JOINT MEETING OF THE WHOLE OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI
AND THE NOVI PLANNING COMMISSION
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 1996 - 8:00 A.M.
ACTIVITIES ROOM - NOVI CIVIC CENTER - 45175 W. TEN MILE ROAD
Mayor McLallen called the meeting to order at 8:02 A.M..
CITY COUNCIL: Mayor McLallen, Mayor ProTem Crawford, Council Members Cassis, Clark (absent/excused), Mitzel, Mutch, Schmid
PLANNING Chairperson Lorenzo, Commissioners Bononi, Capello, Churella,
COMMISSION: Hoadley, Markham, Vrettas (absent/excused) Weddington
ALSO PRESENT: City Manager Edward Kriewall, Director of Planning & Community Development, James Wahl, Assistant City Attorney Dennis Watson, Senior Staff Planner Gregory Capote, Deputy City Clerk Nancy Reutter
Mayor McLallen reported the purpose of the joint meeting is a continuation of the bus tour of two weeks ago by discussing the challenges and opportunities that lie before both bodies.
ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION AND/OR ACTION:
1. Proposed Amendment to the RUD, Residential Unit Development Option
Mayor McLallen reported most of the remaining RA zoned residential land in Novi has rigid lot zones and very little credits for environmental features. The Harvest Land Company owns more than eight hundred acres of land that has quite a variety of zoning classifications and they are trying to determine a way to develop a unified project. Further, the way Novi’s ordinances currently read, they have not developed a plan which would not require rezoning. The letter in the packet is their recommendation of how they can meet the goals of the landowner and the City.
Mayor McLallen said the developer’s letter defines a RUD zoning by quoting the ordinance. The remainder of the letter suggests modifications to the ordinance that will enable them to move forward with their project. Mayor McLallen reported this is the last one use land ownership left in the City of Novi. Further, the owners have been in the City for more than thirty years and in the past the land has been used for active mining. The owner is proposing to modify the RUD to provide for density based on gross acreage which would permit a density of 0.8 for the entire acreage. If it is a well designed program, they are proposing a density bonus of 0.2. The maximum density for the entire acreage would then be no more than one unit per acre. The proposal would give the City control over whether they grant the density bonus and would be based on certain criteria. They’re also recommending some revisions in the timing of the current process. Further, the owner has an issue with the RUD’s 350 foot buffering requirement because of the 170 acre lake area which runs west to southeast on the site and almost goes road to road. In addition, they are asking for greater flexibility in the type and alignment for pedestrian trails in a development of this size. Finally, they are asking that the approval process be modified. They have come forward because in the past the City had challenging processes. The reality is there is land ready to be developed and the City has ordinances that make it less than economically attractive for them to develop it as a signature project. The developer is asking to hear input and a consensus from this group about whether this is a process they should continue to follow.
Councilman Schmid spoke with the developer and although he likes the process of them coming forward, he is disappointed with this process. Councilman Schmid stated this is an effort that will change the RA zoning in the western portion of Novi whereby if they accepted this ordinance, they could eliminate the City’s present one acre minimum lot sizes. The difficulty is that it sets a pattern for the entire western part of Novi and is another attempt to reduce lot sizes and increase density throughout the City. Councilman Schmid thought they were committed to large lot subdivisions in the western part of Novi. Councilman Schmid believes they can develop this land under the current ordinance and they do not need this proposed ordinance to have a positive approach to zoning. Councilman Schmid is also concerned that the City’s attorney’s are recommending this modification. He is willing to look at ways to develop a certain piece of property when there are specific problems, but this piece is only unique because of the lake. Further, he will not support a plan to maximize profits by increasing the density by three to four hundred houses.
Mayor McLallen reminded Councilman Schmid that this is an 800 acre parcel and is probably the most significant initiative the City will face in the next five years. She said they need to start somewhere and added what better place than here.
Councilman Schmid reiterated that they can develop this land under the current ordinance and it can be done with a profit. Consequently, he doesn’t believe they have to change the entire direction of the City for one developer just because he has a large parcel of land.
