle and that makes it difficult to see vehicles coming from another direction. If a site does not have end islands, there could be a situation where a large vehicle is at the end of an aisle and a driver in a smaller vehicle can’t see around the larger one. End islands become important to traffic safety and circulation. A very good example of an end island design that has been enhanced with some vegetation was displayed and showed ornamental grasses. The grasses are just cut back in the spring and grow back. There are also some seasonal flowers included in this design. Clear vision is maintained and is necessary to circulate around the parking lot. This is another good example for when a motorist approaches a main roadway. The clear vision area is here with low landscaping and it looks attractive and it’s been cleared back where a driver can see the pedestrians as well as the vehicles that are coming. This is a good example of how to design an intersection so how a driver would be able to safely look in this particular direction in order to react to vehicles that are already on the roadway.
Loading and unloading is another issue that comes up with commercial and industrial developments. One of the things a reviewer wants to see is a truck loading and unloading pattern that allows a counter clockwise circulation pattern. The reason for this is when the truck has to back up into a loading dock, they should come from this direction and then back this way so that the driver can see out this window and not have to use the mirrors to be able to see where they are backing up. If a truck is coming out of the other direction backing this way, the driver is on this side of the cab and they have to use the mirrors to make these very difficult maneuvers. So, whenever possible, a counter clockwise circulation pattern should be used for truck maneuvering.
There are also standards that will dictate how long the apron should be in front of the loading. Those standards are largely based on the width of the bay. A reviewer can determine whether or not the loading and unloading areas are going to be designed appropriately to maneuver in and out.
One of the issues applicants don’t often think about is how much vehicles will overhang adjacent landscaping and sidewalks. Without bumper blocks, vehicles often come up very close to the curb. So one of the things that can be done to address that overhang is to ensure that landscaping is setback at least two and half feet from the curb so that we can make sure vehicles will not damage landscaping beds, particularly anything other than grass. The applicant should also consider the locations of light poles and columns that are extending out in the front of buildings. Those should also be setback, so when a vehicle pulls up it cannot hit the brick on the column which would have to be repaired. Those are some of things to look at as part of internal circulation.
An additional function of careful roadway and parking lot design is to minimize conflict points. A divided boulevard is the type of configuration that shows the fewest number of conflict points because it is essentially right-in and right-out. A driver cannot turn left out and cannot turn left in, and there is no cross traffic. It is a very safe situation and that is why boulevards many times can provide a marked improvement in crash ratings.
The next example of an intersection is a T configuration. After a boulevard, a T configuration is the next favored type of configuration because there are nine potential conflict points, versus when you have a four-way intersection with multiple lanes resulting in 36 potential conflict points. Just by eliminating one leg, the functionality of the intersection is greatly improved and the number of conflict points are reduced. However, it is not always possible to utilize a T configuration and sometimes a four-way intersection is necessary. But a T intersection can provide some benefits that a four-way intersection does not and quite often Birchler Arroyo will try to make that happen whenever it is feasible.
Another thing that should be avoided, particularly with higher generators like shopping centers is having the situation where a driver turns into a parking lot and immediately must make a decision on which direction they would like to go at the same time there are other drivers who are trying to leave. A bottleneck will develop at the entrance/exit, particularly at this time of year, and it can be a significant problem in certain locations if the lot is not designed properly. This is a situation, once again, that can be addressed by appropriate channelization, bringing people into the site before giving them an opportunity to turn into a parking aisle.
