APPROVED MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING
OF THE KENTWOOD PLANNING COMMISSION
SEPTEMBER 27, 2011, 7:30 P.M.
A. Chair Holtrop called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
B. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Commissioner Kape.
C. Roll Call:
Members Present: Maurice Groce, John Helder, Dan Holtrop, Ed Kape, Ed Swanson, Frank Vander Hoff, Don Yokom and Johngerlyn Young
Members Absent: Laurie Sheldon (with notification)
Others Present: Community Development Director Terry Schweitzer, Economic Development Planner Lisa Golder, Planner Joe Pung, Staff Secretary Monique Collier, City Commissioner Raymond Verwys, Director of Public Works Ron Woods, City Engineer Steve Kepley and one resident.
Motion by Commissioner Young, supported by Commissioner VanderHoff, to excuse Commissioner Sheldon from the meeting.
- Motion Carried (8-0) –
- Sheldon absent -
D. Approval of the Minutes and Findings of Fact
Motion by Commissioner Young, supported by Commissioner VanderHoff, to approve the Minutes of August 23, 2011 and the Findings of Fact for: Case #10-11 – Scotties Espresso Drive-Thru- Special Land Use and Site Plan Review for a Drive Thru Facility – Located at 2850 Shaffer Ave.
- Motion Carried (8-0) –
- Sheldon absent -
E. Approval of the Agenda
Motion by Commissioner Vanderhoff, supported by Commissioner Young, to approve the agenda for the September 27, 2011 meeting.
- Motion Carried (8-0) –
- Sheldon absent -
F. Acknowledge visitors wishing to speak to non-agenda items.
There was no public comment.
G. Old Business
There was no Old Business
H. Public Hearing
No Public Hearings
I. Work Session
There were no Work Sessions
J. New Business
There is no New Business
K. Other Business
1. Breton Avenue Street Improvements
Director Schweitzer stated over the past several months the City Commission has been reviewing the Breton Avenue corridor improvement evaluation prepared by the URS Corporation as well as the planning commissions May 10, 2011 recommendations relating to the conversion of Breton Avenue from four to three lanes and installation of a roundabout at the intersection with Walma Avenue. He stated additional analysis has been conducted and additional steps have been taken in an effort to address the qualifying points that the planning commission raised as part of their recommendations.
Schweitzer stated City staff has met with the ITP to modify bus stop locations and design to allow continuous through traffic movement in both directions even while the ITP bus is stopped for de-boarding and boarding. He stated while the City Commission has not commissioned URS to prepare a traffic simulation for the roundabout, the proposed roundabout design concept has been refined to locate the pedestrian crossing 240 to 360 feet away from the roundabout. He stated City staff has also met with Disability Advocates of Kent County and received recommendations.
Schweitzer stated the City Commission is looking for the Planning Commission recommendation that takes into account the supplemental analysis and perspective. He stated they are looking for confirmation on the recommendation to convert the street from four lanes to three lanes as well as a recommendation whether to install a roundabout or a traffic signal at the intersection of Breton and Walma Avenue.
Schweitzer stated the City also needs to reconstruct part of the sanitary sewer in this section of Breton Avenue next year so that the corridor and intersection design can be cost effectively incorporated with the sanitary sewer project.
Schweitzer reviewed the following point::
Breton Ave Corridor Challenges
Schweitzer stated part of the URS work was to conduct a speed study and what they base it on is what the 85th percentile of the traffic on the roadway is traveling and the study from this spring from 44th Street to 52nd is about 47 miles per hour. He noted that the street is posted at 40 miles per hour.
▪Walma Avenue traffic issues
Schweitzer stated URS noted and verified when traffic approaches the T intersection going south on Walma Ave., there are issues with sight distance and obtaining gaps in the traffic to make that turn south.
▪Limited pedestrian crossing opportunities
Schweitzer stated if you want to make a safe crossing there are challenges associated with crossing the existing four lane roadway.
▪New library and expected pedestrian activity
Schweitzer stated in years past the only destination was City Hall and by introducing a library to the south it becomes a stronger attraction for pedestrian movement. He stated the activity at the Library has grown tremendously and we are now lacking adequate provision for safe crossing of the four lane roadway. The URS study offered recommendations.
▪ New non-motorized trail may introduce a undesirable pedestrian crossing location with a sight distance issue
Schweitzer stated at Division Avenue we started with a non-motorized trail running along the Consumers Energy Right-of-Way from Division to Eastern, then Eastern to Kalamazoo. There are plans to continue from Kalamazoo over to Stauffer the Paul Henry Trail then come from there to come across to Breton Avenue. The new trail would come out at the curve on Breton Avenue.