Mayor McLallen reported the current density on 800 acres is at 0.8 which equates to approximately 600 units. However, this 800 acres is currently zoned R-1 and Other. The increase in density is only at the City’s discretion and Councilman Schmid is implying that they are wholesaling the density and they’re not. The cap would still be one unit per acre. Further, the maximum number of houses is very controlled and according to the City’s own studies for that region, this project does not exceed the projection of the density proposed when they fully develop it under the current zoning. She reported it is a change in the physical layout, but the actual number of dwelling units is the same.
Councilman Schmid believes there would be 800 to 900 homes under the current zoning. However, under the proposed development, there would be more than 1,000 homes.
Mayor McLallen said the other issue is the question of whether they are going to continue to fight lawsuits. Even if the City wins the lawsuits, it still costs them time and money.
Councilman Schmid replied lawsuits are inevitable and it was said that a profit cannot be made in this community. However, Councilman Schmid noted Novi is one of the fastest growing communities in the tri-county area and Michigan.
Mayor McLallen said although the City currently has a good litigation track record, she is concerned if they begin losing.
Councilman Mitzel said they calculate the current RUD density by some sort of net increase and he believes they factor out certain features like wetlands and lakes.
Member Hoadley asked if they are saying that they are not going to increase density if they were to adopt this proposal of more than one unit per gross acre? He reported 850 does not calculate to be over 1,000 units and that it would be 850 units. He said he heard the statement that there would still be no more than one unit per acre on a gross acre basis. Mayor McLallen said that is how she understands it. Member Hoadley said that is not what he heard from the developer. He understood they are looking to have 1,000 units. Mayor McLallen thinks the developer is saying they would keep the density for what is zoned R-1.
Mayor McLallen said the discussion of actual density is going to be a major discussion for these bodies. However, what the developer wants from this group is whether to send this to staff so they can determine if they can move forward or not.
Member Markham likes the concept of a clustering option, especially on parcels that have a lot of high quality woodlands. Further, when she looks at a project, she looks at the impact density has on the infrastructure and if they can also save big woodland parcels, there are some real benefits. However, she would like to know what benefit does this project have for the City? The developer is going to get 170 extra homes just by virtue of the fact that they will incorporate the lake into the density calculation. She asked if that means that they will also preserve other pieces of quality woodlands on the parcel or is their main objective to be able to mitigative that effect right now because there is a relatively unattractive lake in the middle of the development. She is not necessarily against this proposal, but again asked what is the benefit to the City?
Member Hoadley asked if they could increase the R-1 zoning on part of the RA to accomplish the same thing? Mayor McLallen believes the developer has discussed this option, but they are concerned about the City’s strong position on rezoning. Member Hoadley is not opposed to an overlying zoning, but whether they should radically change the current RUD zoning for one developer is debatable.
Member Churella believes the reason they went to R-1 was that the infrastructure of the City could not accommodate the mass movement of people into high rises and there is not enough revenue from them to pay for all services needed to support them. He believes cluster housing should bring a certain amount of revenue to the City in the same way an R-1 would. Further, it is up to the developer to notify the City about the types and sizes of homes they are constructing. Member Churella said cluster housing can sometimes provide the same kind of housing that a one acre development can.
Councilman Schmid said they are looking at this issue in two different ways. They are looking at it in terms of a tax base and how large a house they can put on a small piece of land. He said the American dream is to have a large piece of land in which to build a house. Councilman Schmid is looking to have a community that has a little bit of everything and he reminded members that there are ordinances in place that protect the woodlands and wetlands. He is not anti-developer, but he is concerned about how this will effect the western portion of Novi. He firmly believes people like large lots and he would like this community to have some.
Chairperson Lorenzo cannot pass judgement on the proposed modification for the RUD because she has more questions regarding the positive or negative impacts. In response to Councilman Schmid, she advised the woodlands ordinance does not necessarily preserve the whole woodlands. The developer has the option of intruding into at least a portion of the woodland and replacing trees, but not woods. While the woodland’s ordinance is a positive document, it doesn’t necessarily preserve whole woodlands.
