Tuesday – February 2, 1999


The Meeting was called to order at 7:35 p.m., with Chairman Reinke presiding.




Present: Members Brennan, Antosiak, Meyer, Reinke, Harrington, Bauer

Sanghvi (alternate)


Also Present: Donald M. Saven – Building Official

Kelly Schuler – Staff Planner

Nancy McKernan – Recording Secretary


Chairman Reinke indicated we have a full Board here this evening and we will call this Meeting in session. The Zoning Board of Appeals is a Hearing Board empowered by the City of Novi Charter to hear appeals seeking variances from the application of the Novi Zoning Ordinance. It takes a vote of at least four (4) Members to approve a variance request and a vote of the majority of the Members present to deny a variance. A full Board consists of six Members. All petitions that come before this Board tonight will be final.




Chairman Reinke indicated with the Agenda that is before us this evening; we have Case No. 98-096 that has asked to be removed from the Agenda and put on the March Agenda. Is there any further corrections or additions to the Agenda?


Chairman Reinke indicated that under "Other Matters" I would like to add Council Meeting on March 11th and to have the election of officers at our next meeting.


Member Harrington: Relative to the "Other Matters" I will be absent from the March Meeting, I don’t know if that will affect the elections or not.


Chairman Reinke: We can discuss that under the "Other Matters".


Chairman Reinke inquired are there any other additions to the Agenda? Hearing none, all in favor signify by saying aye. All ayes. Agenda Approved.




Chairman Reinke indicated we have the minutes from the January 5, 1999 Meeting. Are there any additions or corrections to those minutes?


Moved by Vice-Chairman Brennan,


Seconded by Member Harrington,





Roll Call: (Voice Vote) All Yeas Motion Carried.




Chairman Reinke indicated this is the Public Remarks portion of the Meeting. All comments related to a case on the Agenda should be held until that case is called. If anyone wishes to address the Board on any other matter or case that is not on our Agenda tonight, now is the time to do so. (No one wished to be heard at this time.)



Case No. 98-099 filed by Lee Mamola, representing Johnson Group Services


Continuation of case filed by Lee Mamola, representing Johnson Group Services. The applicant is proposing to construct a building approximately 25,000 square feet in an I-1 zoning district and is seeking a variance for the berm, for property located at the southwest corner of Grand River and Taft Roads.


Lee Mamola was present.


Lee Mamola: We were here last month and we were tabled to this point. We are here tonight to ask that the "table" be extended until the meeting in April. The reason is that at this time tonight we feel that we have a very good likelihood of being able to comply with the ordinances and we may not need a variance. We did have some communication with the homeowners to the south and we did numerous re-designs and layouts all in an attempt to come to a solution tonight. We presented that solution to our site engineer and it is only because he has not had ample time to do all of the engineering to property detail the berm and a detention pond and I am not able to say that we are 100% certain that we don’t need the variance. I would also like to make the Board aware that the reason we are able to do this is; and it is not that our designs have changed so much but it is that we have an updated boundary survey and that has resulted in us having a little bit more usable property then we were aware of when we made the previous application. If the Board would give us the opportunity because we may still need a variance, it would be less of a variance and I am confident of that; but I would still like to hold our slot until April and if we determine that we don’t need a variance before April we would provide notice to the clerk and withdraw our petition at that time.


Chairman Reinke inquired if there was anyone in the audience who would like to input into this case? (No one wished to be heard.)


Don Saven had no comment.


Vice-Chairman Brennan: Just for Lee’s sake, we have adopted something new with the cases and you would be first on the Agenda and wouldn’t have to stick around all night.


Chairman Reinke inquired: Is there any opposition to tabling this until our April Meeting?


Member Harrington: Do we table or continue? What is that word that we don’t use?


Moved by Member Harrington,


Seconded by Member Meyer,




Roll Call: (Voice Vote) All Yeas Motion Carried


Case No. 99-002 filed by The City of Novi Building Authority


The City of Novi Building Authority is requesting three (3) variances (Density, Percent of One Bedroom Units and Length of Building) to allow for the construction of a 199 unit senior housing development consisting of one, three (3) story building and six, one (1) story buildings on an 18.65 acre site at the southwest corner of Meadowbrook and Cherry Hill.