Breton Avenue Corridor Project Goals
▪ Improve Breton Avenue at Walma intersection traffic control (delay and sight distance)
▪Improve the character of Breton Avenue corridor so that vehicle and non-motorized activity are compatible and balanced
▪ Connect non-motorized paths, add crossing points
▪Goals similar to “complete Streets” approach
▪Develop a gateway for the residential area and the City’s facility campus
Breton Avenue Corridor Decisions
▪ “Road Diet” – previously supported by Planning Commission
▪4 lanes to 3 lane conversion
▪Additional pedestrian crossing points
Schweitzer stated there was also a desire expressed to have additional information on bus stop design and location allowing for vehicular traffic to pass buses without impediment when the buses are off to the side. He stated there were concerns with traffic moving north south on Breton and if the bus stopped can through traffic continue to move through the area.
Schweitzer stated there were questions about how a roundabout would function. He stated the May Planning Commission recommendation suggested that a simulation be put together by URS before final approval to give a better base of information to make the decision. The city commission has not approved the expenditure for the simulation.
Walma Avenue traffic control alternatives
City Engineer Steve Kepley indicated, in regards to the “road diet” that the decisions include whether to add medians and how do we handle the intersection. Kepley stated one of the concerns is how do you handle the buses. Kepley stated they met with ITP staff and came to the conclusion that the City has sufficient right-of-way to build a bus turn out lane and also eliminate some of the stops. Kepley stated this way the buses can pull off the road and people can pass them and people can get on and off the bus safely. Kepley stated we also looked at location of the potential turn out lanes and we wanted them to be close to where we plan to design the crossings and where we are having the medians as a safe refuge for pedestrian traffic across Breton. Kepley stated ITP is very excited to see we are looking at the bus turnout lanes and very supportive.
Kepley reviewed the number and types of pedestrian movements in the interesting of Breton and Walma as a “T” intersection contrasted with the roundabout concept under consideration.
Kepley stated there was a concern at city commission of having the crossings right at the roundabout. Kepley stated according to the consultant, because the speed is slow, it hasn’t been a concern, therefore it becomes a non-issue. He stated because of the situation we have with the back lots, the fence, with the government buildings we can have these crossings anywhere from 240 to 300 feet away from the roundabout and it does not affect the vehicles looking left and turning right.
Kepley stated staff had discussion with the Disability Advocates of Kent County. He stated they had concerns with the 2 lane roundabouts for the disabled; there is less of a concern if it is a single lane roundabout. He stated they did bring items to their attention staff could incorporate in the design primarily with the sidewalk and the non-motorized trail. There suggestion was to add curbs for the sight impaired and second to have a dub down in the walkways so they know when they hit the dub down that is where they need to cross.
Kepley stated at certain locations in the corridor we plan on putting conduit in the ground for possible needs for electronic devices at the existing crossings and around the roundabout. He stated this would make sense to put conduit in just case something needs to be done in the future.
Schweitzer stated the commission needs to make a decision to go from 4 to 3 lanes, do nothing at the intersection, a traffic sign, or roundabout. He stated regarding the letter submitted by Howard VanderToorn, one of the things he pointed out was the relative cost between the roundabout versus the traffic signal in terms of the construction cost. He stated the traffic signal will have a capital cost of around $100,000 and for the roundabout the initial capital cost is $300,000.
Schweitzer stated the road diet by itself should yield some reductions in the speed of the traffic moving through that corridor. Schweitzer stated with the reductions in the speed that is where we would hope to see some gains in terms of relative safety along the corridor. He stated the roundabout in addition to the 4 to 3 lane we should see another level of reduction in the traffic along the corridor.
Holtrop asked about speed with a traffic light. Kepley stated if it is a 4 lane with a light you will slow down the speed some of the time, but really the only way to achieve an overall slow down is to go from 4 to 3 lanes. The roundabout would tend to slow the speed down even more. He stated you are going to slow the speed down some by going from a 2 lane in one direction to a 1 lane, but definitely by putting a roundabout in will slow the traffic even more.