One of the tools Birchler Arroyo will frequently use in their reviews are turning templates, clear acetate turning templates at different scales. In the process of the review, Birchler Arroyo reviewers will often place a template down on the plan depending on the type of vehicle that is going to use the site. Depending on the situation and use, reviewers may have a passenger car turning template on the plan, or if a reviewer knows a fire truck needs to be able to maneuver around a particular area, at the reviewer will place a truck turning template on the plan. The turning templates help reviewers make decisions regarding the maneuverability of the site.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo presented an example of an actual site plan and from another community that Birchler Arroyo reviewed. In this particular instance, the applicant was proposing a drive-thru bank facility on a major roadway. This was going to be the main access point, a two-way driveway that was only 20 feet wide. Birchler Arroyo reviewers threw a turning template down for a passenger car and determined a passenger car would literally have to turn into the outbound lane to make the turn from the through lane unless the driver were to jump the curb or come out doing a wide turns and going into another lane or going into the opposing traffic lane just to make the turn. Reviewers identified that as a problem. If a driver manages to get into the site and has turned left to try to get into the drive-through lane, once again the driver encounters a six foot radius here, which means the driver would either have to jump the curb to avoid hitting the bollards, or the driver would have to make a multiple point turn. This site plan was prepared and presented to the City and the designer was not thinking about those issues.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo indicated that was the conclusion of his presentation and was available to answer any questions the Planning Commission might have and hopefully the presentation helped to explain some of the things Birchler Arroyo looks at as part of site plan reviews.
Chair Pehrson indicated to Traffic Consultant Arroyo that most of the confusion is relative to traffic studies themselves. Concerning trip generation numbers and things like that, outside of a physical count, are there typical data bases that applicants and reviewers use or do they always rely on a physical count because there always seems to be a difference of opinion between the petitioner and the Commission or City reviewers relevant to the number of trips that are being made on a particular road. Are there simulation packages available as software that base their simulations on real data?
Traffic Consultant Arroyo responded that it is a combination of the things Chair Pehrson mentioned. At the start of a traffic study and applicant first has to establish a baseline condition, meaning the applicant needs to document the existing conditions. That is where the counts come into play. Because of the type of software that is used in the analysis, the focus is usually on signalized and un-signalized intersections and that is where the applicant will get their greatest amount of information. The applicant needs to collect data on the turning movements as well as the through movements at any intersections affected by their development. That quite often requires manual turning movement counts. Some of the SCATS signals that are in place can actually count the traffic and if the lane configuration is correct, an applicant can actually pull that information off the traffic signal cameras. That method of data collection is very helpful as the applicant can get data over a period of time and compare it. If traffic signal cameras are not available, the applicant would have to do manual counts. Those are done during the peak hours and the data collected is put into software which analyzes how well or how poorly the intersection is operating in existing conditions. Then an applicant will start to layer on additional traffic, traffic from background roads, from other developments and then from the actual project that is being proposed. Then, in order to evaluate that, the software will basically forecast future conditions based upon maybe changing lane configuration, adding a lane, adding a right turn lane, increasing traffic, or changing signal traffic timing. That analysis will indicate whether there is likely going to be a problem or if something else has to happen to address a prospective problem.
Yes, there are probably going to be situations where there is disagreement over count data and Birchler Arroyo tries to work with the applicant to address that. If someone takes a count a certain time of year and Birchler Arroyo reviewers think there could be some seasonal traffic issues with that count, reviewers would try to get them to adjust the counts upward or downward depending on the situation. Reviewers are trying to be aware of those types of situations and prepare for that. Traffic count validity is one of the things Birchler Arroyo will review to make sure the counts are represented in the appropriate day of the week and time of the year. Typically, counts should be taken on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday because the data has indicated that Mondays and Fridays tend to not always be reflective of typical conditions, partly, because people in the summertime have longer weekends and different schedules. A lot of people are off on Fridays so there are issues associated with that as well. So applicants will try to do a representative counts and reviewers will confirm those counts are reflective of typical conditions.
Member Cassis asked Traffic Consultant Arroyo, along the same lines of the previous question, does Birchler Arroyo, working as a consultant for the City, take for granted, or go along with whatever an applicant is proposing as far as data and analysis? .
