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 MAY 18, 2015, 7:00 P.M.
  (return to index)
  1. Chair Derusha called the meeting to order.
  2. Roll Call
    MEMBERS PRESENT:  Les Derusha, Robert Houtman, Richard Lenger, Alan Lipner, Russ Slater and Monica Sparks,
    MEMBERS ABSENT:  Kemal Hamulic
    OTHERS PRESENT: Planner Joe Pung, Staff Secretary Monique Collier, the applicant.
                Motion by Lenger, supported by Houtman to excuse Hamulic from the meeting.
  3. Motion Carried (6-0) –
  4. Hamulic absent -
  5. Approval of the Minutes and Findings of Fact
Houtman noted a misspelling of his name that needed to be corrected.  
Motion by Houtman, supported by Sparks, to approve the minutes of April 20, 2015 with correction noted.  
  • Motion Carried (6-0) –
  • Hamulic absent-
  • Public Hearing

Appeal #V-15-05

Applicant:                               City Sign Erectors
Location:                                 1920 – 44th Street SE
Request:                                  The applicant wishes to replace an existing pylon sign with a new pylon sign.  The proposed sign would have clearance of 8 feet from the ground to the bottom of the sign; Section 8.03.D of the City of Kentwood Zoning Ordinance requires a minimum clearance of 10 feet.  The requested variance is for a reduction of 2 feet to the minimum clearance from the ground to the bottom of the sign.
Paul Kovalak, with City Signs was present representing the request. He stated the store sits so far back off of the street that the owners, tenants and everybody involved didn’t want to give up any of their signage out by 44th Street. He stated they need every square inch they can get.  He stated working with all 3 tenants wasn’t easy. Wendy’s has a lease agreement for signage. AGO is technically the owner but they run the convenience store. AGO does not have their own brand of gas so they bring in a brand and in this case it is Citgo. He stated he is trying to negotiate and work with all three entities. He stated the site plan he submitted shows that the front of the property has a lot of easements, utilities and agreements. He stated he doesn’t know the history but believes that at one time the property was one big parcel. He stated when Meijer bought this property it was separated off from what is now a vacant building to the east and ended up with a lot of easements, which is probably why the building is so far off the street. He stated they have come up with a good compromise working with all the businesses. He stated they will meet the square footage and height requirements and being 2 feet lower to the ground, the sign is in an area where you could have a monument sign that would have zero clearance.
Kovalak stated the sign is not in an area that is questionable for visibility of cars pulling in and out of the property. He stated he talked to the owners and they agreed to maintain and re-do the landscaping so people couldn’t ride their bicycles underneath the signs. He stated the issue came up about the other off premise non-conforming sign that is to the east that they know nothing about. He stated he believes there has to be an agreement someplace for that sign to exist although it is currently vacant. He stated they would like to see the sign go away but he isn’t sure that will happen. He stated they meet all the requirements except one and hopes the Commissioners will think this is a reasonable request.
Lenger asked what the clearance is on the current sign. Kovalak stated he believes it is 10 feet.  Slater asked if that included the two small signs. Pung stated no that it does not. Pung stated they got the original permit and the clearance was over 10 feet but they didn’t show the 2 add on signs. Pung stated it is probably non-conforming; Kovalak stated he can guarantee that those signs will disappear. Slater asked the maximum height. Pung stated 25 feet.
Derusha stated the sign is tall and narrow has he thought about re-portioning the sign. Kovalak stated yes, he us working with Citgo. Citgo has their standards and they are a big player in this sign request; they have a family of 5,6,7,8 and 10 feet signs and this proposed sign is the smallest one that they have. Kovalak stated the sign was so close to fitting the ordinance that they wanted to give it a shot; it will make life easier for everybody.
Derusha asked how do the other two businesses feel about the sign request. Kovalak stated Wendy’s has agreed, but they don’t like it and AGO’s intention is they are going to start branding their stores. Discussion ensued.
Slater asked if AGO owns the grocery part of the store and Citgo is their gas vendor. Kovalak stated that is correct, AGO is the owner of the entire property.
Derusha asked who owns the other sign. Kovalak stated he is not sure. Pung stated there may be an easement for the extra sign. Pung stated when he looked at the original special land use and site plan approval for the Meijer/Wendy’s the parking lot used to be part of that office building; the office building has no parking. Pung stated there is a parking easement over those parking spaces and the site plan indicated sign easement. Discussion ensued.
Houtman asked if the reason they we are lowering the sign 2 feet is because they can’t go up 2 feet. Kovalak stated he spoke to staff to see if it would be better to go up 2 feet or down 2 feet and this being in an area where you can have a monument sign to the ground they all agreed they would probably have a better chance of going down 2 feet. Pung stated if they had a monument sign at that location it would be 10 feet high and would fill up what is called clear vision and the main reason for a freestanding sign for the clear vision; is that a freestanding sign can be placed right up against the ROW and at that point we want the clear vision.