Al Tuomala was present and duly sworn.


Al Tuomala: We are here this evening, as you know, to seek 3 variances from the Ordinance. The reason that it is necessary to seek variances is that we are proposing to build a senior citizen housing complex under the standards of a standard multi family ordinance, since the City presently does not have a specific senior housing ordinance. All of these items are somewhat related to that fact.


Al Tuomala: Originally we had sought to have the site rezoned from R4 to RM1 and Council last night changed that rezoning classification to RM2. This somewhat changes our request as it relates to density. I would like to take you through the project very quickly to bring you up to speed as to what we are proposing and then specifically address the 3 issues.


Al Tuomala: (charts shown to Board.) Our site as you know is located on Meadowbrook Road and at the corner of Cherry Hill. What we are proposing to do on this particular 18.65 acre site is to develop a senior community of 199 units. There are certain constraints and restrictions here and one of the foremost being the fact that as you see this orange line, this particular site contains approximately 5 acres of land fill material on which we cannot build. So, we are constrained from building in this area or putting any structures in this particular area. That requires us to condense the project to the north. It is also important to know that the site rises from Meadowbrook Road to the west property line anywhere from 20 to 30 feet depending upon where it is measured. We are bordered on the west by an existing subdivision, and there are houses all along here so that has been taken into consideration in our planning. What we are proposing here is a central building with 159 units that would house all of the amenities for the development and along with the low rise or the one story buildings along the perimeter here which would provide a transition from the single family to the 3 story building. The 3 story building is split, if you can envision this, along this access we have 3 stories that are entered from this particular grade level and the main entry being down here but the fact that the property rises when we arrive at this other side we are effectively a story higher than we are here; so we have 3 stories here. So we have a 3 story building that drops in the middle and splits and goes down; so it is 3 stories here and 3 stories here. So in a sense it is 4 levels if you measure it from the very low level to the very high level.


Al Tuomala: Our first issue has somewhat changed with the rezoning. Originally this particular site allowed us 406 rooms under the RM1 ordinance, however, under the RM2 ordinance it allows us a 4 story building with 1160 rooms; we are proposing 515 rooms which is just a little less than half of what is permitted under the RM2 ordinance. However, in working with the residents and we have had several meetings with the residents as we developed this project and this is the plan that we presented to them, we agreed to keep the profile of this building effectively 3 stories above grade from where it is measured. In a sense the RM2 ordinance which allows us 1160 rooms if we go 4 stories and it is in a sense penalizing us if we just elect to keep the building at 3 stories; because it reverts as the ordinance reads that you go back to the density for a RM1. The variance here is in affect a variance on height to permit us to use the density that is allowed under the RM2 for a 4 story building; but to allow us to apply it to a 3 story building in our case.


Al Tuomala: The second variance has to do with the number of one bedroom units. Under the RM2 ordinance we are permitted to have 33% of our units as one bedroom units; out of the 199 units that we have in this project we are proposing 82 one bedroom units which is 41%. However, RM2 also allows us in addition to 33% one bedroom, 10% efficiencies and we have no efficiencies proposed in this project. In a sense we are meeting the spirit of the ordinance by the fact that we are creating 41% of the units as one bedroom which in a sense we are permitted 43% of the units to be one bedroom or smaller. So we are in affect working with the spirit of the ordinance.


Member Harrington: Can you go over that again? You lost me on those numbers.


Al Tuomala: The RM2 ordinance allows 10% of the units to be efficiency units which are one room units. In addition to that you are permitted 33% of the units to be one bedroom units. So if you add the 10% and the 33% what that is really saying is that you can have 43% of your units to be one bedroom or smaller. We are proposing 41% of our units to be one bedroom with efficiencies. Efficiencies are not a marketable unit, especially in this particular market and the one bedroom units are necessary in senior housing as you need to have a higher percentage than you would have in a normal multi family housing project if you are going to offer affordable housing and that is what we are trying to do here. So by creating one bedroom units we will keep the cost down on the project and create that affordable housing. This is not uncommon in any senior housing ordinance. As a matter of fact your previous senior ordinance which was rescinded had no restrictions on the number of one bedroom. Also I might add in terms of density under the previous ordinance we would comply here as it allowed 542 rooms and we are asking for 515.


