REGULAR MEETING OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS OF THE CITY OF NOVI
CIVIC CENTER - 45175 TEN MILE RD
TUESDAY - APRIL 1, 1997
The Meeting was called to order at 7:37 p.m. with Chairman Harrington presiding.
(Meeting delay due to cable problems.)
Present: Members Meyer, Brennan, Reinke, Harrington, Bauer, Antosiak
Also Present: Terrance Morrone - Deputy Building Official
Steve Cohen - Staff Planner
Alan Amolsch - Ordinance Enforcement Officer
Nancy McKernan - Recording Secretary
Chairman Harrington indicated we have a full Board this evening. I have just received a signal from Mr. Saven indicating that he has a key for the cable room. We will pause for about 60 seconds and let the cable come on.
Chairman Harrington indicated we have a full quorum this evening including our alternate Ms. Baty. The City of Novi Zoning Board of Appeals is a Hearing Board empowered by the Novi City Charter to determine applications for variances or special use permits. Generally these cases are in the nature of appeals after denial of an application by the City of Novi Building Department. The variance request will seek relief from strict application from the City of Novi Zoning Ordinances. It will take a vote of at least four (4) Members to grant a variance request. As indicated we do have a full Board this evening and it will require four (4) votes to approve your variance request.
Approval of Agenda
Chairman Harrington indicated we have had no withdrawals or requests for adjournments that I am aware of. However, in noting we have Case 97-008 (Best Buy), 97-009 (Office Max), 97-010 (Copy Max), 97-020 (High Point Shopping Center) all preceding Case No. 97-017 Marathon Oil. Is a representative of Marathon Oil present? Sir, would you like us to advance your case before the four (4) that are together?
Ted Blum indicated that it would be fine with him.
Chairman Harrington indicated by acclamation all in favor of amending the agenda to move Marathon Oil before those four (4) cases. (All yeas.) Agenda approved by acclamation.
Chairman Harrington indicated this is the Public Remarks portion. All comments related to cases which relate to items on the agenda, you should save your comments until then. However, if there are other matters of a general importance to be brought to the attention of the Board this is the time to do it. Does anyone wish to comment at this time? (No one wished to be heard.)
Chairman Harrington indicated we have three (3) zoning cases and six (6) sign cases on the agenda tonight.
Case No. 97-007 filed by FG-38 Corporation
FG-38 Corporation is requesting a variance for temporary use approval to allow farming on property currently zoned I-1 (light industrial) and I-2 (general industrial) for property located east of Beck Road and running both north and south of West Road along the Citys westerly border. (Sidwell Nos. 5022-04-326-007, 5022-09-176-001, 5022-09176-006 and 5022-09251-001.) Refer to ZBA Case Nos. 1878, 92-103, 92-142, 93-119, 95-006 and 96-009.
Brian Hughes was present and duly sworn.
Brian Hughes: We have been here before. We are applying for a temporary farming variance for the sidwell numbers that are listed here. It is for the property along Beck Road, both north and south of West Road.
Brian Hughes: We are applying for the farming variance to defray the cost of developing this property. For you information, we are advancing and getting ready to develop the property in particular what we call Beck-West, which is on the south side of West Road. With the anticipation of Taft Road being extended we are working on developing that particular parcel.
Chairman Harrington: How many years have you been farming out there?
Brian Hughes: This is probably the sixth year.
Chairman Harrington: Will you have a produce stand?
Brian Hughes: No.
Vice-Chairman Reinke inquired of Terry Morrone: Have we had any problems with this in the past?
Terry Morrone: Not that I am aware of.
Alan Amolsch: No, we have not.
Member Brennan: There has been in the past a list of stipulations that they have held to from year to year, that will be carried on?
Terry Morrone: Yes.
Brian Hughes: We will comply with all of them.
Terry Morrone: They are the same stipulations that were in previous years. We will attach them if you wish.
There was no audience participation.
Moved by Vice-Chairman Reinke,
Seconded by Member Bauer,
THAT IN CASE NO. 97-007 THAT THE VARIANCE REQUEST BE GRANTED DUE TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES PRIOR TO DEVELOPMENT.
Roll Call: Yeas (6) Nays (0) Motion Carried
Case No. 97-108 filed by Thomas DuBose & Associates, representing Wendys
Thomas DuBose & Associates, representing Wendys is requesting a variance to allow alterations to the building and to add a second window in the drive-thru lane for property located at 26245 Novi Road in the Novi Town Center District.
Randy Isreal was present and duly sworn.
Randy Israel: A little background. We have purchased the property and want to make alterations to the existing Hardees building so that we can get it to conform in appearances more to the Town Center area. We have worked with the Planning Commission, with Mr. Rogers to have it color scheme wise to tie in. We have also worked with Mr. Arroyo the traffic engineer and have purchases properties to the northwest adjacent to drive so that we can effectively handle the traffic coming in to Fonda Drive where we are not going to allow left turns out of that site or in the northerly direction.
We have a meeting this Thursday set up to try to work out all of the traffic. Again, we are going to take some traffic off of Novi Road and have it go to Fonda Drive which we think is going to help a lot for safety reasons.
Randy Israel: One of the reasons that we want to put in the second drive-thru window is for health reasons. We do not like the person handling cash to be handling food. By creating the second window the person who collects the cash does not handle the food. It is also going to help us move the traffic along better, which will help us again in getting the traffic to go around the front of the parcel to Fonda Drive. It will definitely improve the appearance of that area so it is more in keeping with the Town Center.
Chairman Harrington indicated there was a total of 21 Notices sent to adjacent property owners. There was no written response received.
There was no audience participation.
Terry Morrone had no comment.
Steve Cohen: Our Planning Commission has approved the preliminary site plan. We have no additional comments.
Member Brennan: I have one question. I have no objection with the variance request but there is another issue that I would like to ask and it is not a part of this so you dont have to address it, but you have my curiosity up. Wendys has pretty classy stores and I assume that you know the signage ordinance in Novi and you are going to be able to meet that ordinance and that the big monolith that Hardees had is coming down?
Randy Israel: Well, we have to conform to code so we will. It is not our intention to try to grandfather anything in. We have tried to work with the City to improve the appearance. We are going to be doing some copper work to tie into the Town Center across the street. When it is done with the landscaping that we are doing by Ludwig and Associates it is going to be a focal point. It is going to be a great addition to what it has looked like over the last 15 years. If we could get the house knocked down, that would be great too. If something isnt done, we are also looking at being willing to tear that down with the property owner, just to help improve the site there if we can. It doesnt look good for us and it is not good for the City.
Member Meyer: Is there any other reason that you would have the second window other than what you have stated here, namely to have a situation where the person handling the food would not be handling the money? Is there any other reason?
Randy Israel: No, there really isnt. It does give the perception that it speeds up service and actually it does, slightly. But it is great to not have a person who handles food to handle the money. Just think about where that money has been. Anytime you can do that it is a benefit for you.
Moved by Member Bauer,
Seconded by Member Brennan,
THAT IN CASE NO. 97-018 THAT THE REQUESTED VARIANCE BE GRANTED DUE TO THE HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE WHO WILL BE COMING INTO WENDYS.
Discussion on motion:
Chairman Harrington: Sir, I will tell you that your case actually presents an interesting issue for this Board Member. The concept of grandfathering is a difficult one. I actually spoke with the City Attorney this afternoon and inquired in his opinion because he has researched these issues; what is the intent and scope and purpose of grandfathering and what does it mean when you have a brand new business who is buying another business (because you guys are not related) how does that impact on grandfathering? Mr. Watson advised me, in answer to my inquiry, that it is not really a problem because it is the use that is being continued so that when the Novi Code refers to the existing structure shall not be enlarged, extended, constructed, reconstructed and the like; that doesnt apply to the continuation of a use. For this Board Member that is problematic. I think that the intent of grandfathering means that the existing person who may be affected by a later ordinance change will not be prejudiced by upgrades or improvements in the code and the like. The flip side is that I think that what you are doing there makes common sense. But I think that it sort of negates the purpose and voids the intent of grandfathering to simply say that someone can come in and continue the use forever which places me in a difficult position. When I vote I am not going to vote in opposition to your petition and to your variance but I am not going to vote for it either. I am going to abstain because I think what is occurring here and that the interpretation of the Novi Code is wrong. But I think that under your circumstances and under the advise of the City Attorney you should be able to do what you are trying to do. I dont think that a new owner should be able to come in take advantage of a grandfathered use. I think that it is wrong. That is only my comment on the proposed motion. I will not vote for that motion, nor will I oppose it.
Roll Call: Yeas (4) Nays (0) Abstain (2) Harrington, Meyer Motion Carried
Case No. 97-019 filed by the City of Novi
The City of Novi is requesting a variance to the front yard setback requirement in the taking of the properties located at 41325 Thirteen Mile Road; (variance of 15.88' for front yard setback and 17.88' for the front porch under allowable projections.)
