Statutorily authorized and properly adopted procedures and standards are documented in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, City Code Chapter 154: Zoning Ordinances.
MCL 125.3202 Amendments or supplements shall be adopted in the same manner as the original ordinance.
MCL 125.3502 The zoning ordinance shall specify the requirements and standards for approving.
MCL 125.3504 The regulations and standards shall be specified in the zoning ordinance.
MCL 125.3604 The ordinance shall establish procedures for the review and standards for approval.
City Charter Article XIII Sec. 5. The City Commission shall prescribe by ordinance zoning laws for the City.
City Code §154.162 The ZBA shall not have the power to make any changes in the terms of this chapter.
City Code §154.171 A use for which a special use permit has been granted shall be considered a conforming use.
Since 2009, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and Planning Commission have approved several redevelopments of rooming dwellings (units occupied by more than 2 unrelated people) and Registered Student Organizations (fraternity and sorority dwellings occupied by more than 2 unrelated people). The subject properties were nonconforming to a variety of current Zoning Ordinance regulations prior to redevelopment.
Nonconformities on properties occur when the Zoning Ordinance is amended and an existing property that conformed to the previous ordinance no longer conforms to the new ordinance. State law prohibits the City from requiring the existing property to be brought into conformance with the new ordinance and provides that nonconforming properties may be maintained.
Mount Pleasant, Michigan, City Code Chapter 154: Zoning Ordinances
NONCONFORMING USE. Any property use which does not comply with the regulations of this chapter or subsequent amendments at the time of adoption.
USE. The purpose for which land or a building is arranged, designed, occupied or intended.
§154.007(B)(5) Change of use
A nonconforming use may be changed to a new nonconforming use if the Zoning Board of Appeals finds that the new use would markedly decrease the degree of nonconformance and would enhance the desirability of adjacent conforming uses. Where no structural alterations requiring a building permit are involved, a similar nonconforming use may be converted to a similar nonconforming use of a basic character and intensity.
The ZBA has reviewed the redevelopment proposals on a case-by-case basis subject to subsection 154.007(B)(5) of the Zoning Ordinance, which allows a nonconforming use to be changed to a new nonconforming use where the ZBA finds that the new use would markedly decrease the degree of nonconformance and would enhance the desirability of adjacent conforming uses. Following a finding by the ZBA, the proposals are reviewed by the Planning Commission pursuant to the Special Use Permit standards of the Zoning Ordinance.
In a work session on November 14, 2011 staff reviewed the established review standards and procedures that have been implemented by the ZBA and Planning Commission regarding redevelopment proposals. The City Commission requested that these standards and procedures be documented in writing.
The purpose of the documentation is to compile the procedure that has evolved over the course of a number of meetings of the ZBA and Planning Commission into a single document. This will increase the opportunity for board and commission members, the general public, and the development community to be fully aware of the procedure and expectations. Prioritization of an ordinance amendment will then be considered following completion of the Master Plan update.
REVIEW STANDARDS AND PROCEDURES:
The review of the redevelopment projects initially was discussed by the Planning Commission in September of 2009, after a local developer approached staff regarding the possibility of redeveloping a property he owned. Staff was interested in having feedback from the Planning Commission about their willingness to review such a request in coordination with the ZBA.
Both the Planning Commission and ZBA have held a number of work sessions to discuss various aspects of the review, including analysis and discussion following completion of the projects. These sessions, along with the added experience of processing several applications have refined the standards and procedures as follows:
§154.007(B)(6) Nonconforming use destroyed
A building which has been damaged by fire or other cause to the extent of more than 50% of its replacement value must be repaired or rebuilt in conformity with the provisions of this chapter unless the Zoning Board of Appeals finds that the redevelopment of the site represents a marked decrease in the specific nonconformance per § 154.007(B)(4), and there is an equivalent use.
v Decrease in Nonconforming Conditions – The current Zoning Ordinance permits consideration of these redevelopment requests where nonconformities exist and the new development is found to “markedly decrease the degree of nonconformance.” The applicant is expected to demonstrate how the redevelopment will reduce the nonconforming conditions on the property.