Kepley stated if you put a dollar amount to the time spent at a light versus the gas spent it is estimated at $150,000 per year savings for the user between the roundabout and a light. Kepley stated cost wise the City would be paying more capital costs for a roundabout, but the user saves time and money, it is a safer intersection and we are definitely going to slow down the speeds and make this more pedestrian friendly. Kepley stated the counter point is, if it’s not broken why fix it. He stated their main concern is when we build this non-motorized trail from Stauffer to Breton and we have pedestrians crossings is it going to be safe. We need to provide a pedestrian refuge, or traffic light to make sure to provide a safer pedestrian crossing for users.
Groce asked what is the maintenance cost for having a traffic light. Kepley stated about $3,000 a year for electricity and maintenance. Kepley stated the cost of the light is about the same cost of maintaining the roundabout, you will have to mow, fertilize and irrigate. He stated for the traffic signal you’re paying for electricity and the maintenance of the lights.
VanderHoff asked what is the total cost of the project from 44th Street to 52nd Street on Breton. Kepley stated it depends on the sanitary sewer project. He said if nothing is done the city will do the sanitary sewer project and that will be paying for that section of road. Kepley stated will we look at the use of act 51 funds but the City hasn’t come to a conclusion yet of how we will allocate those costs. Kepley stated we have a rough estimate of 1 million dollars total for everything included in the sanitary.
VanderHoff asked why they need for a new sanitary. Kepley stated there are belly’s in the existing line. Director of Public Works Ron Woods stated this is a problem we have discovered over the past 2 years. Woods stated there was a problem with the sewer backup in an apartment complex 2 years ago. He stated we found out there was significant amount of oil and grease in the sanitary sewer along with baby wipes and handy wipes and it is getting in the waste water collection system, they do not biodegrade like toilet paper. Woods stated Act 222 of 2001 sets limitations in terms of municipal responsibility when it comes to sewer backups. When a sewer backup can be attributable to structural defects in the system that is at least 50% of the cause, then the municipality is liable for any of the backup. Discussion ensued about manholes and what needs to be replaced. Yokom suggested not putting the manholes in the traffic lanes. Woods stated if we are going to do the sanitary sewer he wants to do it all at once and wants to know what the cross section is going to be with the road.
City Commissioner Verwys stated he is concerned about the road diet. He believes we need a light or something at Breton and Walma. He stated a light would slow things down. He stated he feels a roundabout is never a guaranteed crossing and a light will achieve that. A light achieves a guarantee for the fire department. He stated another one of his concerns is the cost of the project.
Schweitzer stated projected traffic along the roadway was one thing that URS was required to assess current conditions and also project forward in the future. He concluded that the URS capacity now and into the future would be adequately addressed by a roundabout and the 3 lane cross section along through this area. He stated at the peak hour on 52nd street from Division to Kalamazoo is running between 1,300 and 1,400 cars in the peak hour along that stretch and the current volumes for Breton Ave is a little over 1,000 trips per day. We have peak hour traffic volume that is less than what is being experienced on 52nd Street between Division and Kalamazoo. Discussion ensued regarding different intersections that went from 4 lane cross section to a 4 lane boulevard and the difficulty of pedestrians making the crossing on the 4 lane streets.
Yokom asked is there any talk of having a turn in lane for the library. Also as you are coming off of Walma why not have an entrance to the back City parking lot; it would take a lot of traffic off the circle. Schweitzer stated the decision point we are at, if there is going to be a redesign at all of the street it is 4 to 3 lanes and then whether there is a turn out bay as you approach the southernmost access into the library that would be part of the Engineers to take into the account as part of the final design of the improvements. Schweitzer stated, regarding the city hall campus, there is consideration of establishing a service drive or connection from the library through city hall parking lot over to the service drives that goes currently to the Justice Center. Schweitzer stated there are a lot of variables that come into play and we will take a look at all of them to see how they might factor in.
Kentwood resident Howard VandenToorn submitted a letter to the Planning Commission that was in their packet was also present. He was concerned about where they plan to store the snow. He stated Eastern Ave works perfectly, it has an island in the middle at the crossing there are no problems.
Holtrop asked commissioner to discuss whether they want to go from 4 lanes to 3 lanes.
Kapes concern was the anticipated volume if Breton were extended. Schweitzer stated it is slated to be a 3 lane cross section south of 52nd Street and they are not projecting a significant increase in traffic. Kape stated living on Mapleview Street crossing 4 lanes of traffic is not easy from his own personal experience and the cars drive fast.
Groces concern was the estimated number of people trying to cross the street. Schweitzer stated we do not have a projection from the traffic consultant as far as what that activity will be. He stated we are just projecting the numbers to increase as the trail is extended and use of the trail expands to include non-residential trips..