Lou Bugbee was present.
Lou Bugbee: A little background information on this. The property owner is a lady by the name of Leonabelle Hogue. That parcel number of 5022-12-101-004. The property is located on the south side of Thirteen Mile Road east of Meadowbrook Road. It is improved with a single family residence. The property is zoned RA. A portion of the property has been taken by the City of Novi as part of a condemnation action. The taking is the result of certain road improvements that have taken place on Thirteen Mile Road west of Meadowbrook to Haggerty. The taking consists of a 27 foot strip of land from the front of the property. Now prior to the, take the parcel was a lawful nonconforming use as a result of the fact that the parcel is 110 feet in width, when in fact the Zoning Ordinance requires 150 feet. That is not a part of this variance though.
Lou Bugbee: The take, as I have indicated, was 27 feet from the front of the property; reducing the front yard setback from the porch and a prior 54 feet to a nonconforming 27 feet. Under subsection 2 of section 4 of the Uniform Condemnation Act, The City of Novi can before or after a taking apply for a zoning variance to allow the property to be considered to be in conformity as a result of the taking. In this instance what we are seeking is to make lawful the front yard setback of the property.
Chairman Harrington: Boiling it down, because the property has been condemned you need the approval from the Board because otherwise the setback would be in violation of the ordinance?
Lou Bugbee: That is correct and the front yard would be nonconforming.
Chairman Harrington indicated there was a total of 10 Notices sent to adjacent property owners. There was no written response received.
Chairman Harrington: Has the affected property owner had physical notice of this petition this evening?
Lou Bugbee: The secretary has indicated yes.
Chairman Harrington: By physical notice, not just a letter sent; but do we know that he or she is not in Florida or somewhere seeing that they are the people affected by this?
Lou Bugbee: I know for a fact that her attorney is here this evening. Mr. Gabel.
Clarence Gabel my office is at 32330 West Twelve Mile Road in Farmington Hills. I am the attorney for Leonabelle Hogue. I came here tonight because I wanted to express my concern with what the City of Novi is doing in regards to this variance. I think that what they are doing is contrary to the law. Mr. Bugbee has indicated that he is moving pursuant to section 4, paragraph 2 of the Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act and that actually happens to be an amendment to the Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act that was just enacted in 1996 and the amendment was effective on December 21, 1996. The complaint in this taking was filed in 1995, long before that amendment was passed.
Chairman Harrington: How does that amendment impact on what is occurring here this evening?
Clarence Gabel: Well, the right for the City to petition for a variance in the case of a taking did not exist in the prior Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act, it was something that was added to the act in 1996 on December 21. It did not exist when the complaint was filed in this matter. So I think that what Mr. Bugbee is asking for is something that was not authorized at the time that this suit was started. I dont know he gets around the expos facto clause of the US Constitution.
Clarence Gabel: I am here on behalf of Mrs. Hogue, primarily because she wouldnt understand everything that is going on here as well as I do. I did talk to her at length. She did not petition to have this variance; but I also recognize that it is not disadvantageous to her to have this variance and so for that reason I will not object to it. But I do think that it is illegal. You can handle that in whatever way that you wish. I think that you have no authority to grant it; but if you do grant it my client will benefit in the long run.
There was no audience participation.
Terry Morrone: The actual variance that is shown on the application is for 2 separate sections of the ordinance. One is affecting the front yard setback which would amount to a variance of 15.88 feet. The other variance affecting projections for porches and decks would require a variance of 17.88 feet. Those are the 2 variances that are at question tonight. The Building Department has no objection to either one.
Chairman Harrington: Before turning to the factual merits of the variance request. The "Chairs" impression is that the representative, IE the attorney of the affected property owner has suggested that this action may be unlawful. It would be the"Chairs" preliminary feeling that even though an unlawful action may not be opposed I think that the Board should proceed carefully before engaging in what may be an unlawful action. I think that this issue is one that Mr. Watson or Mr. Fried should give us some feedback on as to whether under the circumstances that we even have the power to grant this variance. Secure in that knowledge we may proceed to deal with the factual merits; but I am not sure just because the property owner says I am not going to oppose it that we should move on this without some legal opinion or legal guidance.
Member Brennan: I had one comment when I looked at this and that was "is this a hostile take?" it appeared very quickly that unless you had a shingle you didnt know what the heck was going on with this one so I am glad you are here because I am not all that comfortable with the position of the City nor of the landowner. There seems to be some difference of opinion whether this is even something that we should be discussing tonight.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: If I understand correctly, the property has been condemned and acquired by the City.
Lou Bugbee: That is correct.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: The only thing that we are doing is bringing the homeowner/landowner into conformance with the City Ordinance. What I am saying is that we are bringing into it to conformance that they are not in violation to the City Ordinance. (which they said they would not oppose).
Chairman Harrington: That is correct, but the statement has been made on the record before this Board that in the eyes of the affected property owner that the action is illegal because of the effective date of the amendment to the Uniform Condemnation Act or whatever it may be. Lets assume just for hypothetical purposes that the interpretation of the act is correct and we do not have the authority and that it is illegal and unlawful and just assuming that to be true I would want some additional legal input from the City (which is why they are out, to give us the opinion as to whether we can act on this and what the parameters of our authority are in this regard). It could very well be that the property owner and with due deference to the attorney is wrong and Mr. Bugbee is correct and that the City is acting properly. I would like some legal guidance on this.
Lou Bugbee: What more legal guidance do you need, other than the guidance that I can give you?
Chairman Harrington: Do you have an analysis of the legal issue and the impact of the amendment to the act?
Lou Bugbee: The act specifically calls for and allows before or after the taking for the City to initiate a variance request.
Member Brennan: Lets put it another way. What is your reaction to the attorneys suggestion that your action is illegal?
Lou Bugbee: I dont believe that it is illegal.
Chairman Harrington: Well, good. I would like to see a written opinion like the stuff that we get from Mr. Watson all of the time which is very helpful to the "Chair" and to other Board Members. I personally would like to have that input before I go forward because we are not dealing with a factual dispute here. We are not dealing with is 28 feet versus 38 feet. What we are dealing with is a suggestion by the affected landowner saying that it does not apply and what you are doing here is unlawful and illegal. He could be right. He could be wrong. I would like to see something in writing on that.
Lou Bugbee: If you would like us to do so, I would be more than happy to do that.
Chairman Harrington: It would be what the Board wants, that is just one voters opinion.
Member Antosiak: I just have a practical question for the Building Department. If the City condemns the property which places the property in a nonconforming state, what will the City do in respect to that absence of a variance? As a result of this condemnation the property owners property is going to be nonconforming.
Terry Morrone: I hear you, but I am not sure that I know the answer to that.
Chairman Harrington: In other words, suppose that we turn it down; what consequence?
Terry Morrone: I dont know.
Member Brennan: Has the entire parcel been condemned?
Lou Bugbee: Just a part.
Terry Morrone: The only thing that I could do would be to ask Mr. Bugbee, who is our City Attorney.
Lou Bugbee: The affect would be that it would be another nonconforming aspect of this property. What we are seeking is exactly, and mindful we will give you an opinion, what I think the amendment to the statute was designed to defend. In many cases parcels of property or a portion of a parcel of property is taken, leaving property owners with nonconforming, unlawful stigma on their property, but for the granting of a variance will continue.
Chairman Harrington: My thought is this; often when we need additional information and if there are not exigent time parameters involved we will table matters to the next meeting or whatever is convenient for the parties. Are there any exigent circumstances here that require us to make a decision tonight?
Lou Bugbee: When is your next Meeting?
Chairman Harrington: Next month, the first Tuesday of May. That would be May 6th.
Lou Bugbee: I suspect none other than the fact that this matter is scheduled for trial on May 5th.
Chairman Harrington: What is the nature of the trial?
Lou Bugbee: We have an order vesting title to the property, the remaining issue is the amount of compensation to be paid to the property owner.
Chairman Harrington: That would not be relevant to our decision here though, correct?
Lou Bugbee: Mr. Gabel would indicate yes. His appraiser has indicated yes.
Chairman Harrington: I dont want to try the condemnation case here tonight, that is beyond our jurisdiction. What possible relevance could a financial determination on the worth of the property have with respect to this variance request?
Lou Bugbee: Mr. Gabel and his appraiser have attributed a value of some of the dollars.....
Chairman Harrington: No, you are missing the question. Suppose it were one dollar or it was one million dollars; why would that trial affect our decision on the variance? How could it? We are just talking about giving a variance. In other words you would not be prejudiced, either the City or the landowner if we adjourn or table this matter until the next meeting, true?
Lou Bugbee: That is true. But you were asking if there were any circumstances and I was indicating to you that the one circumstance is the fact that the damage issue of this case is scheduled for trial on May 5th.
Chairman Harrington: If we granted a variance, could it or would it affect the damage issue?