The following are examples of nonconformities that have been reduced or eliminated with previously approved redevelopment projects:
- Ø Increased number of on-site parking spaces
- Ø Replacement of gravel parking areas with paved spaces
- Ø Improved setback between buildings on neighboring properties
- Ø Increased the square footage of living area in the dwelling per resident
- Ø Elimination of rear dwellings
- Ø Reconfiguration of nonconforming lots
v Improved Building Appearance – Buildings approved by these procedures are expected to be of materials and design that represent an improvement to the buildings that they replace. Consideration is given to assuring that the buildings are consistent with the historic character of the neighborhood. This means that attention must be paid to providing building materials that are durable, with some portion of the building often clad in brick. It is also expected that the redeveloped buildings will exhibit architectural features found elsewhere in the vicinity.
Examples of these features include:
- Ø Window and building trim details
- Ø Divided light windows
- Ø Dormer details
- Ø Accent colors and siding materials
- Ø Covered porches, including decorative columns and railings
- Ø Window symmetry and building massing
- Ø Increased roof pitch, and roof profiles
Applicants are encouraged to review the existing buildings on the street and neighboring street for examples of appropriate architectural detailing. Applicants are also encouraged to not replicate the same design on multiple properties they develop. Staff also has photographic examples of existing houses in portions of the Main and Washington neighborhoods.
v Improved Site Design – In addition to site improvements that may result from the elimination of nonconformities (like providing paved parking), redeveloped sites also exhibit improved site design. Many of these features are uncommon in the existing dwellings in the neighborhood.
Approved projects often include:
- Ø Foundation plantings
- Ø Yard and landscaping irrigation systems
- Ø Decorative fences to screen parking from the street
- Ø Dedicated bike parking
- Ø Reduction in the number of driveways
- Ø Elimination of front yard parking, with parking access often to rear alleys
- Ø Elimination of dumpsters in favor of screened trash carts
v Modest Increase in Building Occupancy – From the time of the first redevelopment request, the ZBA and the Planning Commission have been asked by the applicants to consider allowing additional tenants in the redeveloped projects. The additional rental income allows the applicant to offset some of the costs associated with the building and site improvements, as well as the increased property taxes, that result from the redevelopment.
The Planning Commission has stated from the initial discussion of these applications that the redevelopments should not result in increases in occupancy of more than one or two people. One of the outcomes of the recent review of several of the completed projects has resulted in further refinement for the Planning Commission to state that occupancy increases should be limited to one additional tenant, with two only considered on rare occasions.
v Improved Lease Agreements – In order to anticipate and reduce any issues that might result from even modest increases in density, applicants have offered improved lease provisions during their ZBA reviews. These agreements often include greater landlord responsibility in policing tenant issues, and increase tenant fines for trash and nuisance party violations. In addition to making an effort to reduce ordinance violations and the City resources associated with enforcement, these provisions help to protect the applicant’s investment in the property.
v Concurrent Review of Applications – As noted above, requests to redevelop rooming dwellings and Registered Student Organizations require application to both the ZBA and the Planning Commission. If an applicant desires, staff will process the applications to both boards concurrently. This means that if the ZBA takes action on the request at their meeting (on the fourth Wednesday of the month), the request can be before the Planning Commission as soon as the next week (on the first Thursday of the following month). In any case, ZBA action must occur first.
This procedure keeps the review time between the two groups to a minimum. It also affords at least two public hearing opportunities; and it assures that two independent boards have completed a careful review before discretionary approvals will be granted.
The preceding review standards and procedures for the redevelopment of housing in M-2 zoned neighborhoods have been reviewed and endorsed by the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Commission of the City of Mt. Pleasant on the dates noted below. Copies of these standards and procedures will be made available in the Planning and Community Development Department in City Hall and will be posted on the City’s website where other planning and zoning related documents can be found.
Planning Commission Date: March 1, 2012
Zoning Board of Appeals Date: May 23, 2012