Al Tuomala: The third variance has to do with the building length. Again, we have a building here that is over 333 feet long. Trying to get all of the amenities and the units into the building configuration in a senior housing project we have been unable to accomplish that in most every project that we have done and I think it is probably true of any senior housing project where you have more than 100 units; trying to get those units and all of the amenities that are involved with that kind of housing development into the structure that is less than 180 feet long is virtually impossible. That is a limitation and I suspect that it will be addressed in the new ordinance that is being proposed for senior housing, but if it isn’t it should be. It is very difficult to be able to do that. We do have one case also with the one story building; this particular one story building the overall length is 194 feet measured from this point to the break and there is a substantial break at this point and it is 157 feet. Technically we exceed the length of that building at this point, but I think that in terms of practical impact and the fact that we have a 75 foot setback and berms and plantings, etc. and being that this is one story and the land is falling away; I think that the impact of this is not going to be that of a straight 180 foot building. It will be less than that as 157 feet really faces the development and then there is a break and it turns in another direction. So there is 2 instances, there is a 14 foot variance that we are looking at here and then of course the variance between 180 feet and the 333 feet.


Al Tuomala: Those are the variances that we are asking for this evening and as I pointed out earlier; I think that they are all related to the fact that this is a particular specialized project, senior housing, and it really doesn’t fall under the standard multiple housing ordinance as it is presently drafted.




Mark Sturing, I am one of the citizen members of the Building Authority and I would just like to express my support for the requested variances.


Debbie Bundoff, I question a comment made that efficiencies are not a marketable unit especially in this development, this is a senior housing project that is hopefully going to be affordable and there are a lot of senior citizens who may if questioned be more likely to want a unit that is barrier free for wheel chair access of a single person where it would make it more livable for them to have an efficiency type unit where there are less walls for them to be able to maneuver better; so I do question that. It would be nice if the City offered a multiple amount of units in their configuration. I also ask as to the 333 foot building as they way that they have configured it; had an alternative been considered such as a spoke of a wheel to where the center amenities are in the middle and units branched out and that way it would keep it under the limit in space; which is something that could have been looked at? Those are just my comments.


Larry Czekaj, I am also a citizen member of the Building Authority and I also pledge my support for those changes.


Al Tuomala: I would like to address some of the concerns that were made here. I will take the last one first which was the building length and the configuration; as you know a circle is the most efficient configuration and next to that is a square. This is a highly efficient type of an arrangement. If you start to take this building and break it up into spokes and we did look at various alternatives, it just gets longer. The other aspect of it is the type of environment that it creates; a building of this nature allows people to circulate within this building. If you take a building and you start to create spokes or H’s or E’s or dead ends or whatever it doesn’t promote that because what happens is that people walk to the end of the hall and you are at the end and what do you do you turn around and go back; this allows people to kind of meander through the building and it is much better environment for senior housing than the standard spoke type or H type or whatever.


Al Tuomala: In terms of the question of efficiencies we are providing 4 different types of one bedroom apartments in here in addition to 4 different types of 2 bedroom apartments; so we are providing a wide variety of apartments and the smallest is just over 500 square feet. If we were going to do an efficiency it wouldn’t be much smaller than that; I think that the lady brought up the concern about additional partitions and the only difference between an efficiency and a one bedroom apartment is one partition and one door. I think that the one bedroom apartment in any event is a better solution to senior housing. Why should we confine seniors to something that they really don’t want if we can offer a better alternative for practically the same price.


Don Saven: I am also the City member on the Building Authority so I will watch very carefully what I say here. We have been looking at this for a long time and certainly from the standpoint of view and the configuration of the building which Al is presenting, the building looks very good and building code wise it is right there. I think it is a top of the line type of structure that we want to see.


Don Saven: In regards to the first variance and dealing with the density; should the Board decide to approve this variance I would ask that the approval be based upon the density with the limitations of the 3 story issue because of the fact that we were dealing with this as a RM1 and it is now an RM2 the density actually doesn’t become an issue but we want to limit to the 3 story height requirement.