Mayor ProTem Crawford is not opposed to taking this proposed modification to the next step to see if there can be some modifications made. As much as he would like to keep large lots in the western portion, he thinks there are some unique situations that make certain parcels undevelopable because there are too many restraints on the unique features. Further, he believes this parcel’s unique feature is its 170 acre lake and the current ordinances do not allow reasonable development with what they envision as density on it. He said if this moves forward, he believes they need a sliding scale or formula that will allow for things like a credit for a lake or woodlands. He said perhaps there shouldn’t be a one for one credit, but there could be something that would allow a compromise and flexibility.
Councilwoman Mutch agrees with Member Markham that there are certain advantages that could result in some modification to the current ordinance. One advantage is by restricting changes to developments of substantial size under single ownership will offer some uniformity and quality to the development. Further, she agrees with Chairperson Lorenzo by stating while they do have protection for an overall loss of trees, they don’t really protect woods or amenities.
Member Bononi is concerned about the state of their ordinance and she believes they are not ready for this type of development. She is also concerned about getting involved in developer driven ordinance revision. She believes they should continue to utilize or amend what they have, but some of that action should be coming from them and not the developer.
Member Weddington thinks they need to look at the city’s overall future. She believes the current ordinances do not encourage the comprehensive type of development the developer is proposing. Further, she is troubled by those things that could take away from what controls what they already have. Therefore, she is reluctant to go along with what they have suggested. She suggested that they look at the City as a whole and focus on what lands are still undeveloped and what steps they might take to encourage the kind of development that they want.
Councilwoman Cassis doesn’t believe any of the concerns are unsurmountable, but believes they will require more work. Further, the concern about how the rest of the City will develop is valid and she thinks they have an excellent opportunity because this parcel is under one ownership and their development team can work with the City. She believes there is room for compromise so that they can gain a quality development on the 850 acres.
Councilman Mitzel does not agree they should include the lakes for the density calculation when standardizing the ordinance. Further, he doesn’t agree with the density bonus issue. Councilman Mitzel believes the timing and internal process should be discussed under Item 4, Cutting Red Tape. He is not certain how the perimeter buffering would work and believes that is something they probably need to look at more closely. In addition, he is against the developer’s request to modify the sidewalk requirement.
Mayor McLallen highlighted the main issues and added that they really need to look at the big picture. She said although they have an opportunity to work with a single developer, they should be cautious and not tailor an ordinance for them. She reminded everyone that two major considerations are the density and quality issues. Further, the development should be mutually beneficial to the city at large and the developer. The Mayor advised there are also concerns about the review process and these types of projects take many years to build out. She reported the City would still like to be part of the process and they should establish a partnership instead of a regulatory nightmare. The impact on the infrastructure is another concern and raises the question about whether this type of development is supportable. Mayor McLallen asked if both bodies are comfortable with sending these issues and this matter before the Implementation Committee?
Councilman Mitzel stated according to Chairperson Lorenzo, they have already addressed the density issue and it is now scheduled to come before Council. Mayor McLallen believes Chairperson Lorenzo contradicted what Councilman Mitzel was looking for. Councilman Mitzel replied that Chairperson Lorenzo reported that they are going through the options of standardizing how they will address density and the public hearing will then come before Council. Chairperson Lorenzo said although Councilman Mitzel is correct, the option includes wetlands and lakes in the density calculation. Councilman Mitzel said the developer did not request that. Mayor McLallen said Chairperson Lorenzo is saying that the work has been done and that perhaps they should continue to discuss this issue. She believes Councilman Mitzel is saying that they have already discussed it. The Mayor believes it sounds as though there is still conversation to be had about this matter. Councilman Mitzel doesn’t see the need to send the density issue to the Implementation Committee because it has already been before the Planning Commission and Council will have the opportunity to address it when it comes before them.