Lou Bugbee: I believe that it would at least with respect to the claims made by the property owner.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: In essence the property owner couldnt really sell a nonconforming piece of property.
Chairman Harrington: In that view, in fact there are apparently significant stakes which would be a consequence of our decision - correct or incorrect decision that we would make. I think that under those circumstances it is probably even more critical that if we are going to make a call on a variance that we make it with the appropriate back up. I would request and I would suggest to the Board, and in fact I am going to make a motion that this particular variance request be tabled until the May 6, 1997 Meeting to afford both the City to present whatever additional materials relative to the legal challenge that has been made here this evening, as well as afford the petitioner who contends that the action is illegal but is not objecting to our making a ruling; if that person wishes to file additional materials with us I think that it is relevant to our decision, I dont think that it is determinative as we are not a court of law and we dont do those kind of legal decisions. But, in the face of a challenge that what we are doing is unlawful or illegal and in the face of a further suggestion that how we vote could impact either the City or the landowner financially, I would like to see some additional information, if you so choose on our jurisdiction to make this variance call under the amended act.
Moved by Chairman Harrington,
Seconded by Member Bauer,
TO TABLE THIS CASE TO THE MAY 6, 1997 MEETING; PENDING SUBMISSION OF FURTHER INFORMATION.
Discussion on motion:
Member Brennan: Just another question. Mr. Gabel, have you been a part of this all along because there is a lot of correspondence between the City Attorney and the Building Department and this seems to have progressed and brought before us tonight, everything has been stamped, sealed and delivered and now......
Clarence Gabel: The first notice I received of this petition and the City is the petitioner here and not my client. The first notice I had of this was 2 days ago when Mrs. Hogue called me and said that she had received a notice that there was a meeting tonight and I asked her to drop a copy of it off at my office. That is the only notice that I have had.
Member Brennan: Based on that additional information, I would support your motion as well.
Terry Morrone: Just to clarify that earlier question; if the variance was denied I believe that the house would have to be relocated.
Chairman Harrington: That is thought provoking. If the City could address that issue too. What the consequences of our not granting the variance would be and if our not granting the variance would require relocation of the house I could see where that could substantially impact on potential damages in this case. I think that would be helpful too.
Chairman Harrington: If that is agreeable to you gentleman, if you wish to submit additional materials to us we will consider this matter at the May Meeting. I would also indicate having some experience in these matters that often times with sufficient information cases resolve and they settle and in the event that this particular should be resolved between the affected homeowner and the City it is not necessary to come back here if the case settles and it does resolve, other than the City should come back and say whatever objection to this variance is has been withdrawn because we have resolved the issue. If you reach an amicable resolution as the eve of trial approached, God Bless You, and if you dont file your materials and get them to Nancy at least 14 days before the next meeting so that we have the opportunity to review them.
Member Meyer: I would like to ask for specific dates as to when this amendment was passed and the specific dates as to when it was asked to allow for this variance. If indeed it preceded the dating of this amendment or post dated. I would like to see all exact dates.
Lou Bugbee: The act became effective on December 26, 1996. This request was made on March 13, 1997.
Roll Call: Yeas (5) Nays (1) Reinke Motion Carried
Case No. 97-005 filed by Planet Neon, representing Workbench Furniture
Continuation of Case filed by Planet Neon, representing Workbench Furniture requesting a variance to allow a second sign 10' x 14" (11.67 sq. ft.) the sign is to be placed on the side elevation of the building to be visible from Grand River Avenue, for property located at 26056 Ingersol Drive in the Novi Town Center.
Ed Goralewski was present and duly sworn.
Ed Goralewski: At our last meeting, as I indicated, I think that we have a hardship because of the way that the Novi Town Center is laid out. We presented a sign with letters 18" high. We had some discussion regarding that. We feel that there is a hardship because even driving around in the center itself it is very difficult to find stores. Our client feels that it is necessary to have a secondary sign. There were other variances granted like to Running Fit. Per our conversation with Mr. Harrington we have resubmitted a sketch showing a 14" letter spanning 10 feet and virtually reducing our sign in half which would be acceptable to Workbench Furniture. The reason why we are back here is because we hope that the Board will vote in our favor. Thank you very much.
There was no audience participation.
Alan Amolsch had no comment.
Member Baty: I went back and revisited this site. I would have no problem supporting a variance; if I were voting.
Member Brennan: I, too, went back for completely different reasons that were originally presented. I would support this and I will tell you why. You have a showroom on that wall and people can come in from that side of the parking lot and they can see that there is furniture there but there is no identification. I would not have supported this based upon the contention that you needed visibility from Grand River because I checked that and there is about a 2 1/2 second window between the tire store and Fudruckers to get a look at that. So based purely on people in that parking lot having accessibility and seeing the showroom, I would support that sign in the reduced fashion as it has been presented.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: I dont think that it addresses the situation of the location, etc. It is misleading to have a sign with no entranceway. I think that it adds a confusion factor. I cannot support the request.
Chairman Harrington: On this beautiful day I drove that site again. I did it 2 ways. I went Grand River and I couldnt agree more with Mr. Brennan, I think it would be a traffic hazard if you had some kind of sign that was attracting the attention of the people from Grand River. The flash that you have between the hamburger joint and NBD is not enough to allow proper identification much less put you on notice that there is a real narrow and all most a one lane entrance into the shopping center. So visibility from Grand River is still not a consideration for this member. On the other hand I drove all the way around and as I came in from Eleven Mile I noticed on the corner Koshs Restaurant has an additional sign, modest as it is but it identifies the retail establishment and they have 2 signs on the corner. I saw Mervyns. I saw Running Fit and then I drove all the way around to the other side and I saw Mervyns and Running Fit. I saw the huge Workbench Furniture sign facing north which may be a little uncomfortable it is so huge. But this is much more modest in nature and it does provide people notice of your location there. It is not an advertising marquee. It is simply a sign. If you did not have the square footage in that retail establishment that it appears that you do; I would not be in favor of it. But under all of the circumstances I think what you are asking for is reasonable. I dont think that it is unreasonable. That is my thought on it.
Moved by Member Brennan,
Seconded by Member Meyer.
THAT IN CASE NO. 97-005 THAT THE VARIANCE REQUEST AS SUBMITTED TONIGHT BE GRANTED BASED ON THE UNIQUE LAYOUT OF THIS PROPERTY AND FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE PUBLIC FINDING IT.
Discussion on motion:
Member Antosiak: I would ask Mr. Brennan to amend his motion to limit the variance to this petitioner only.
Member Brennan: So noted.
Member Meyer: Support.
Roll Call: Yeas (4) Nays (2) Bauer, Reinke Motion Carried
Case No. 97-017 filed by Marathon Oil
Ted Blum, representing Marathon Oil Company is requesting a variance to allow a ground sign to be placed at the Speedway Station located at the corner of Ten Mile and Novi Road. The requested sign is 10' x 4' (40 sq. ft.) with height from grade being 4'9 1/2".
Ted Blum was present and duly sworn.
Ted Blum: I really wasnt planning to come back for this particular site; but the sign ordinance changed last December. A little background and I think that most people here were present when we came here originally. Our original proposal for the site which by the way is under construction was to delete our pylon sign which was approximately 60 sq. ft. We came in seeking a variance to put in a 50 square foot ground sign and at that meeting we had one or two other variances that we were obtaining; we agreed to comply with the sign ordinance which was 40 square feet. Our project was delayed and we werent able to start last fall as it got to far into the year. We didnt want to go into winter construction. When we came back this spring and applied for our sign permit we were told that in December the sign ordinance had changed and we were now only permitted a 30 square foot sign for a service station. The old ordinance permitted service stations an additional 10 square feet, recognizing that it is reasonable, customary and traditional for service stations to include pricing on their signs. Most cities which have restrictive sign ordinances tend to recognize that service stations get a slight additional amount of signage because of the pricing issue. In fact, this new ordinance is probably a little more restrictive against service stations due to the fact that we customarily and traditionally put our pricing on our signs. The current ordinance gives us the same square footage as similar businesses although we cant display as large of an "ID" for our sign because we have to allocate that same square footage between pricing and our "ID".
Ted Blum: The other thing that restricts us somewhat on this site is that both Ten Mile and Novi Roads are heavily traveled. We are putting in one sign on a diagonal which means that effectively
as you are traveling down the road you see a reduced area of the sign and if I remember my geometry correctly it is about 70 or 71% of the sign that is actually seen as you are looking at it straight on when a sign is diagonal to the direction in which you are traveling.
Ted Blum: I really dont see any detriment to this variance. The other existing stations in the area have the 40 square foot signs or near that. We want to work with the City on these issues. We have a couple of other sites. I have already been in once and we are in final site plan approval process for our site at Fourteen and Haggerty and we are starting to work on our site at Pontiac Trail and Beck. Ted Blum: In conclusion we had agreed to put in the 40 square foot sign in good faith and through the changing of the ordinance we are being denied that which we had agreed upon and which had been approved as part of our final site plan approval. I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have.
