Lowell Twp. Planning Comm. Recap: Annual Reviews for Storage Co, Fairgrounds

During their November meeting on Monday, the Lowell Charter Township Planning Commission heard from two members of the public and considered five pieces of business during a 2+ hour meeting. All members were present for the session.

Public Comments: Church Sign, Artificial Turf Business

Before working on agenda items, the planning commission opened the floor for public comments, and two people spoke.

First was Robert Holmes, pastor of the Christian Life Center on Alden Nash Ave. near the township hall. The church would like to update its sign to swap out the section that accommodates changeable text with a digital reader board. However, the church is in the Ag-2 district which does not allow for reader board signs.

Holmes requested that the planning commission consider an ordinance amendment that would allow reader boards for churches and synagogues. Planning Commission Chair Dave Simmonds said that ordinance revisions were usually pursued at the request of the township board. He would bring the matter up to the board at its next meeting.

Next was Bobby Roush who is planning to bring a Purchase Green Artificial Grass franchise to the township. He has plans to move into a building that is under construction at 5960 Alden Nash. However, someone mentioned to him that his business might not fit with the light industrial zoning of the site.

Roush mentioned that 95% of his business was expected to be wholesale with sales being made to contractors. It appears the 5% of sales that could be made directly to consumers poses a problem. Retail sales are not specifically allowed in the light industrial district although the ordinance does provide the planning commission leeway to approve an unlisted use.

Township Supervisor Jerry Hale was in attendance at the meeting and suggested Roush meet with him and the township planner to discuss the matter further.

Annual Review of My Storage Great Lakes

A review of the special use permit for My Storage Great Lakes was the first item of business to be discussed during Monday’s meeting. Brian Hackney was present to represent the company which is located at 13565 Grand River Ave and manufactures storage buildings.

There was supposed to be an annual review of the business’s special use permit in July, but that was apparently moved back because the site was in flux with many changes taking place. Hackney noted that the company was looking to have the drainage field redone, it had put up a new sign and built 70 storage units.

Given the changes, a new site plan of the property was provided to reflect items such as the removal of planned fencing. However, only one printed copy of the site plan was available at the meeting, and commissioners did not have a chance to review it in advance.

“We’re really not ready to review this tonight,” said Commissioner Mark Batchelor.

Commissioner Greg Forde also expressed frustration with the slow progress in bringing the site into compliance with commission requests. Hackney noted that landscaping couldn’t be put in until next year, and Forde questioned why that was seeing that the initial site plan was reviewed in 2021. “It feels like to me that what you’re doing is trying to stay a step ahead of us,” he said.

By unanimous vote, the planning commission decided to table the review until next month so they could have further time to review the proposed site plan changes.

Annual Review of Special Land Use Permit for Fairgrounds

Next was the annual review of the special land use permit issued to the Kent County Youth Agricultural Association for the development of the former Deer Run Golf Course as the new Kent County Youth Fair fairgrounds.

Resident Dave Hildenbrand spoke first regarding the importance of the project and the progress being made. “It’s going to be an important development for the whole state,” he said.

Hildenbrand noted that while money was raised for the purchase of the new fairgrounds several years ago, the project didn’t seem to be “taking off.” Recognizing that the fair board was compromised of volunteers, he and several other individuals formed an ad hoc committee that has been working daily to bring the project to fruition.

Next, Bill Zaske, president of the Kent County Youth Fair Board, presented information about changes being made to the layout of the property. Those changes were precipitated by wetlands identified by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy as being untouchable.

“Some wetlands that we considered incidental were not incidental to the EGLE folks,” Zaske said. As a result, the layout of the fairgrounds is being rotated to avoid any construction in those wetland areas. What’s more, Zaske said the midway was being pushed back farther into the property to reduce the potential for any noise issues near the road.

Zaske added that excavating on the site had been going on since July, and the permitting process was underway for four buildings. He said the fair would be held at the new grounds in 2023.

Batchelor asked what the fair would look like next year, and Zaske replied: “vintage fair.” He said that the fair would be using a lot of tents next year. While there would be water and electricity at the site, it would not yet have a septic system and would rely on portable showers and bathrooms instead. The main drives would be paved.

Commissioners expressed some concern over the plan to use tents. “A lot of citizens were very adamant that it be all done before they moved out there,” Batchelor noted.

There was also some discussion about whether the changes to the plan, which was initially approved in 2020, required a public hearing. Carlton Blough, a resident and township trustee, pointed out that the new plan included a third drive into the property. “As soon as I saw that road, that’s a major change in my opinion,” he said.

The road in question will apparently be used as an unpaved service drive for trailers that are dropping off or collecting animals, but planning commission members agreed that enough changes had been made to warrant another public hearing.

Commissioners voted unanimously to set a public hearing on the site plan for their December meeting. They also voted unanimously to approve the annual review of the special land use permit.

Campground Ordinance Being Revised

Township planner Brad Kotrba presented an amendment to the township’s campground ordinance. Currently, the township only allows modern campgrounds for tents and RVs, but there has been a request to include glamour camping and rustic/primitive options as well.

Under the proposed revision, both rustic and glamour camping can make use of canvas tents on platforms, yurts, teepees and similar structures. The difference between the two comes down to amenities. “Really, it’s like a small hotel room inside of a tent,” Kotrba said of glamour camping – which is often called glamping.

There was some commission discussion regarding the placement of parking and whether water hook-ups should be required at individual sites. At the end of the conversation, commissioners voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the revisions at its December meeting.

Stormwater and Conditional Rezoning Ordinances

The final two pieces of business were addressed in relatively short order. Commissioners had been considering whether to adjust their ordinance to allow conditional rezoning but decided against that, noting its limited application.

They also agreed to essentially eliminate the township’s stormwater ordinance since this matter is already regulated by the county. “All it does is create bureaucracy,” Forde said. Most of the current ordinance was replaced with a stipulation that developers must demonstrate compliance with Kent County standards. Commissioners voted unanimously to hold a public hearing in January regarding the proposed change.

Planning commissioners voted to adjourned at 9:17pm, and the next regular meeting of the Lowell Charter Township Planning Commission will be on Monday, December 12, at 7pm

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