Councilman Mitzel would rather not send the review process in terms of this one RUD before the Implementation Committee. Instead, he would like to include this issue with Item 4, Cutting Red so they can discuss the review process in broader terms. Consequently, Councilman Mitzel does not see any need to send anything before the Implementation Committee at this time.
Councilwoman Mutch would like to see a consensus on the need for a modification to the ordinance.
Member Hoadley advised he is an advocate for open space planning and unique designs should be a major factor in their ordinance considerations. Further, he believes they have an opportunity for additional education and training on this subject as a joint body since Council approved funds for this in the Planning Commission’s budget. He thought this would be an excellent seminar to begin with because they could get the opinion of an outside consultant about open space planning and how they can modify an ordinance to include the different types of features that they have.
Member Capello believes when the Implementation Committee reviewed these issues, they reviewed the ordinance as a whole. Further, he doubts that they had sufficient time to look at these particular issues in detail. He agrees with Councilman Mitzel that this matter should not go before the Implementation Committee again.
Chairperson Lorenzo interjected the standardization was incorporated into the zoning ordinance by the entire Planning Commission as a whole back when they began that study.
Member Capello still agrees with Councilman Mitzel’s suggestion that this matter be referred to staff or consultants for their review. However, he is not certain whether they have money for this study.
Chairperson Lorenzo advised that the Planning Commission now has a Special Study Fund, but since this is going to be a joint initiative, she would ask Council to give them additional money so that they don’t use all of their funds.
Member Capello said Councilwoman Mutch raised a good point about utilizing the developer’s as a resource because of their experience of planning many projects.
Councilman Schmid keeps hearing that developers cannot develop land on one acre lots. He agrees with Councilwoman Mutch’s point about five acre lots because they may get the same hodge podge of homes that is seen in the country. However, he believes they can develop the 800 acres into attractive one acre sites and still save much of the environment. He wants to know why they are saying that they cannot develop one acre lots into an attractive subdivision? He disagrees with the attorney who says that they can’t come up with a variance on a piece of land that has a unique situation. Further, he does not believe they should change the whole ordinance to keep saving the woods and wetlands because they have ordinances to protect them already.
Member Churella believes they should send it before the Implementation Committee and have the developer work within the City’s current ordinances.
Mayor McLallen reiterated the question before them is where do they go from here? She asked if there is a consensus to direct staff to look at the big picture, are there some statements in this particular initiative that need to be directly sent to the Implementation Committee or should they advise this developer to go through the process as it currently stands?
Councilman Mitzel reiterated his earlier comments and suggested that Council should take no action at this point.
Mayor ProTem Crawford is not certain what kind of consensus they are looking for, but he is in favor of proceeding with the first two. He thinks there is merit in having the staff do a limited review of some ordinances. Further, he believes the density issue needs to be looked at again.
CM-96-11-379: Moved by Crawford, Seconded by Mutch, MOTION CARRIED: To direct staff to come back in ninety days (second Council meeting in January, 1997) with a report about credits and density issues and all of the other issues stated.
Jim Wahl advised they had a briefing about this issue and they have already done some initial research on the whole question of residential ordinances. Basically they heard the ordinances are not working, but added that if they aren’t certain if that is true, they didn’t want that to be continued as a commentary. Mr. Wahl also advised that they have asked the Commissioners to suggest innovative residential ordinances that other communities may be using.
Mayor ProTem Crawford suggested that staff bring this back to Council at their second meeting in January.
Mayor McLallen restated the motion is to direct staff to review this morning’s conversation and integrate it with what they have already been working on. They will then provide a report that will highlight all of the issues that were stated this morning in a form that can be discussed and dealt with before the second City Council meeting in January, 1997.
Mayor ProTem Crawford suggested that the Implementation Committee’s review could then be the next step after the staff’s review.
Vote on CM-96-11-379: Yeas: McLallen, Crawford, Cassis, Mutch
Nay: Mitzel , Schmid
Mayor McLallen reported the motion passes four to two.