Chairman Harrington: When did the new ordinance become effective as it impacted on you?
Ted Blum: I dont recall the exact date, but I believe that it was in December of last year and I believe that we received our final site plan approval in August of last year.
Chairman Harrington indicated there was a total of 9 Notices sent to adjacent property owners. There was no written response received.
There was no audience participation.
Alan Amolsch had no comment.
Member Brennan: The delay in getting this kicked off, was at your desire?
Ted Blum: It was a little bit of a combination of getting our building reviewed and once we reach a point where we get far enough in September the costs of starting a project are.....and traditionally we finish these things in 65 to 80 days and we would have been finishing the construction in December or January and it would have been difficult to have the construction during that period. We wanted to build last year, but it just didnt work out that way.
Member Brennan: There wasnt anything that the City did specifically that delayed you?
Chairman Harrington: You dont want him to answer that do you?
Member Brennan: I think that it makes a difference, in my opinion. I understand your situation and I just wanted your take on things.
Ted Blum: I guess that is one the questions that you prefer not to answer. I dont know what the traditional time for the City to review building plans is; for the actual building itself. The Building Department has been most cooperative with me and I realize that there is tremendous pressure being put on the City right now because everybody wants to build in this City and things just werent approved in the time frame for us. Whether or not we didnt apply enough pressure to say "we need this now or by September 1 or we are not going to build" I dont believe that happened, it was just a matter that we didnt get our building approved in time to start. We have a company policy in Michigan and I know I violated it once or twice and started projects later in the year and it is really not pretty when it comes down to what your schedule becomes and what your cost becomes. We prefer to start projects by September 1 in Michigan.
Chairman Harrington inquired of Alan Amolsch: In terms and I am not sure that grandfather is the right word; but where we grant a variance and then the ordinance changes and the actual ordinance would be tougher or more restrictive than the variance that we have granted; how long is a variance good for before it is acted upon by the petitioner? Actually though we didnt give a variance; he withdrew the variance request.
Alan Amolsch: There was no variance granted. In the mean time as Mr. Blum stated, the City unbeknownst to me changed the ordinance. It actually started as a throw in with a number of other changes to the ordinance that was discussed during a Planning Meeting and it was kind of like a throw in they wanted a change because they didnt see a need for a gas station to have 40 square feet of sign area. That amendment was included in the packet that went to Council and was passed in December.
Chairman Harrington: If we had granted a variance, for example if 40 feet was allowable back then and we had granted a 2 foot variance for 42 square feet; that would have resolved the issue no matter what ordinance change there was that would have controlled?
Alan Amolsch: That is right.
Chairman Harrington: But in fact the petitioner in good faith representing to the Board that he could live with the 40 square feet and he withdrew his variance and then in December they changed it.
Alan Amolsch: I believe that it was a height variance that he requested.
Ted Blum: Well, I am trying to remember how that worked. I think that it came down to is that we had both. We had height and we had asked for 50 square feet which is what the sign was at the time or even 60 square feet. At that meeting we said that we wanted to work with you and we have other sites that we are interested in rebuilding so we said lets live with the 40 square feet and the 5 feet in height and deal with other issues that are going to potentially come up too just to show that we want to be fair with everybody too and dont really want any special privileges.
Chairman Harrington: Did you apply for a permit after our meeting at the 40 square feet and was that permit granted?
Ted Blum: No and the reason we didnt is that actually I came in and I think it was in November and I pulled several permits to preserve the other rights that we had and we didnt pull a sign permit at that time because the application for signs asks who is you sign erector? Well without having a contractor to start the work at that time, I didnt feel that I could fill that out. So we decided to pull the sign when we have the contractor lined up and we can put it in there. Otherwise I probably would have pulled that in November as well. I didnt because I didnt feel that I could fill out the form properly.
Member Meyer: The key operative word here is good faith. In other words in good faith you were operating on the premise back in August that a 40 square foot sign was going to be appropriate.
Ted Blum: That is true and if I had known that I could pull the sign permit and that the ordinance was going to change, I would have driven up from Ohio in about 5 minutes. It is just the matter, and this is my own personal opinion but sign ordinances which are pretty restrictive or tight like they are here that most places have a clause that gives a nominal additional signage to service stations just recognizing the fact that traditionally you include your pricing on there. Like it or not, it makes a difference in your life. Nobody will build a service station if you cant post the pricing.
Member Meyer: I would just like to say that I believe that it is therefore more an issue of good faith than grandfathering here. I truly believe that you were acting in good faith and you would have my support on this particular variance.
Ted Blum: I think that is part of the issue. I think it is a little bit of both, but good faith is certainly a large portion of it. That is the reason that we agreed to put in the 40 square foot sign.
Member Meyer: I am not just speaking on your part, but I am referring to the good faith of the City.
Ted Blum: The City has been real good to work with. This seems to be the only issue that we have.
Member Antosiak: I could support a variance as requested, because as I recollect, this sign was really part of several variance requests that came here at once dealing with the remodeling of the facility on Ten Mile and Novi Road. The petitioner did agree to live within the zoning as it existed at the time and gave up the right to the pylon sign which we all thanked him for at the time. I believe that given the special circumstances in this case I could support this variance.
Moved by Member Antosiak,
Seconded by Member Bauer,
THAT IN CASE NO. 97-017 THAT THE PETITIONERS REQUEST FOR A VARIANCE BE GRANTED DUE TO THE SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THIS CASE AND THE ISSUE OF THE ORDINANCE BEING CHANGED IN THE MIDST OF THE REMODELING OF THE STATION AND THAT THE VARIANCE WILL BE LIMITED TO THIS PETITIONER ONLY.
Roll Call: Yeas (6) Nays (0) Motion Carried
(These Cases were all presented together. 97-008, 97-009, 97-010 and 97-020)
Case No. 97-008 filed by Best Buy Company
Continuation of case filed by Best Buy Company requesting a variance to allow a wall sign 17'9" x 11' (200 sq. ft.) with the verbiage "BEST BUY", to be located at the High Point Shopping Center at Eight Mile and Haggerty Roads.
Case No. 97-009 filed by North American Signs, representing Office Max
Conintuation of case filed by North American Signs, representing Office Max requesting a wall sign 40'10 1/2" x 60" (204 sq. ft.) with the verbiage "OFFICE MAX", to be located at the High Point Shopping Center at Eight Mile and Haggerty Roads.
Case No. 97-010 filed by North American Signs, representing Copy Max
Continuation of case filed by North American Signs, representing Copy Max requesting a wall sign 23' 1 1/2" x 36" (69 sq. ft.) with the verbiage "COPY MAX", to be located at the High Point Shopping Center at Eight Mile and Haggerty Roads.
Case No. 97-020 filed by North American Signs, representing High Point Shopping Center
North American Signs, representing High Point Shopping Center is requesting A) ground sign (shopping center identification sign) 10' x 13' (130 sq. ft.) with height from grade being 15'; B) wall sign 4' x 18" (6 sq. ft.) with the verbiage "HIGH POINT SHOPPING CENTER ENTRANCE"; C)
ground sign (main entrance sign) 8' x 5' (40 sq. ft.) with height from grade being 5'6"; for property located at Eigh Mile and Haggerty Roads.
Chairman Harrington inquired do the applicants wish to address their own particular issues, or is there one person who wishes to cover one or more aspects of the related petitions. The ball is in your court. But I will invite someone to step forward and speak to the Board regarding these matters.
Peter Hauser and Tim Palmquist wished to speak on the matters together.
Chairman Harrington: I would indicate that all of the Board Members are well versed in the various arguements and factual data that was presented at the prior meeting. All of the Board that is present this evening was present then. So, I will not forbid you from covering some of those issues again but if you could turn to the new matter which will be pertinent to the Boards decision that would be helpful to us.
Tim Palmquist was present and duly sworn.
Tim Palmquist: Given what you have just said, I will recap what we think are the major hardship conditions that have us here requesting a variance. The topography of the site, the retaining walls and landscaping that block the site lines from Haggerty, the distance from Haggerty to the store fronts and an additional one that we didnt cover the last time that we were here is the additiona out parcel that will be constructed at some time in the future which will further block the view when you are coming from the north in a southerly direction towards the site.
Tim Palmquist: The restaurant parcel, which I believe will be at a 20 foot wall height at that end of the property.
Chairman Harrington: Do you know the restaurant that is going in there?
Tim Palmquist: On the Border.
Tim Palmquist: We are here requesting a 200 square foot sign but I would just like to say that we are open to a discussion on that matter and we have some back-up material and some other sizes of signs that we can talk about.
Peter Hauser was present and duly sworn.
Peter Hauser: I will be speaking for Office Max and Copy Max and Tim and I both will hopefully be speaking to the center signs also. I want you to know that there is a representative from the landlord here, a representative from Office Max and a representative from Copy Max.