VanderHoff stated if you keep it 4 lanes you should be able to incorporate/modify and put an island between each of the two lanes going in different directions where people can make the crossing. Schweitzer stated the southernmost median area you could probably do what was done on Eastern Avenue where you create the island in the middle. Schweitzer stated taking it down from 4 lanes to 3 lanes makes a big difference of whether or not you have two lanes of traffic; a matter of safety and judging speed as well as the number of vehicles coming at you. He stated going with 3 lanes you are assured there is only one car coming at you at a time and a better sense of their speed.
Helder stated in having discussion with Holland home residents they were wondering why turn a 4 lane road into 2 lanes because then you are going to have to turn it back to 4 because of the development. He stated he is a little torn as to how he feels.
Yokom stated he watched Eastern from 4 to 3 lanes and you really can’t tell a big difference. He stated it is a big improvement for pedestrians and bicyclists. He stated he thinks it makes sense to go to the road diet.
Swanson stated we have an area with a buildout and the consultant has developed what he thinks traffic will be and there is room for growth if he is low. He stated the consultant thinks 3 lanes will work much better and Swanson indicated his support going from 4 lanes to 3 lanes.
Groce stated he is more inclined to the 3 lanes for pedestrians.
Young asked what the Disability Advocates prefer. Schweitzer stated the perspective staff got from them and the Association for the blind; if it is a roundabout they generally don’t like them but they also acknowledged it is part of the landscape that is evolving and they are willing to meet with staff. They also indicated if we go with a traffic signal they would like to talk about that as well.
Holtrop stated he would like the posted speed limit to stay down as opposed to potentially going up in the future. He said regarding the road diet what are we looking to do. Schweitzer stated URS has taken the design as far as they have been authorized by the City in order to provide a concept as to what it would look like. Hotrop suggested putting in striping at the pedestrian islands. Discussion ensued regarding bike lanes etc.
Motion by Commissioner Swanson, supported by Commissioner VanderHoff, to recommend to the City Commission conversion of Breton Avenue from four lanes to three lanes.
- Motion Carried (8-0) –
- Sheldon absent -
Holtrop asked for comments from the commissioners as to what should be done with the intersection of Walma and Breton.
Young stated she would like to make sure Disability Advocates and others will be involved and their comments considered.
Groce stated he is in favor of the roundbabout. If cost is a factor then you might want the light. He stated if it were his choice he would like the roundabout.
Swanson stated he thinks staff has done a good job making the case for the roundabout. Swanson stated he thinks people will like the roundabout. He stated it decreases speed and increases safety and he thinks it decreases delay. He stated he would support a roundabout
Yokom stated he agrees and supports a roundabout, it will be safe and address the pedestrian and bicycle issues.
Helder stated he is not in favor of spending $8,200 for a simulation, he thinks there is enough evidence from other locations we can go look. He stated he supports the roundabout.
Vanderhoff stated he is in favor of the roundabout.
Kape stated he is in favor of the roundabout.
Holtrop stated a portion of the road is going to be torn out due to the sanitary sewer project. He questioned will it still cost the same to put in the roundabout or is some of the cost incorporated in the repairs. Woods stated we will not be tearing up the intersection of Breton and Walma as part of the sanitary sewer project. Discussion ensued regarding the sanitary sewer project.
Holtrop questioned whether a light would be safer for pedestrians. Schweitzer stated the traffic light does provide an opportunity for pedestrians to cross the street. Schweitzer stated in terms of its relative safety compared to a roundabout he feels that the way this is being designed to have the pedestrian crossing points away from the vehicular interaction; he thinks that gives the opportunity for a safer crossing even if it is an unsignalized one. Schweitzer stated you are negotiating one traffic lane at a time, traffic in one direction. As traffic moves through, there will be the gaps to make the safe crossing even if you are at your peak hour volume. Schweitzer stated the percentage difference between the two hasn’t been established but both are safer options that we have right now. Schweitzer stated he feels the roundabout may be a little bit safer with the pedestrian crossings away from the bulb. Holtrop stated if people are crossing at the bulb then he is assuming that will limit the number of people that will be crossing at the intersection which will then bring the question to do nothing. Discussion ensued with Kepley speaking about the pedestrians, vehicle conflicts, using a signal and a roundabout.