2. Further Discussion of the Special Bus Tour Meeting
Member Markham reported she has been contemplating the wetland mitigation site at Garfield Road near Napier Road because it doesn’t make sense to her. She asked if they really think that they are replacing a wetland simply by digging a big hole?
Councilman Mitzel asked if she has seen the design for that mitigation? He reported they are planning to keep a seasonal fluctuation of water with shrubs and vegetation on the site. Member Markham asked if it is going to be a functioning wetland in five or fifty years from now?
Mayor McLallen said they will have to pose that question to the State because they didn’t have a lot of input about that particular issue. Member Markham advised that she would like to know more about it.
Chairperson Lorenzo stated the mitigation issue is why, when they consider filling in wetlands, they need to consider it carefully and cautiously because mitigation is not considered to be an equal compensation or replacement. Further, mitigation should only be considered as a last resort.
Mayor ProTem Crawford thought the tour was very productive and would suggest that they do tour the City at least twice a year. He was disappointed that everyone was not able to participate and thinks they all should make a special effort to attend these types of meetings.
Member Capello said the two bodies should get together more often because he saw parcels of property and issues that as a Planning Commissioner, he would like to see addressed. It is also a good opportunity for the Planning Commission to hear Council’s comments about projects before they come before the Commission. He then identified several examples.
Member Hoadley thought the tour was exceptionally well done and complimented the person who organized it. Further, it prompted him to begin thinking about areas that perhaps may need re-master planning and suggested that they specifically look at rezoning the Haggerty/M-5 corridor to encourage the type of growth they want along the Twelve Mile Road Corridor.
Councilman Mitzel reported another issue they need to discuss is city initiated rezoning and ordinance amendments because he believes they seem to take two tracks. One is when Council asks the Planning Commission to change an ordinance to initiate a rezoning and the other route seems to come from other City departments or internally in the Planning Commission. He thinks that they should bring these initiations before Council first before any resources are expended on them. He further believes there should be more than just a memo buried in the administrative reports for these types of initiations.
Mayor McLallen thanked Chairperson Lorenzo and Member Markham for their efforts.
3. Direct Planning Commission to call a Public Hearing, Re: Recreational Uses in Industrial, Commercial, and Office Districts - Review of Planning Consultant’s reports.
Mayor McLallen reported the packet contains comments from the Planning Commission about this issue and the question is about whether they should send this before the Planning Commission for a Public Hearing.
CM-96-11-380: Moved by Mitzel, Seconded by Mutch, MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: For the Planning Commission to hold a Public Hearing on the Recreational Ordinance incorporated within the already proposed Public Hearing for Recreational Ordinances and will include the recreational uses as outlined in Mr. Rogers’ memo.
Councilman Mitzel agrees about having the authority to allow public parks within the other districts. He also thinks this is the direction private users should take as opposed to establishing a separate zoning district. Councilman Mitzel reported he doesn’t see a reason for listing all the uses as they appear on Page 4, Item 2 of Mr. Rogers’ October 24 memo because they can be granted under Special Land Use in office, business and light industrial zoned districts. He added the only issue they may want to address further is noise in the B-2 District.
Councilwoman Mutch asked what is the difference between nonprofit and commercial activities from a planning perspective?
Dennis Watson replied a nonprofit activity does not have the motivation to attract businesses and commercial advertises for profit.
Councilwoman Mutch asked why would they care about that from a planning perspective?
Mayor McLallen believes what Councilwoman Mutch is suggesting is that the language is unusual.
Member Bononi believes the language is traditional. Further, in her experience from a planning perspective the idea behind it is to limit the use. When use is limited, then traffic and everything else that goes along with it is limited.
Mayor ProTem Crawford advised the recreational uses allowed in I-1 District do not appear to address the Rotary Park problem. Councilman Mitzel explained the graph depicts only how it exists right now.
Mayor ProTem Crawford still does not understand the difference between profit and nonprofit activities if they both affect the surrounding area the same way.