Peter Hauser: I believe that the hardships that Tim mentioned are true and extreme in some cases, especially the topography. I would also like to make mention that the destination nature of these stores and this is just a very few stores that are destination oriented. They are larger retailers but they dont share the same advantage that a Novi Town Center or a West Oaks would as a draw where people would inter-mingle between the stores. For that reason and the large setback I am hoping that the Board could look towards considering it as a stand alone store for signage purposes.
Peter Hauser: We are again asking for 204 square feet, which is greatly reduced from our original request whre we originally requeted 2 signs for a total of 502 square feet. We have have reduced the store front by a third. Our intention tonight is to arrive at a mutual agreement on signage.
Peter Hauser: The Copy Max sign remains the same at 69 square feet.
Chairman Harrington: Is there a business relationship between Office Max and Copy Max? Are they separate companies? Separate businesses? No connection between the respective buildings themselves, other than the outside? Or I was a little confused about one of the signs which had Office Max and Copy Max in the same logo. So what are you guys?
Peter Hauser: Art Cairns who is an Office Max representative would be glad to speak to it.
Art Cairns was present and duly sworn.
Art Cairns: The same entity, Office Max, Inc. owns Copy Max, owns Furniture Max and a joint venture partner in Office Max Mexico, Office Max Japan and looks forward to other joint venture operations.
Chairman Harrington: What I was getting at was not so much the nature of the corporate relationship, but are they separate businesses within this structure? There is not going to be a common entrance, like you can walk from one end of Meijers in the hardware all the way to the food court in Meijers; there will be a separation between the 2 stores so we are really dealing with 2 separate sign packages and 2 separate sign requirements; correct?
Art Cairns: Yes, we are talking about 2 stores within one building. Separate entrance for the Copy Max and roll down gates between the two so that the Copy Max can be operated on extended hours and certainly those will be consistent with any limitations that there may be within the City. In some operations the Copy Max is operated 24 hours and that is to be able to deliver the business requirements of the customer who is bringing it in at the end of day or E-Mailing it in and then having it produced during the evening and ready for the next day presentation. The Office Max operates typically 8 until 9 at night, with Saturday and Sunday hours similar to other retailers. But, it is because of the separate operation of the Copy Max that an identity is required so that people will know that it is open.
Chairman Harrington: We have 2 separate businesses here?
Art Cairns: Yes we do. There are separate officers for each of the businesses. Separate business plans for those but again under the Office Max umbrella.
Member Baty: Can customers pay for Office Max products at the Copy Max store?
Art Cairns: That is a good question. I dont think that it is encouraged, but probably incidental items. But to facilitate all customer purchases if there are orders for copying or binding or that sort of thing that would be taken only at the Copy Max counters, if you will. A pen, a pad of paper or something like that, I believe is an accomadation, and that purchase could be rung up. But for a larger purchase, like a computer, furniture or that nature and what is known as RTA (ready to assemble furniture) that would be encouraged to be handled at the regular check outs of the Office Max store.
Member Baty: Do you know what your hours of operation will be in this location?
Art Cairns: For the Copy Max or for the Office Max?
Member Baty: Both.
Art Cairns: I believe, and I dont set that because I am not a part of operations, but I believe that it will be consistent with the rest of the stores in the metropolitan Detroit area and I believe that they open up at 8 oclock and close at 9.
Member Baty: So they will have the same hours?
Art Cairns: There will be greater hours for the Copy Max. I believe that ideally there would be 24 hours but again not knowing if there are any restrictions on that; that is something that we will have to research. Obviously we are very far along into this and dont see turning back based upon that.
Chairman Harrington: So within the same physical structure you will be able to directly access between Office Max and Copy Max without going outside, right?
Art Cairns: During the hours of the Office Max, yes; but once that store closes it is divided. It is similar in some respects that we are going to try that will have a free standing Copy Max and a Caribou Coffee with a connection between the 2 but where that gate can be rolled down and the 2 physically separated.
Chairman Harrington: And in contrast, while Best Buy will occupy the same contiguous structure there will not be a direct entrance between Best Buy and Office Max, true?
Art Cairns: True.
Chairman Harrington: You would have to go outside and then go in?
Art Cairns: That is correct.
Peter Hauser: As you will remember at the last Meeting you requested some type of signage to be available at Haggerty Road.
Chairman Harrington: Well we really didnt but what we wanted was a complete package. We werent looking for extra signage but if there was going to be extra signage requested at some point in time, we would rather approve a complete package now then to piece meal it. That was the information in the sense of direction that we were giving you. We dont want extra signs and we dont want to give variances; but if you are going to ask for variances lets do them all at once. That was the message.
Peter Hauser: We have proposed some monument signs and a directional sign to be mounted on the retaining wall that will hopefully alleviate some of the traffic situation. I would like to show you a diagram of those.
Peter Hauser: We have proposed a shopping center identification sign to orient customers from the Eight Mile and Haggerty area that this is the center. This is a right in only entrance. This is the main entrance down by the Hilton.
Art Cairns: To clarify, the center sign is located only on the southerly wall because of the right in nature.
Chairman Harrington: There will, it would appear though not relevant to the sign package, it would appear that there would be ingress or egress from Orchard Hill Place Drive from the rear? You would be able to get in from back there.
Peter Hauser: The traffic plan that was approved is for exit only on Orchard Hill and exit only by Chilis.
Chairman Harrington: So that someone who wants to avoid all of the congestion and all of the traffic and the danger of Haggerty Road cannot get into your facility from Orchard Hill Place Drive?
Gary Kroll: I believe that they can.
Peter Hauser: We feel that the request as submitted will fall under the spirit of the enabling section of the Novi Code. We believe that it will help the public health, the public safety, convenience and comfort and the general welfare of the public. We also feel that it fits under the jurisdiction of the Board of Zoning Appeals, appendix A, section 3104 number 1 paragraph B of page 3323 of supplemental number 2; because of the topographic conditions and other exceptional conditions the landscape requirements, the traffic situation; this does create an exceptional practical difficulty and an undue hardship. We feel that the results of this variance will not increase the congestion of the public streets but will in fact help that. It will not endanger public safety but it will assist to protect the public safety. We feel that this request will facilitate a successful commercial site. That is the main thrust of our request. I would like to leave this open to any comments and input by the Board to give us some direction. Thank you.
Dick Copeland was present and duly sworn.
Dick Copeland: Basically we know that as we started earlier saying that we would really like to put this to bed where everybody will be happy with the type of signage. I think that we all mutually agree that there are some problems with this type sign. Rather than sit here and discuss the problems and I think that we are all aware of those, maybe what we would like to do is to get some direction or some helpful comments on what is reasonable. What do you feel is a reasonable sign, to adequatelly the sign the store and also give the proper direction? Lets see if we can get the ball rolling where we can all work this out.
There was no audience participation.
Alan Amolsch had no comment.
Member Brennan: First of all I would like to go back real quickly to what we established at the last meeting. We established at the last meeting, at least from my perspective and from what I remember was that any wall signage on the buildings themselves and any variances that we talk about will not be based on any I-275 traffic. The wall signage on the building themselves was strictly for indentification; once the people are in HighPoint. Secondly signage to identify the site was better suited along Haggerty. I guess maybe somewhere in there we should have emphasized reasonable signage along Haggerty. So we are making some steps with getting signage where it makes sense, which is along Haggerty. But, now we are still looking at some substantial variance requests in particular from Office Max and Best Buy that have gone from 7 times what ordinance provides to closer to 5 times. That is still excessive in my view. I dont really have real issues with the Haggerty signage other than again I dont know why we cant be closer to what ordinance provides. I agreee that you took our lead and along with the property owner have the four party sign or the shopping center identification sign even though you dont have the fourth tenant; we did indicate that it might be worthwhile to look at now. Why does it have to be as big as it is? As tall as it is? In principal I agree that you need wall signage and I have no real principal issue to take with the 3 signs that you have asked for, except that they are still awfully big.
Member Antosiak: Can someone describe what the facades on the building are going to look like? The colors, etc. As I recollect from last month, there was an indication that the Best Buy store facade was going to be a blue color; is that correct?
Tim Palmquist: Yes that is correct.
Member Antosiak: Is there any coloring or a different facade on the Copy Max or Ofiice Max?
Member Meyer: I think that the reason that we are bringing this up, I just want you to know that is one of gateways to Novi. Where you gentleman are going to be, is one of the gateways to this City. If you can only understand where we are coming from as far as the philosophy of this City and that is that we are truly trying to make sure that it is very classsy, stylish and artistic approach. You have the Novi Hilton sitting there. You have a fabulous office building behind. It would seem to me that no matter what colors that you used before that there would be some kind of creativity here as to how you would enhance that whole piece. That is a gateway to this City, Eight Mile and Haggerty. Even though the roads are in dire need of repair from our beloved governor, nonetheless someday when people are driving along a smooth road there it is going to be really important for people to see that this is something that we are all going to be proud of. I want to refer back to my collegue but it seems right at the moment that it is not only a question of the size of the signs and as Mr. Brennan has pointed out 5 times beyond what the ordinance has called for. It would seem to me that the way your business is going to come is through advertising and promotion and not from the signs on the building. What you are going to do is to become a respected and valuable member of this community by doing everything that you can to collaborate with us to make that gateway to The City of Novi something that we can all be very proud of.