Vice-Chairman Brennan: With that said, would we also be limiting the number of rooms to what they have requested tonight?


Don Saven: That is up to the Board.


Vice-Chairman Brennan: What is the possibility of expansion later on down the road?


Don Saven: What I would suggest is that we look at the units that were presented tonight.


Vice-Chairman Brennan: We generally get a little ticked when we have a surprise and if we have spent the time to go through this and try to understand RM1 and then we are sitting here tonight and find out that the zoning was changed last night; if it wasn’t the City of Novi and if wasn’t that we needed the senior housing and if wasn’t that this has been on the cooker for a long time, I would have a tendency to say "we will see you next month when I have had the chance to know what RM2 is all about"; but having that said, I am not going to say it. I do support the petitioner’s request.


Chairman Reinke indicated that there was 102 Notices sent to adjacent property owners. There was one written response received voicing approval. Copy in file.


Member Meyer: I would like to ask what is affordable housing in your concept? It sounds like a novel idea here in Novi and I was just wondering what you considered affordable housing for a senior citizen who is on a fixed income?


Al Tuomala: We are attempting to bring units here in the vicinity of $500 a month. That is our target. Now that doesn’t mean that all of the units here are going to be $500 a month by any stretch of the imagination. But in order to provide a substantial number of units at that rate we are proposing to build the one story units that you saw over here (chart referred to) then larger two bedroom units and those will command a higher rent and they are actually cheaper to build than a building like this that needs elevator and stairs, etc. So in a sense we are able to then bring the rents down in this area.


Member Meyer: I have one other question, I was just wondering what the genius is behind having the meditation room on the third floor; is it because it is closer to heaven or because you anticipate the fact that most senior citizens cannot take anything but the elevator to get there? I was curious as to why there was not a meditation room on the first floor.


Al Tuomala: It was the space that was left. There was no spiritual consideration there.


Member Bauer: This would meet the ordinance that they had almost 15 or 20 years ago and they wouldn’t be here if Council had not done away with that ordinance. I can go along with all of this.


Member Meyer: I do have one other concern, there has been some talk in the community about the fact that this is being built on a piece of land that used to be a land fill; I would just hope that as one Member of this Board that you have done everything that you can to make sure that this will be a safe and a very secure place for anyone who is living there from any kind of toxic experience.


Al Tuomala: Yes, let me address that. DEQ has blessed to property so to speak. There are not toxic materials here. There are organic land fill materials, but there are no toxic materials here on this site. As a matter of fact, we are proposing a park on part of that. Right now it is capped with anywhere from 2 to 4 feet of clay. The provisions from DEQ is to not disturb that and we are respecting that and not putting any building on that; we will be doing some planting over that and that kind of thing but we won’t be putting any structure over that portion.


Member Meyer: Would there be a periodic check, at least for the first few months after this is built?


Al Tuomala: There have been monitoring wells on that site and that whole process has already taken place and DEQ has signed off on that. So they are saying that there is nothing wrong with the site and they are the final authority.


Member Harrington: I don’t want to belabor a point which really isn’t in our purview, but is your target $500 a month rent for these units? Is that including some kind of government subsidy contribution or offset against a social security check; you are looking at a net to the resident of $500 a month?


Al Tuomala: We are attempting to bring in units at $500 a month. Not all of the units will be at $500 a month but we want to bring in an substantial percentage of them at that point. Now, what do we have going for us; the land was free, this is a City project and there will be no taxes to be paid as opposed to a private entity and it will be financed with a bond issue which is probably more favorable than a private entity going to a bank. So, the private sector perhaps cannot deliver these kinds of units at that particular price.


Member Harrington: That is impossible for the private sector to deliver units at that price.


Al Tuomala: That is right, because it doesn’t have all of these advantages.


Member Sanghvi: What is going to be the range? Is $500 the minimum?


Al Tuomala: At this time we are looking at rents that may run very close to $1000 for the large units. So it will be from $500 to $1000 or in that particular range. All of that has not yet been finalized because we don’t know the final number until this project is bid out and we have the firm bids and the construction costs, etc. But we have had several estimates put together by reputable builders at this point based upon the amount of information that we have developed and it appears that it is a doable thing.