Holtrop stated he questions the safety of the roundabout. He stated they look cool cost more and it will save the user but he is not sure of the safety. Holtop asked why would we do anything why won’t we just leave it as a “T” intersection and encourage pedestrians to use the islands that are set up north and south.
Kape asked if we are not encouraging pedestrians to cross on the roundabout will it be an issue as to where the snow will be placed. He questioned whether is there a plan to remove the snow on the roundabout. Woods stated it hasn’t been a safety issue on other roundabouts and we will have a snow plow contractor that will be plowing the sidewalk. Woods stated he nor staff sees this as an issue.
Young asked about the stalling of vehicles in the roundabout and the fire trucks getting around. Kepley stated they plan to have mountable curbs and they will be able to drive on that, there will be 8 inches of concrete that will be colored. Kepley stated they have 16 foot wide lanes even if someone is parked on the side they should be able to get around without mounting the curb. Discussion ensued.
Holtrop stated the city commission is looking for a recommendation whether to install a roundabout or traffic signal.
Motion by Commissioner Kape, supported by Commissioner VanderHoff to recommend to the City Commission installation of a roundabout at the intersection of Breton Ave with respect to the relative locations of the pedestrian crossings as proposed on the concept plan.
- Motion Carried (6-2) -
- Holtrop and Young dissenting –
- Sheldon absent –
2. Master Plan Discussion
Planner Golder discussed Sub Area 8, City Center Campus. She stated the City never formally adopted a Campus Plan. She stated the former landfill area will not be available to use in the near term since the contamination will continue to be remediated at least 30 more years. Golder stated there have been a lot of comments that we do not have a central location, a gathering place. Discussion ensued regarding the City Campus plan.
Holtrop stated he would concur to keep out anything that includes buildings not on City owned property.
Golder stated she would like a list of the elements the commissioners would like to see in the City Center Campus Plan and, if there is any preference, where they would like to see them. Swanson asked Golder to put together a recommendation of all of the uses in some form, it will be easier for the commissioners to deal with. Swanson stated it isn’t really ready from this session, he thinks it is too loose.
Golder asked if there are any impressions on their thoughts to go by. Holtrop stated he like the bike trails. Swanson stated a play structure. Yokom stated if there is some way you can get in a Farmer’s Market and public restroom facility that could be used for the Holiday events.
3. Commissioners’ Comments
Swanson asked for any information regarding the merging of the fire departments. Schweitzer stated staff will check with the fire department to see what we can identify.
4. Staff’s Comments
Schweitzer stated the Subdivision Control Ordinance puts a limitation on the length of a street before you can build more homes. The Bretonfield developers, Allen Edwin Homes, built their first phase a couple of years ago and they are reaching the end of the lots initially authorized to be developed. Schweitzer stated they put the street and utilities in but because the dead end street is more than 1,320 feet they had to stop development short of the terminus. Schweitzer stated they have these developed lots but can’t put a house on them because they are too far away from 60th Street. Schweitzer stated Allen Edwin Homes have submitted a request that goes to the City Commission but requires Engineering, Public Works, Fire and Police commentary and a recommendation from the Planning Commission, for a variance from our standards. He stated they would like to build a temporary connection from 60th Street back into the development so they will be able to develop the rest of the lots. Schweitzer stated Oct. 11 the Planning Commission will be reviewing the request and make a recommendation to the City Commission whether or not to consider the alternate means of access into the development. Schweitzer stated they are proposing 20 foot wide gravel roadway that is built to support a 20 ton two axle vehicle (a fire apparatus) and they indicated they will maintain the rode throughout the year including during the winter to allow for alternate emergency access should the main access off of 60th Street be blocked. Schweitzer stated staff will assemble the feedback from the departments and ask that they make a recommendation to the City Commission.
Schweitzer stated there is a group that would like to approach the LUZ subcommittee on October 11 about the prospect of a development concept on the property at the south east corner of 32nd Street and Shaffer.
Schweitzer stated the Michigan Association of Planning meeting is going to be in Grand Rapids, October 19-21 at Amway. He stated staff will provide information to the planning commission if they wish to take part; we will cover the cost of registration.
Golder stated we also have a development plan that is starting to emerge with 60th and Kalamazoo on the east side. Staff will be meeting with the property owners on October 11 as well.
Motion by Commissioner VanderHoff, supported by Commissioner Kape, to adjourn the meeting.
- Motion Carried (8-0) –
- Sheldon absent -
Meeting adjourned at 9:44p.m.
Don Yokom, Secretary