Tim Palmquist: I guess that I would like to respond a little bit to that. Over a year ago with met with City Staff, Brandon Rogers and worked out the elevations of the building and worked out the landscaping and all the parts of the architecture of the project. In our view this sign is in proportion with the rest of the architecture. If we look at a 40 square foot sign on Office Max, Copy Max or Best Buy it looks grossly out of proportion with the architecture that has been developed for that center.
Peter Hauser: I think that is just one issue too. Part of what drove me to request that sized sign is the setback from the entrance. We are 800 feet from this entrance and approximately 550 feet from this entrance here. With that type of setback and the Citys formula for a stand alone business we would be allowed a much larger sign than we are requesting. We feel that what we are requesting is in line with that aspect of the code and how it was designed. We feel that because of the unique nature of this site and all the issues involved that something similar to that is what would serve the purpose.
Member Antosiak: I tend to agree with Mr. Brennan. My comments at the last meeting were that I thought the bulk of your problem with identificaiton was from Haggerty and folks trying to find where to turn in to that center with the berms that exist. I drove by there again last night and I can see what that is going to be like in the future when the trees have matured some and have leafed out. I dont believe that the building signs are going to help you draw folks in from Haggerty because I dont care if the whole front of the building is a sign you probably wont see it. I am like Mr. Brennan and believe that you are on the right track with some of the signs along Haggerty. I share some of his concerns and the reason I asked about the colors of the building is because that is going to help identify the locations of particular buildings. For example, I dont know if the blue that the Best Buy store is going to be is a copy-righted or a trade mark color like some colors that businesses have done; so that folks will know when I see that color it is a Best Buy store. I am not sitting here saying that 40 square feet is sufficient because it may not be. All I am saying is to echo some of the earlier comments is that 200 square feet is a little excessive.
Tim Palmquist: The Best Buy blue, is what we call Best Buy blue. It is a custom color, not a copy-righted color.
Member Baty: I would like to take a look at the drawings that show the signs at the 40 square foot dimension.
Peter Hauser: When we arrived we put a "M" on the scaffolding of the center. We looked at it from 800 feet away where drivers would be. We dont think that it would work because of the unique situation. I do understand what Mr. Antosiak is saying and maybe it is time that we come up with an alternative that the Board maybe more accepting to.
Chairman Harrington: It would have been really helpful to the Board if that rendering or mockup or whatever you did this afternoon had been there for the last day or two or maybe some contrasting sizes. For me to take a look at 40 square feet and to explode that into 200 square feet...it would take a magician to be able to do that and I cant do that. I did drive by the building yesterday and again today. Those kind of mockups allow us to get a visual and a gut reaction to what it is that you are looking at size wise. I would have liked to have seen that.
Peter Hauser: We had a problem. They were working on our facade at this period of time and we didnt know if we would have had the opportunity to do so.
Chairman Harrington: I am not being critical. You guys did it, you saw what your "M" looked like at 40 square feet and you think that it is microscopic. You are probably right except that is your view and not mine because it wasnt there when I went by.
Peter Hauser: We did shoot a video of that "M".
Art Cairns: We understood real clearly from that last meeting to make that available. Apparently there were difficulties in scheduling and not wanting to contact the Board Members directly. We only learned that it might me available late last week and we scrambled to do something. It isnt as good as it might have been and I will agree with you there. To respond to Mr. Meyers comments, we recognized from early on that this is indeed the gateway and that is why we wanted to be an integral part of it and why the developer recognized that it had to be. Just by way of example the rents which reflect the additional building to cost to present a gateway worthy development are about 50% higher than what we would normally pay. It is certainly worth it in the sense that this is not your average City and everyone recognizes that. I think that what we have tried to show with the building signage and the initial comment was made that there is flexibility here and it is a little more difficult and I am sure that you appreciate that when you can just sit down with staff at the table and you kind of back and forth and hammer it out. We want something that fits with the architecture as well. We want something that during the winter season when some of the trees have dropped their leaves that at Eight Mile and Haggerty it gives some glimpse of the building. Something that fits that people recoginize that it is a retail operation. We are by nature different than the office, although we do supply offices. It is for that reason that there are other opportunities in building signage and I dont want to speak for my collegue but we have heard that 60 inches or 204 feet is to much, 40 square feet we have also heard and we wholeheartedly agree is to little, because then it is completely out of proportion with the buildings and the way that they have been designed with staff input and given the heights of it. We are not trying to create landing signage for planes, we simply want our customers to be able to recognize us and be familiar with us in this City as well as the metro area. If we are talking about 148 square feet I am certainly amenable to that on the Office Max sign. We have purposely scaled down the Copy Max and in some respects because of the hours and the service that we intend to provide it might be argued that maybe it should be larger. Well it shouldnt, that would be the tail wagging the dog in this case. But, where are we at is the question that I would have to ask in terms of square footage? We typically do signs that are about closer to 300 square feet. We are not here asking for that sort of thing. I think that we have shown good faith in throwing out any request for a side sign although there examples of that in the City. We have heard your concerns and want to work with you on that. Is 148 square feet something that is more palatable? It would be half of what we typically do; but typical has to go out the window when you have a specific and special situation.
Chairman Harrington: I would like to have the remainder of the Boards question and factual background be satisified befre sharing the particular views of the Board Members are; I think that is appropriate.
Member Brennan: Can we perhaps talk about wall signage and come to some conclusion here or do we want to jump back and forth or is there any pleasure either way?
Chairman Harrington: Whatever the Boards pleasure is. The difficulty that the "Chair" has in riding herd on this is these signs are related. They are individual signs for individual businesses but this is in essence a sign package which is being presented. I think that the package needs to be considered not voted on as a whole but considered as a whole in terms of how they react with one another. Which is why we are having the freee flow of witness testimony relative to their various signs. That is my thought.
Member Brennan: I understand and I agree with that which led to my question that I had been wanting to ask. Copy Max for the purpose of identifying their store now believes that a 69 square foot sign provides identification. Now we have already established that your signs on the wall are for people who have gotten into the parking lot and now they have to figure out where is Copy Max, where is Office Max and where is Best Buy. If 69 square feet is sufficient for wall signage for Copy Max, what is so significantly different with Best Buy and Office Max?
Art Cairns: I would have to say that first of all it is sufficient in the sense that we have heard your interst in trying to modify this. That is typically not the sized sign that we look for. It is a smaller operation of a store within a store, between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet. I guess that I might point to is there any difference between a Mervyns and a bagel shop; I think that there is. I think that there is just in the expectation and people driving and what they come to look at. Is that acceptable for Best Buy? I wouldnt think so. Is it acceptable for a larger store? There is something to the presence here that is part and parcel of business. We will invest a great deal in terms of man power in terms of community involvement and in terms of advertising and in terms of any number of things and it tends to be a whole package. Again, we are paying a good deal more for the site. We will have to generate the sales in order to be a profitable business in this space. We believe that we can and we have taken the leap of faith if you will. What we are looking for is something that does fit together. Something that has some proportion in the design of this shopping center and something that facilitates the customer without beating them over the head with it. They are going to be no jumbo flags flying or anything of that nature. We do think that it is reasonable and we think that there is a reasonable balance to be reached here.
Tim Palmquist: I would like to add that in many cities and I know that it isnt the case here in Novi, but in many cities the signage ordinance relates to the frontage of the building. The lineal footage proportionate to the amount of signage that you get. Here we are with a 45,000 square foot building and you are talking about the same size signage as Copy Max which is 4,000 to 5,000 quare feet. So they are only 10% of our square footage. Typically we look for signage that is proportionate to the lineal frontage that is occupied. I also would like to go back to the architecture of the building. A 69 square foot sign is not a great deal larger than a 40 square foot sign. I think that you would notice a lot of difference on this elevation.
Member Baty: Are any of you architects? From an architectural standpoint have these signs been minimized for aesthetics? Are they as small as they can be from the aesthetic standpoint? Not a business standpoint but an aesthetics?
Tim Palmquist: I guess that I have 147 square foot sign here, which I think is approaching the limits of what is reasonable for that building.
Member Baty: Are there rules of thumb that you follow?
Tim Palmquist: All I can say that is when I wasnt involved in the prototype design for the Best Buy, but when we did develop the prototype this is the prototype sign and it was felt that it was in proportion to the building and that is a 397 square foot sign.
Member Baty: My opinion is that the signs would probably look to small on that sized building if we stuck with the ordinance, but on the other hand what you have here is still to large. I cant make the determination as to what size that sign should be to look pleasing.