Chairman Reinke inquired of Don Saven: Can we review just exactly what we are going to need in each variance here?


Don Saven: I believe in the first variance for density, if you are looking at approving the variance that the variance be granted for the density in an RM2 provided that the height not exceed 3 stories from grade.


Vice-Chairman Brennan: And the number of rooms to be fixed at 515?


Don Saven: That is correct. Also the length limitation as expressed being 333…..


Al Tuomala: Precisely 333 foot 6 inches.


Chairman Reinke: So those are the only issues that we really address, the density and the height and length of the building?


Vice-Chairman Brennan: Also the percentage of one bedroom units.


Member Meyer: Are we going to take them one at a time?


Chairman Reinke: That would be the Board’s choice.


Member Meyer: I would like to take them one at a time.


Moved by Vice-Chairman Brennan,


Seconded by Member Bauer,




Roll Call: Yeas (6) Nays (0) Motion Carried


Chairman Reinke indicated the variance request for density and building height has been approved. We will now entertain a motion for building length.


Moved by Vice-Chairman Brennan,


Seconded by Member Bauer,




Roll Call: Yeas (6) Nays (0) Motion Carried


Chairman Reinke indicated the variance request for building length has been approved. We will now entertain a motion for the variance request for percent of the one bedroom units.


Member Meyer: Before this motion, may I ask for further clarification from the gentleman. Sir, why would an efficiency apartment not be appropriate for this particular site?


Al Tuomala: We have found this and incidentally senior housing is one of our specialties, we have found that it is not a marketable unit or a desirable unit. At this level and what I mean is that this is independent senior housing, it becomes a more desirable unit when you get into assisted living and when you get into nursing homes, etc. then you find yourself into the studio unit or the efficiency unit. But at this level it is just not a desirable unit. People don’t like to rent those if they are given a choice.


Member Meyer: And this is what you mean by not being marketable?


Al Tuomala: Yes, it is a matter of choice. People just would rather not rent those. We have had some projects where we have created efficiencies that have gone on for months without being rented and they have taken 2 efficiencies that were side by side and combined them and made a one bedroom apartment out of them. You have to remember that people are moving from a home environment into this environment and this is perhaps their first move because it is independent housing.


Member Meyer: I appreciate your clarification on that because I didn’t not understand this to be simply independent housing. For example down in Plymouth they have a setup similar to this but one is independent housing, one is assisted living and then one is as you have said senior care and I was not clear that this is all independent living.


Al Tuomala: Yes, this is all independent living.


Vice-Chairman Brennan: Further clarification, what we are ending up with one bedrooms?


Al Tuomala: We have 82 presently out of the 199 units and I think that translates into 41.2% if my math is correct.


Member Sanghvi: I am just curious, I have been listening to you on this and what happens if one of the partners breaks a hip and becomes incapable of utilizing these particular facilities and needs some kind of assisted living? Do they have to go across the street to the nursing home?


Al Tuomala: Yes, if they are unable to live in an independent environment then they do need to find another environment to live in. That is the way that it works. We are not trying to do a continuum of care here; which would represent everything from independent to nursing home; that was not in the cards and not in the program for this particular project. I think that Kathy Crawford, who is the head of you senior services here, has a list of some 400 and some people who are waiting for independent housing. This is the first or the initial move to get people who are presently living in manufactured homes, trailer parks or wherever and getting them into another type of environment. We are trying to keep this as residential as possible in terms of appearance and so forth; but it is the first transition move that people are making. This project cannot be all things to all people.


Moved by Vice-Chairman Brennan,


Seconded by Member Bauer,




Roll Call: Yeas (6) Nays (0) Motion Carried


Chairman Reinke indicated your variance requests have been approved. We wish you the best of luck.



Other Matters


Chairman Reinke: Under "Other Matters" this evening, we have a request from Council to meet with them on the 11th of March; Nancy would you review the time schedule that they talked to you about.


