City Council Sits in on Planning Commission, Considers Car Wash, Housing and More

 04/01/2017 - 02:17
The group representing Zippy Aut Wash included (l to r) David Brewer, Corey Weaver, Michelle Weaver and attorney Maria Harshe.

On March 22, the Saline Planning Commission met to discuss three development projects proposed for the city. These included a Planned Unit Development (PUD) for 600 N. Maple Street, a Zippy Auto Wash for 1200 E. Michigan Ave. and a condominium development for 911 N. Ann Arbor St.

Because this would be the first PUD to be considered in Saline, the commission convened an hour early to discuss the rules and provisions of the new ordinance. Planning Commission Chair Bill Beardsley asked questions that were answered both in person and in memos by planner Doug Lewan from Carlisle/Wortman Associates.

Asked to define a PUD, Lewan provided two descriptions: “A rezoning to a specific plan,” and “a site plan that, in effect, is a zoning district in itself.”

In a more pragmatic sense, a PUD is a unique zoning which allows a developer more design flexibility in exchange for benefits to the city that would not otherwise be possible. Flexibility, in the form of deviations or waivers of requirements, could relate to compulsory setbacks, housing density, land use, etc.  Benefits might include development of otherwise undevelopable land, greater open space, etc.

Since, in the development of 600 N. Maple, the Planning Commission would be asked to grant various waivers, they discussed what the city would obtain in return. Lewan pointed out that the shape of the property made development challenging as did the topography, the nearby railroad track and the cell phone tower.

City Superintendent Gary Roubal also pointed out that a special type of users would be greatly benefitted by development at this site.

The new PUD ordinance requires that the developer provide 40 percent open space, but they have a very inclusive definition for what constitutes open space. It includes not only land with recreational potential, but also retention areas, wetlands and setbacks.

170322-Saline-016.jpg

Commissioner and City Council member Dean Girbach wondered if the blanket 40 percent open space requirement was wise. He suggested that they consider changing the ordinance such that the percent of open space required be proportional to the overall size of the area being developed.

This will be an issue for future discussion, but the developer meets the existing requirement, providing 42 percent open space.

The discussion ended with an admonition from Beardsley that since this would be the city’s first PUD, it’s important to get it right.

In the regular meeting, the commission discussed the PUD development proposed on Maple Road by the Three Oaks Group in more detail. They were asked to consider approval of the preliminary site plan.

Planner Chris Atkin and Roubal both reviewed the project. Both said the plan was worthy of preliminary approval.

Bruce Michael, speaking for the developer, described the special challenges for which the developer wanted waivers and the uniqueness of the plan. He emphasized how the proposed project addresses the needs of the developmentally disabled.

Already families with special needs have made 14 reservations in the development. Michael said that the developers were “really amazed at the response that we’ve had thus far.”

Mayor Brian Marl agreed that the project was challenging, citing, in particular the difficulties in negotiations with American Tower, the owner of the cell phone tower on the property. He said the developer “worked tirelessly” to address the issue which was finally resolved at the last City Council meeting.

“I think the most compelling thing is that this development, while being innovative and cutting edge, meets the needs of a demographic in our community which is often left out and left behind,” Marl added.

Dan Carroll moved to recommend the preliminary site plan to City Council for approval, seconded by Steven Diebol. The motion was unanimously affirmed.

170322-Saline-001.jpg

Another issue before the planning commission was to consider a special land use permit and a preliminary site plan for the proposed Zippy Auto Wash on Michigan Avenue. Planner Atkin began by describing, at the behest of Beardsley, what “special land use” means.

“Special land use is a use that is not permitted, but is also not prohibited,” Atkin said.

He listed two concerns with the proposal. The first was that it is not allowed under the 2011 Master Plan, but in the 2017 Master Plan that was ready to be passed on to City Council for approval, it is allowed.

His second concern had to do with noise. He said that there are some standards for the decibel level of the blowers that will have to be considered because of the office buildings to the east.

Atkin also brought up the issue of stacking spaces. The proposal assigns space for 64 vehicles to stack while waiting for a wash. While there are no rules on stacking for car washes, Atkin said, “64 seems kind of high.”

Corey Weaver, who with his wife Michelle are the owners of the Zippy business, stood to address the concerns.

He said they have a high efficiency drier system that is especially quiet and it is designed so that the driers start gradually and not all at once. He said the driers would not be as load as the passing traffic on Michigan Avenue.

Weaver also said that at their Zeeb Road facility, they are near a residential area and one commercial neighbor is a diagnostic hearing clinic. He said they have had no noise complaints.

Regarding the stacking, Weaver said that their Ellsworth site has 48 stacking spaces and that cars overflowing into the road is “a weekly occurrence.” The traffic on Michigan Avenue is greater, so he wanted to be sure they don’t have frequent backups.

Beardsley asked why Weaver thinks this Saline project will succeed. He replied that the other two sites have been successful and that there are many Saline customers who use the other sites but would use them more if they were closer. He also noted that Michigan Avenue traffic averages 30,000 cars per day, meaning lots of potential customers.

The planners voted both to recommend the special land use permit and to recommend approval of the preliminary site plan by City Council.

170322-Saline-015.jpg

A third project that the planners considered was the Cascade Pointe development at 911 N. Ann Arbor Street proposed by developer Danny Veri. Veri asked for combined approval of the preliminary and final site plan.

The project was considered in January, but at that time there was insufficient study completed to approve the project. Now Carlisle/Wortman planners (represented by Atkin), city staff (represented by Roubal) and OHM all gave their OK to the project with certain conditions.

Mayor Marl asked Veri, that if he receives approval what would be his time frame for work on the project. He said he would probably start clearing trees sometime in May with development continuing through the summer.

Marl moved to approve the project, which was seconded by Dan Troyka. The vote was unanimous to approve the plan and pass it on to City Council.

 

Planners also approved the long-awaited updated Master Plan for 2017. This will also be passed to City Council for final approval.

 

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for April 12.

Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at bobcphotography@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.