Member Meyer: Our effort is to let you know that we are looking at it from the view point of people driving in the parking lot and then they can identify the store. We are not looking at anyone of these signs as an advertising sign.
Art Cairns: I touched on earlier and we talked about proportions. A proportion of the sign to the building, I believe that it was requested at the last meeting to take a look around the City and to see some of the other signage that has been approved. We took note of one of the newer signs, the Circuit City which is signed on both sides but that is not the issue here tonight because we have disposed of the second sign. But, the signage at 148 square feet would be consistent with the Circuit City sign by example in West Oaks. I am told that it would certainly be consistent with the new market, a higher end market.
Chairman Harrington: Wasnt Circuit City grandfathered in?
Art Cairns: I dont know if it was grandfathered in, or if it was a PUD.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: That was with the shopping center package.
Art Cairns: I guess I would make the arguement that in seeking a variance in any case you are looking to find some balance, some equity and some reason consistent within the community. Signs such as Borders come to mind. One of my associates and in another life I used to with the F & M Distributor chain; which was very short lived all the way around and at that point there were different times that those letters were 7 feet tall and in my honest moment I would have to agree that it was probably to large and I can say that now because the company no longer exists.
Art Cairns: We feel that the request is reasonable. I think that we are showing that there is flexibility but in terms of being able to do something as small as 40 or 69 and the reason that a Copy Max can still work at 69 square feet is because it plays off of the Office Max identity.
Member Brennan: So in summary we now have with regard to wall signage a revised Best Buy offering of 147 square feet, the Office Max at 148 square feet and the Copy Max at 69 square feet; is that correct?
Art Cairns: That is accurate.
Member Brennan: I had almost wished that you hadnt brought up the subject of other signage because that was also on my list here of information that I prepared and as long as you brought it up Ill read this off because these are your neighbors; the bank on Eight Mile, Chilis on the corner, Hilton, Extended Stay, a bank further up; everything along the western corridor of Haggerty Road the signage is within ordinance.
Art Cairns: In each one of those examples though, I would submit are service or hospitality oriented.
Tim Palmquist: I believe that there would be a variance for the Hilton.
Member Brennan: The street signage is what I was specifically talking about.
Member Baty: Could I see the little Best Buy sign, once again. The 40 square foot.
Peter Hauser: The site is unique. It has its own unique hardships that are different probably any other site that I have seen with the wall and the extensive landscaping and I feel that also plays into it a little bit.
Vice-Chairman Reinke inquired of Alan Amolsch: I requested some information just to have it ready in case we wanted to look at it; the Kohls sign in West Oaks what is the square footage and what is the distance to Novi Road on that sign?
Alan Amolsch: I dont know the distance from Novi Road but it is considerable. The sign is 35 by 4'6" for 157 square feet.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: I think that we are roughly talking about the same distance. Kohls sits way back in there. That is falling into the realm of the signage that you are offering at this point. I think that we are at a point where it is reasonable but not intrusive. I think that is the medium point that we have to be at. I think that the offerings, at least to me, are workable.
Member Bauer: I have one problem and that is with sign number 1, which will be on Haggerty just at the curb.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: We are just talking about the building signs. Only wall signs.
Member Meyer: We will talk about the other ones after the wall signs.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: I think that we have to deal with one before we can deal with the second one because if we go back and forth I think that we are going to lose all perspective. Once we have one thing in place then we can go and say we can work this and what do we need to supplement what is there. To try to look at all 4 and to pinpoint down, I dont think we can do that. We would be here until I dont know when. I think that we need to deal with the building signs first and then 97-020 by itself after we have determined what we are going to do with 8, 9 and 10.
Moved by Member Brennan,
Seconded by Vice-Chairman Reinke,
THAT WITH CASE NO. 97-008 FOR BEST BUY REVISED TO 147 SQUARE FEET. THAT WITH CASE NO. 97-009 OFFICE MAX REVISED TO 148 SQUARE FEET AND CASE NO. 97-010 FOR COPY MAX 69 SQUARE FEET. ALL 3 VARIANCE REQUESTS AS REVISED BE APPROVED FOR THE PURPOSE OF IDENTIFICATION AND TRAFFIC FLOW THESE VARIANCES WILL BE PARTICULAR TO THESE USERS ONLY.
Discussion on motion:
Member Meyer: I am just hoping that these gentlemen will do everything that they can to take what we decide here and make it as attractive and what I would call as artistic as possible. We cant
tell you how much we mean by the gateway to Novi. If you can keep that in mind, I as one citizen would really appreciate that.
Chairman Harrington: My comment on the motion is as follows. I have great difficulty voting in support of significant expansion beyond ordinance when I cant see it. I cant see these signs. I cant look at these drawings and do a visceral or gut reaction as to what that is going to look like from Haggerty Road, because they arent on the building and it seems to me and I am not going to stand on the table and scream "Board Members this is wrong, vote it down"; I think that the sense is that we need to give these gentleman some relief and my sense is that the motion is probably going to be passed. It is problematic for me to take a number like 250 square feet and then sort of chop it in half and make us feel that this is the minimum necessary and this is what we have to have, when I havent heard anything like that and I havent seen the sign either. So, I have a problem supporting this specific relief. I dont know that 120 feet wouldnt work. I dont know that 160 feet is what you really need. I dont know. I havent seen it. Most of the time we are able to see what we are voting on, so it is problematic for me to simply look at a drawing particularly the complexity of the problem that you have there. You have site line problems. You have topographical problems. You have shrubbery problems. You have traffic problems. It is problematic for me to support this when I dont have a firm sense of conviction that this is what has to be done in order to solve the problem for the interest of the community. That is where I am at and I have problems supporting it. But obviously the Board has to do something this evening and I believe that it will.
Member Brennan: Maybe just a clarification of why I made the motion and I only came to that realization or at least in my own mind was able to get some sense when Laverne was able to make the comment about Kohls. Then I could look at Kohls and I know what this should look like.
Member Meyer: In support of the "Chair" I do know that last November we drove by a company on Haggerty Road where they actually put up a sign for us to drive by and look at. They took it down after we approved of the size and then put up their more polished final piece. I would like to think that there would be the opportunity for you to and it appears to be a consensus here and until everyone speaks we dont know, but that you would go back and actually come up with a sign of 147 or 148 and 69 and give us some idea that we could come by on certain day before the May Meeting and look at what these signs look like.
Chairman Harrington: We have a motion and a second. If the motion passes we wont have to do that and if the motion fails then we will have some more Board discussion.
Member Antosiak: I, like Mr. Reinke, believe that some relief is required here. I am a bit concerned because as sure as we are all sitting around this table today that when the fourth tenant exists and they will be before us seeking 148 square foot sign. Hopefully between 69 and 148, but my guess would be 148. So that is weighing on my mind. Despite our continuing discussion about precedents versus each case standing on their own; that is a consideration. Like you, I have difficulty in not knowing what these look like or will look like. I instinctively believe that some relief is necessary just driving by the site, a number of times and knowing that it is going to be very difficult to see the stores from the road. At some later point, perhaps we could discuss the merits of approving a sign variance before a sign is up and someone can demonstrate the hardship being caused by the hardship of the sign that complies with ordinance.
Member Baty: I have a comment. If I were voting I would not support this motion or the granting of this variance. This signs are still to large I think that the 11 x 17 is to large; the 9 x 15 is to large and the 5 x 8 is to small. So, something in between 7 by 13 would suffice.
Roll Call. Yeas (5) Nays (1) Harrington Motion Carried
Chairman Harrington the 3 variance requests have been granted. At the conclusion or whatever see the Building Department for permits.
Chairman Harrington: Lets now turn to 97-020 for the High Point Shopping Center signs.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: If I may, at this point, I would like to table this until I see some mockups on the 3 positions for the simple fact of the locations. I know and I have a perspective of what is going to be on the building. Now I want to see mockups of these. That is my opinion.
Member Antosiak: I believe that to be a fair request.
Chairman Harrington: I think that in reading the sign that your are getting from the Board, we would like to see mockups would you like to come back and see us at our next Meeting, May 6. With any reasonable period of time and you dont have to have these mockup up for a month. But I know that most Board Members when they do their inspections they do them within the week before. Sometimes the day of or the day before the meeting.. So sometime within that time parameter if you could put up mockups of what you want us to look at in terms of location and size, that is what we like to see. Can that be done?
Art Cairns: That can be done. Would you like them out of plywood?
Member Brennan: That is how it has been done, something relatively inexpensive and just giving us an outline.
Gary Kroll, I represent the developer, American Realty. I would like to thank you for your consideration of the signage and one of the things that I mentioned before on the center signs or the monument. In talking to the Planning Commission we have been trying to get the directional signs on the Wayne County right of ways, which they have rejected until after the center opens. That was one of the reasons why we did not bring these signs in, with the landscaping that we have put in we want to see how the traffic flow works and to see how the people react to the traffic light that is going in. The right in and right out and also the back entrances. Before we try to get approval we want to make sure that we are presenting what the center needs and what the community needs as far as the traffic circulation. We will put up some mockups, but we would like to see the center opened before we place any signs because of electrical etc.
