At present this parcel is an old apple orchard with 2 single family residences at the south end, trees between them and the orchard, and trees at the north end. The existing residences will be demolished. The post card sent to nearby residents states: “The proposed project is for 16 unit multi-family units. Each ranch style unit has, two bedrooms, its own entry and a single car garage.” Here is the revised proposed site plan.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Response to Planning Commission and Council

I would like to discuss how to respond to the Glendale condo project. I would start by reminding neighbors that there are some reasons that might be effective and there are some reasons that will not be effective in opposing this (or any) site plan.

The visual blight or the impact of having a new building close to your own home is not a reason the Planning Commission or City Council can use to deny the developer's site plan. The type of housing -- rental versus owner occupied -- is also not grounds for denying the site plan. Whether the particular project may be successful or not is also not a matter that the Planning Commission or City Council can consider. We must find reasons in the City code and other planning documents to achieve what we can.

I would start by reciting the City code section on the role of the Planning Commission and City Council in reviewing a site plan:
Chapter 57 section 5:122(6):
Standards for site plan approval. A site plan shall be approved by the appropriate body after it determines that
     (a)The contemplated development would comply with all applicable state, local and federal law, ordinances, standards and regulations ; and
     (b)The development would limit the disturbance of natural features to the minimum necessary to allow a reasonable use of the land, applying criteria for reviewing a natural features statement of impact set forth in this Chapter; and
    (c) The development would not cause a public or private nuisance and would not have a detrimental effect on the public health, safety or welfare.”

The zoning regulations can be found in the City code:

I believe that section
5:122(6)(a) allows us to look at the City code, county code and Michigan DEQ regulations for storm water impact on the surrounding neighborhood. As Glenn previously noted, the City code seems to leave the question of storm water systems up to the County Water Resources Commissioner. Evan Pratt holds that title and has a good professional staff.

The County Water Resources Commissioner's web site includes the applicable regulations for storm water drainage.
2. All preliminary plans will include the following required storm water
management information:
a. The overall storm water management system for the proposed
development, indicating how storm water management will be provided
and where the drainage will outlet.
b. The location of any on-site and/or off-site storm water management
facilities and appropriate easements that will be dedicated to the entity
responsible for future maintenance. Easement information will be
consistent with PART 2, Section XI of these Rules.
c. A description of the off-site outlet and evidence of its adequacy. See
Engineer’s Certificate of Outlet, Appendix Q.
d. If no adequate watercourse exists to effectively handle a concentrated
flow of water from the proposed development, discharge will be reduced
to sheet flow prior to exiting the site. Additional volume controls will be
required in such cases, as will acquisition of rights-of-way from
downstream property owners receiving the storm water flow.
e. A map, at the U.S.G.S. scale, showing the drainage boundary of the
proposed development and its relationship with existing drainage
f. Any drainage originating outside of the development limits that flows onto
or across the development. Drainage from off-site shall not be passed
through on-site storm water storage facilities unless alternatives are
proposed for the off-site flow that will achieve the water quality objectives
of these standards, such as separate basins for water quality treatment
and storage of the 100-year storm volume.
g. Any natural water courses and/or County Drains passing through the
proposed development, along with the following:
(1) Area of upstream watershed and current zoning.
(2) Preliminary calculations of runoff from the upstream area for both the 100-year and 1.5-year 24-hour design storms, for fully developed conditions according to the current land use plan for the area.
h. Any natural watercourses or County Drains that abut the development.
3. The increased volume of water discharged due to development of the site must not create adverse impacts to downstream property owners and water courses. These adverse impacts may include, but are not limited to flooding, excessive soil saturation, crop damage, erosion, and/or degradation in water quality or habitat.
The county regulations can be found here:

The City has a series of planning documents that in the aggregate are considered to be our Master Plan. In Chapter 10 of the Land Use Element plan, the area near this Glendale property is discussed as such:

Site 13 - The old Barnard Plating Company and a single-family residential home exist on this small 1.2-acre site, located on the south side of Jackson Avenue, between Glendale and Burwood. The Hillside Terrace Retirement Center is to the east and the Jackson West Apartments are located west of the site. Across Jackson Avenue, to the north, are the Granview and Fairview Heights single-family subdivisions. Multiple-family dwellings are located to the south.

Although the Barnard Plating factory building remains on the property, it has not been in operation for some time, and any redevelopment would likely require a clean-up of the site since there is a strong possibility of contamination. Assuming that contamination can be mitigated, multiple-family residential uses at the R4C density standards are recommended for the site. This recommendation is justified by its compatibility with the surrounding multiple-family uses, as well as the need for additional multiple-family residential uses in the area.
I have emphasized the statement "any redevelopment would likely require a clean-up of the site since there is a strong possibility of contamination" because the neighborhood needs to ensure that the developers obtain a good environmental study of the contamination of the site to determine how much clean up is needed. The master plan "assumes" the site can be cleaned up. I would hope that the clean up would result in a rather pristine condition if multi-family residences are going to be placed on this site.

The neighborhood may wish to hire its own environmental consultant. I recall that the Friends of Dicken Woods hired a consultant to do an environmental study of that site, primarily related to wetlands and storm water, if my memory serves me. But here, you could seek a study of the ground contamination. The MDEQ might be of some assistance, but my faith in them is diminished by their failure to protect us from the Gelman plume.

A link to the City Code can be found on this page:

I believe that section
5:122(6)(b) allows us to challenge the plan to completely regrade this site to a substantially lower level. That action would require the developer to completely change the natural features of the property. All trees will be removed. the entire site would be bulldozed.

The requirements in section 5:122(6)(c) are more difficult to predict. When my neighborhood was fighting the 42 North project at South Maple near Pauline, the Council was advised that the “public health, safety or welfare” standard was unenforceable. My group argued vigorously that the standard was similar to ordinances that had been found enforceable, but the Council followed the advice of their attorney and approved the 42 North project.

Since then, the Planning Commission has entertained arguments regarding the adverse impact of a site plan. When Planning Commission was deliberating the Maple Grove project near North Maple and Miller, Tony Derezinski implied that to find an adverse impact, the impact had to be significant.

The areas that may raise issues of adverse impact include the storm and sewer problems identified by neighbors. Traffic can rise to the level of an adverse impact. That was the issue with Maple Cove. I suggest that we ask the developer to conduct a traffic study. I would warn you that traffic studies usually turn out the way the person hiring the study wants it to turn out. You may need to hire your own consultant for that.

Jack Eaton

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