Mayor McLallen thinks Council will have to discuss this issue at length when they have more time. Mayor ProTem Crawford stated he would like to have the matter discussed further before it goes to Public Hearing.
Mayor McLallen reported the difference between nonprofit and commercial is commercial advertises and random numbers of people can come and go. On the other hand, a private club requires membership and although the physical characteristics are relatively the same, who is coming and going and the type of advertising and the numbers of people will differ.
Mayor ProTem Crawford asked if a private noncommercial amenity is the same as a nonprofit? Mr. Watson replied they are attempting to get the same thing by not having the operation of business there, but still attract the general public to the facility. Mayor ProTem Crawford asked if that means they could not have a swimming pool, ice arena, tennis court, or a golf course in a residential area if it were park land? Mr. Watson replied he cannot comment on that by looking at what is in front of him, but he could if he looked at the ordinance. Mayor McLallen asked Mr. Watson to review the ordinance so that he can comment on Mayor ProTem Crawford’s question.
Councilman Schmid said the current zoning under RA would not permit a recreational facility as proposed on Eight Mile Road. He said it would allow pool clubs, but that is controlled primarily by the nearby residents. He doesn’t think they want to a allow recreational facility development in a commercial area.
Mr. Watson stated in response to Mayor ProTem Crawford’s question about whether the nonprofit aspect applies to golf courses as well, he reported it does.
Councilman Schmid asked how an ice arena changes I-1? Mr. Watson replied there are three use tiers. The first tier can be placed anywhere in I-1, the second tier requires a special land use and they do not allow the third at all.
Vote on CM-96-11-380: Yeas: McLallen, Crawford, Cassis, Mitzel, Mutch, Schmid
4. Cutting Red Tape
Mayor McLallen asked if Council should appoint a committee or ask staff to review any of the processes? Further, she asked if they are getting better projects as a result of the additional hours or are the hours being spent unnecessarily?
Jim Wahl reported this work was initiated because they wanted to determine areas in the process that were weak in terms of understanding, clarity or were repetitious before it came before Council. They also initiated a flow chart depicting the kinds of things that are either confusing or unwieldy. Mr. Wahl thinks it’s best to address this on an as needed experience basis rather than start a whole review of the process. He believes Council has noted some situations over time and they would be glad to make some suggestions about them, but he is trying not to make a big work project out of this. Consequently, he is hesitant to appoint a committee or initiate a study without specific experiences.
Mayor McLallen said there is a memo from Mr. Rogers relating to this and having identified the problem, she understands that staff will work on it internally to decide if they want to make any recommendations.
Councilwoman Cassis asked if they had thought of producing a check list for developers for immediate feedback about which things cause delays or are duplicated? Mr. Wahl replied they did that for the site plan process in 1986 and again in 1989. Councilwoman Cassis said she is simply suggesting a check list for the developer to amass information. Mr. Wahl believes they could do that, but also believes he could give them that information off the top of his head because he hears it every day.
Member Markham believes industries over use the term "re-engineering." Re-engineering involves looking at an existing process to decide if it is obsolete. She thinks she is hearing that their current process is obsolete for the condition that their development community is in at this time. She explained many companies approach re-engineering by assigning individuals to represent a specific aspect of the functions that are involved. In their case representatives from staff, from the development community, from the Planning Commission, from Council and so on would meet to profile the properties and work through areas in the process that are not working. From that they can develop the process the way it should be to protect the City and the developer. After that they can develop the forms, the check lists, the ordinance and other tools that are required. Member Markham suggested that they take this approach and that it be facilitated from someone on the outside.
Mayor McLallen replied that she will present this to staff and will she will come back at a later date.
Member Capello agrees with Councilwoman Cassis’ idea about providing a check list to the developer.
There being no further business before City Council, the meeting was adjourned at 10:00 A.M..
Mayor Deputy City Clerk
Transcribed by Barbara Holmes
Date Approved: November 18, 1996