Chairman Harrington: When are you opening?
Gary Kroll: I believe that Best Buy is opening sometime in July. Again with Office Max it may be a little later.
Chairman Harrington: Is the sense that you would prefer to give us information for next month but your druthers are that you want to have an opportunity to see what is going on out there before you come to us as what you would regard as your complete and finished sign package, which means that we are looking at the August or September Meeting?
Gary Kroll: In the interest of trying to get this put to bed, we may want to go ahead and put the mockups up for next months meeting. Lets just get the feel and if it is acceptable, then great. I think that the locations and what we are trying to do is good, but I am not real sure of the one sign. The directional sign at the traffic light I think is advantageous for the traffic and the center and down on the end I am sure that it is going to help bring people to the traffic light because of the no left turn. I would like to attempt to do that and I dont think that we would have any problem doing that.
Art Cairns: I have to depart from my colleagues interest. It wasnt as though we agreed on every point in the lease but we did hammer something out. We would like to take advantage of your offer to put those mockups up and perhaps talk before that time. I see the need, as Gary has pointed out to determine where the electric needs to go and would not want to see the parking lot trenched or disrupted afterwards in order to be able to do that. I think that will play out as we put up those mockups. My only question is that I hear you say 7 days prior to the next meeting would be sufficient timing.
Chairman Harrington: Any materials in writing that you wish the Board to review should be filed with the City or the Building Departments 14 days or more before the next scheduled meeting that way they come in our packets which we review about 2 weeks before the Meeting. Every Board Member is on his or her own in terms of physical inspections. I know by the way of custom and tradition that most of those inspections take place within the week before the meeting. Sometimes earlier and sometimes the day of. There is no fixed agenda. We dont ride around on a bus. We do it on our own; but we do it. So that is the time table there. There is no deadline on that.
Art Cairns: I also heard that you dont want it up for 30 days.
Chairman Harrington: You can have it up for 30 days. I just think that it would look awful to have it up for 30 days.
Art Cairns: I think it would be misleading to customers as well. I only wanted to clarify was would 7 days be satisfactory, or would 14 be better?
Chairman Harrington: The sense is that rather than to kick this until July, August or September we will table 020 until the next meeting and if for some reason there is no reason to consider it at the next meeting, let Ms. McKernan know and we wont worry about going out to look at mockups that arent there. Otherwise we will plan on inspecting it between now and the next meeting.
Chairman Harrington: One of the other matters that we have this evening is the election of officers for the coming year. Our files will reflect that by tradition the Chairmanship of the Board is for a one year period only. Other officers may be for longer. We will now have elections for all 3 positions, Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Secretary. If there is only one nominee for a position it is not necessary for us to give written ballots. If there is more than one nominee for a position we will do written ballots and I kind of have the understanding that the ballots are not secret ballots but if we do cast written ballots they are in fact public record.
Chairman Harrington: The first position will be that of "Chairman". We will entertain nominations for the coming year.
Member Brennan indicated I will nominate Mr. Reinke for Chairman.
Member Bauer indicated he would second the nomination.
Vice-Chairman Reinke indicated I respectfully decline the nomination due to things that I am involved with this year. I can be in a supporting role, but not a major role as to what I feel my time allotting is and with respect to that I would like to nominate...
Vice-Chairman Reinke nominated Mr. Antosiak for Chairman.
Member Meyer seconded the nomination.
Chairman Harrington inquired do we have any other nominees for "Chair" for the coming year?
Hearing none, all in favor of Mr. Antosiak for "Chair" for the coming year say aye.
Hearing no opposition, Mr. Antosiak is Chairman for the coming year.
Chairman Harrington indicated we will now turn to the election of Vice-Chairman for the coming year.
Chairman Harrington nominated Mr. Reinke for Vice-Chairman.
Seconded by Member Antosiak.
Chairman Harrington inquired do we have any other nominations for Vice-Chairman for the coming year? Hearing none, all in favor of Mr. Reinke for "Vice-Chairman" say aye.
Hearing no opposition, Mr. Reinke is the Vice-Chairman for the coming year.
Chairman Harrington indicated the final office is that of Secretary for the coming year.
Member Antosiak nominated Mr. Brennan for Secretary.
Vice-Chairman Reinke seconded the nomination.
Chairman Harrington inquired do we have any other nominations for Secretary for the coming year?
Hearing none, all in favor of Mr. Brennan for "Secretary" say aye.
Hearing no opposition, Mr. Brennan is Secretary for the coming year.
Chairman Harrington: Congratulations to the new officers. In concluding the meeting one matter which was brought to my attention and I believe it to be accurate is that in circumstances where there is an abstention by a Board Member it has been suggested and I believe that it is accurate that the alternate, if present, should be entitled to cast their vote. So, Ms. Baty or the alternate as it may be will properly be called upon to vote when there is an abstention.
Member Antosiak inquired of Alan Amolsch: Has the Novi Expo Center been contacted regarding the advertising on their sign?
Alan Amolsch: No.
Member Antosiak: I believe that when we approved of the variance for that sign it was only for coming events at the Expo Center. They have had a Pepsi advertisement on the sign for the last 3 or 4 weeks. If you will recall it is the 3 panel sign and the top panel has advertising.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: When we had the ice storm, didnt the panels go out and then they were replaced with a Pepsi panel?
Member Antosiak: I am not suggesting that we bring them back but I think that they should be reminded of the variance.
Alan Amolsch: I have reviewed the original motion, It did not say anything about prohibiting any verbiage. However, it was requested that the Building Department to monitor the sign. If the Board so chooses I will notify them to remove that sign.
Member Brennan: I specifically remember us discussing whether there was going to be any advertisement and Mr. Bowman was very clear that it was going to up-coming events.
Alan Amolsch: We actually did call him on a show cause when they were using it for other purposes.
Chairman Harrington: My sense would be that probably some young, aggressive marketing person over there has gone ahead and done that and Blair doesnt even know that is up there. If you could bring that to his attention and tell him that the Board would invite him to come back and talk to us about it or the alternative that it was simply an inadvertent mistake and it is not going to be a source of advertising.
Alan Amolsch: I will let him know of your concerns.
Chairman Harrington: Let him know we are interested. It is probably just a mistake.
Alan Amolsch: I have something for the Board also. I dont know if you remember the original Providence (Beck Road and Grand River) you approved some signs with specific verbiage on it for Providence. They also have changed their sign without a permit a couple of years ago; came back to the Board for a variance to change it to Mission Health. The Board granted that variance, they had already put the signs up without a permit, but the Board granted the variance. Now they want to return the signs back to saying Providence Medical Center again. Do you want them to come back and ask permission to do that or do you.......? It is just a question. I have reviewed the file and I dont know the answer because they are actually asking for their original variance of what they were originally approved before they changed to Mission Health. All they have to do is to change the plastic insert.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: I really hesitate for them to go ahead and do that for the simple fact that they went ahead in the past and they have basically done what they have wanted to do without coming to the City. I guess I am in a quandary because of the past experience with that. It just brings a question to my mind and I thought I would throw it out to the Board.
Member Brennan: However, this time they are asking the question, "do we need to come back?".
Vice-Chairman Reinke: I am saying that I am just throwing this out for a discussion topic.
Chairman Harrington: As awful as bureaucratic and administrative hoops are and as offensive as they are to me the point is that the sign was content specific and they had to come before us to get the variance and I think that they need to come back.
Chairman Harrington: I think that technically they have to come back. You cant just say that we dont want variance any more....that is what has been approved.
Alan Amolsch: I will tell them your decision.
Alan Amolsch: Also regarding Collex, we had a little problem with their inoperable junk cars and I believe that Don brought it up last month and wanted you to bring it back for a possible show cause. They have removed many of the junk cars that were there. Some were just dumped on and left there. However, they still have cars there. The Boards original variance was that they were to have no cars outside at any time whether they were working on them or not. Their facility is loaded with cars, they cant fit any more in there; so they have some out in the parking lot which are not necessarily junk but are ones that they are working on. I dont know if the Board wants to bring them back or to have further discussion with them regarding their original variance because they were quite specific in saying that they werent going to have that kind of a situation there.
Chairman Harrington: I think that there are a variety of remedies. They would probably find us more friendly than a lawsuit being brought by the City to enforce the nuisance regulations and that would be a lot more expensive for them. If they want to come back and we can remind them of the circumstances under which the variance was granted, we can do that.
Vice-Chairman Reinke: I have one last thing, I wanted to say that I have enjoyed having Mr. Harrington as Chairman and I think that he has done an excellent job this year. A job well done!
The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m.
Date Approved Nancy C. McKernan