Traffic Consultant Arroyo responded absolutely not. Birchler Arroyo will go through and look at all the information that has been presented, whether it is data or the methodology that was used and make a determination on whether it is reasonable and appropriate. In most circumstances reviewers will find some issue with the data that went into the traffic study or the way the data was analyzed and Birchler Arroyo will request the applicant revise the study before it comes before the Planning Commission. Revisions are fairly typical and Birchler Arroyo is working behind the scenes with the City staff and reviewing the traffic studies and getting comments out and the traffic studies are being revised and resubmitted. We are trying to get a project to the point where it is ready to move forward. Birchler Arroyo will make sure the studies that come before the Planning Commission are accurate and if there is a concern, reviewers will try to identify those concerns in their review letter. Sometimes, there maybe a few things Birchler Arroyo and the applicant do not 100% agree with, but Birchler Arroyo does not think those minor discrepancies bring into question the final conclusion of the traffic impact study. Not every single issue is perfectly resolved but as long as Birchler Arroyo thinks the ultimate conclusion isn’t going to be impacted by those minor issues it will be sent forward. The major issues certainly get resolved or else Birchler Arroyo is not going to recommend approval of the study coming before the Planning Commission.
Member Lynch wondered if Traffic Consultant Arroyo and Birchler Arroyo in general has the ability to advise the City on whether a roadway needs to go to 3 lanes or 5 lanes or maybe needs a right turn lane or left turn lane.
Traffic Consultant Arroyo answered absolutely. One of things Birchler Arroyo has done in the past is what is called a Transportation Improvements Plan, which is a lot like a Capital Improvements Plan where all the available data is examined and evaluated to determine where problem areas are and where they are likely to be in the future and try to prioritize improvements based on that evaluation. That is something that is quite often a part of Capital Improvements Programming. Both the City and Birchler Arroyo keep a library of all the traffic studies that have been submitted and when the need to develop a Capital Improvements Plan arises, Birchler Arroyo can go back and pull that resource information. By reviewing those previous studies, Birchler Arroyo can see if a potential problem was forecasted at a particular intersection and determine whether the City might want to consider this intersection next time road improvements are considered or the next time the county is coming to the City to see what types of improvements are a priority..
Chair Pehrson asked Traffic Consultant Arroyo how Novi’s ordinances related to traffic evaluation and design are relative to other communities. Mr. Arroyo answered that Novi is definitely ahead of the game and has done an excellent job, 1) setting criteria to require Traffic Impact Studies, 2) establishing standards for when passing lanes and deceleration lanes and turning lanes are required, and 3) establishing some access management standards an applicant has to go through as part of the approval process. Those are all things that not every community has and Novi does. Birchler Arroyo was just asked about the possibility of going into the Site Plan Manual and making some revisions to try to bring it up to date. Birchler Arroyo has some suggestions to tweak it a bit, so not only does the City have good standards, but they are also periodically looking at them and improving them and staying up with the current..
Member Cassis asked Traffic Consultant Arroyo about roundabouts. Had he seen the roundabout that they are trying to do in New Hudson, on Grand River Avenue?
Traffic Consultant Arroyo stated that he had not seen it.
Member Cassis advised Traffic Consultant Arroyo to look at that sometime. Grand River Avenue has been taken out and that has changed the whole landscape and the party store/grocery store is out of business now. The Planning Commission has received a pamphlet from Birchler Arroyo on roundabouts. Do designers check for big tandem trucks to ensure they can make the turn? There are school buses traveling along Taft Road between Eight Mile Road and Nine Mile Road and they are not able to do that turn.
Member Meyer thanked Traffic Consultant Arroyo for his report and for Birchler Arroyo’s effort in making things safe here in Novi as far as roads.
There were no supplemental issues.
No one from the audience wished to speak.
Moved by Member Lynch, seconded by Member Gutman:
VOICE VOTE ON THE ADJOURNMENT MOTION:
Motion to adjourn. Motion carried 8-0
The meeting adjourned at 8:34pm.
MON 12/21/09 CITY COUNCIL MEETING 7:00 PM
THU/FRI 12/24 & 12/25 CITY OFFICES CLOSED
THU/FRI 12/31 & 01/01 CITY OFFICES CLOSED
MON 01/04/10 CITY COUNCIL MEETING 7:00 PM
WED 01/13/10 PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING 7:00 PM
MON 01/18/10 CITY OFFICES CLOSED
MON 01/25/10 CITY COUNCIL MEETING 7:00 PM
WED 01/27/10 PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING 7:00 PM
Transcribed by Juanita Freeman
Date Approved: ______________________________________________
Angela Pawlowski, Planning Assistant