Slater stated he didn’t know if that extra 2 feet to 10 feet helps with visibility. Pung stated once the sign is already setback 10 feet from the ROW this is also a right out only so you are only looking left for traffic
            Discussion ensued regarding previous denied variance requests.
Slater questioned if they were under their total square footage allowance. Kovalak stated they are under by about 2 square feet.
Houtman stated if the Citgo sign were shrunk a little bit then they wouldn’t need to be here asking for the variance. Kovalak stated this was a compromise that almost fit every aspect of the City’s code. They thought this would be the quickest and the easiest. Houtman asked if the electronic price signs are standard. Kovalak stated they are standard because as the price of fuel goes up and down multiple times a day and you are supposed to have 2 people in the store and you can’t have someone leave the store to go out and change the prices. They are only for a 5 foot wide sign, that is the smallest one they make.
Slater asked the height of the four signs that are currently up. Kovalak stated 5x5, 4x5, 4x5 and 4x5.
Derusha questioned if Citgo has to use their sign. Kovalak stated there is only one other situation when they have worked with Citgo when they are not using their signs and that is a non-conforming high rise where they are going to reface the existing high rise otherwise if it comes down or changes structurally in any way they will lose it.
Derusha stated the issue is that in order to approve anything there has to be something exceptional about the property; the property is flat and rectangular. Kovalak stated the building sits off the road and with all the easements and none of the 3 elements want to give up any visibility. Discussion ensued.
Sparks questioned if they could eliminate the bottom sign and have the price for the diesel and the regular. Kovalak stated it will be tiny if they were to do that.
Houtman stated he is concerned with opening up Pandora’s box.
Lenger questioned if he went with the pylon sign as opposed to the monument sign due to visibility. Kovalak stated that is correct if you look at the landscaping you can take it all down; visibility is not good and they would like to be as visible as they can be. There is no visibility of the gas station itself until you are in front of it.
Derusha questioned if he had another plan. Kovalak stated no he does not.
Houtman questioned if AGO would entertain any shrinkage of their sign to accommodate their two tenants. Kovalak stated he is not sure, he thinks the reason the signs are all the same size is because if someones contract/lease expires there is going to be a shift onwership.
Discussion ensued.
Lenger stated if you made the sign 6 feet wide instead of 5 feet wide and shorten the other signs up they can get the 10 feet and they can still get the square footage. Kovalak stated even if they do they can’t satisfy the square foot requirement. Discussion ensued regarding sign options.
Houtman stated his concern is when Citgo decides to leave the property and the new owner wants a sign that is 1 foot smaller then you have the sign below 10 feet from the ground and the top sign is no longer driving the problem.
Derusha stated there is nothing about the property that makes it unique to require a variance. Kovalak stated the front of the property is essentially unbuildable. Derusha stated that is a self-created problem.
            Motion by Lenger, supported by Slater, to close the public hearing.
  • Motion Carried (6-0) –
  • Hamulic absent -
    Lenger stated point 1 has not been met. The property is same as when it was purchased and is pretty consistent with others. Lenger stated point 2 is not met. Lenger stated point 3 has not been met.
    Slater stated point 1 is met business wise as there is an exceptional and extraordinary circumstance. Slater stated point 2 it met is a unique problem and point 3 is met.
    Sparks agreed that points 1, 2 and 3 have been met.
    Houtman stated points 1, 2 and 3 have not been met.
    Lipner stated points 1, 2 and 3 have not been met.  Derusha concurred with Lipner.
    Lenger stated point 4 has been met nobody is at the meeting to object.  Lenger stated point 5 is met. Lenger stated point 6 is not met.
    Slater stated points 4 and 5 have been met and point 6 is not met.
    Sparks stated point 4 is met and points 5 and 6 are not met.
    Houtman stated point 4 is met and points 5 and 6 are not met. Lipner and Derusha concurred with Houtman.
    Motion by Lenger, supported by Houtman, to deny V-15-05 based on the following standards not being met.
    1.      That there are no exceptional and extraordinary circumstances or conditions applying to the property that do not apply generally to other properties in the same zoning district. The property is similar to others in the area.
    2.      Due to the lack of any exceptional or extraordinary circumstances of conditions applying to the property the variance is sought so general or recurrent a nature as to make reasonable practical the formulation of a general regulation for such conditions or situations.
    3.      That the variance is not necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right similar to that possessed by other properties in the same zoning district and in the vicinity. They have the same sign allowance as others in the same zoning district.
    6.      That the immediate practical difficulty causing the need for the variance request was created by any action of the applicant. The sign could be designed to not require a variance.
  • Motion Carried (6-0) –
  • Hamulic absent -
    Motion by Lenger, supported by Lipner, to adjourn the meeting.
  • Motion Carried (6 -0) –
  • Hamulic absent -
    Meeting adjourned at 7:45 p.m.
                                                                            Respectfully submitted,
                                                                            Alan Lipner, Secretary