Nancy McKernan: I talked to MaryAnn, in the Clerk’s office and she would like a list of questions or topics that you would like to discuss no later than February 19th so that she can put them in order to give to the Council in their packets.


Chairman Reinke: As you can see in the copy of the Memorandum that everyone has in front of them, the Meeting will begin at 7 o’clock and I think that the time slot that they have allotted for the Planning Commission is from 7 until 8:30 and they have allowed a slot for the ZBA from 8:30 until 10:00. They have asked that we come early to interface with the Planning Commission. So they really are requesting that we be there at 7:00. I don’t think that the Planning Commission session is going to go for an hour and a half myself, but that is just my opinion. That is an awful long time to either be grilled or whatever. That is for your information and we will update that at our next meeting.


Member Harrington: On that Meeting, my recollection is that Council requested the Meeting with this Board and we didn’t request the Meeting with Council and it would probably be helpful to us as a Board and perhaps even on an informal basis if some communication could be received from Council as to why it is that we are coming on a special night to meet with them. There is probably a couple of things that we can think of to talk about, but for example we often receive the same question year after year in our interviews like the standards for granting a variance and the like and if Council would like assistance with the legal standards that we apply, we would be perfectly happy to do that I am sure. If they have other issues like how we handle particular cases that we can educate them, I think that would be helpful but it would really be helpful to us to know in advance where they are coming from and why they want to meet in the first place. It should be an information sharing meeting I would suspect and we will all be there to help share information. I don’t have any questions for Council tonight at least regarding Board matters.


Member Meyer: I totally support and agree with Mr. Harrington’s comments. They are the ones that have asked for the Meeting and I think that they are the ones who should set the Agenda.


Member Harrington: Or to act informally. I ran into one or more Council Members at our most recent get together at the Double Tree and there was a couple of points that were made. If Council Members want to call the Chairman or to call us or get the word to us as to what their concerns are as a Board perhaps we could intelligently respond to their concerns which justify the Meeting in the first place. That is only my thought.


Member Sanghvi: It would be a good idea to set up some kind of number or have some kind of ground work.


Chairman Reinke: Or maybe since we received this Memorandum from Council we should send a Memorandum to Council back from the ZBA requesting a basic agenda for what they are planning for on this Meeting session, so that we can be prepared to have information that they are looking for or that they want to explore with the Board so that we have a commonality of grounds that we are going to discuss.


Chairman Reinke: Please send that on to them, Nancy.


Chairman Reinke: The only other item that I have is that it is time for election of officers and I would like to have a full Board here to do that. Mr. Harrington you will not be here at the next meeting?


Member Harrington: I will be out of state at that Meeting, although I had scheduled to be here for the 11th ; can we have a special election meeting? Does is have to be televised? Can we use that time productively if we are going to be here anyway?


Member Bauer: It only affects this Board to begin with.


Chairman Reinke: I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t.


Member Harrington: Or have it in April.


Chairman Reinke: Either way, what is the Board’s pleasure?


Vice-Chairman Brennan: Let’s do it tonight, we are all here.


Chairman Reinke: I have no problem with that.


Member Harrington: Then let’s do it tonight.


Chairman Reinke: Then let’s go ahead with the election of officers, since we have a full Board here this evening. We will entertain a motion for the position of Chairman.


Moved by Member Harrington,


Seconded by Member Meyer,




Voice Vote: All Yeas Motion Carried


Chairman Reinke: Now for the position of Vice-Chairman.


Moved by Member Brennan,


Seconded by Member Reinke,




Voice Vote: All Yeas Motion Carried


Chairman Reinke: Now for the position of Secretary.


Moved by Member Brennan,


Seconded by Member Bauer,




Voice Vote: All Yeas Motion Carried


The new officers for the coming year are:


CHAIRMAN: Frank Brennan


SECRETARY: Michael Meyer



Vice-Chairman Brennan: What is this packet that we have here tonight? Did you just want to show us the forms that are used?


Don Saven: Yes, what we did was to update the forms. We have added in the policy and procedures of applying for variances, the last page will be added onto every applicants application for the Zoning Board of Appeals. We have tried to do this in one page. This is just for your information only.


Vice-Chairman Brennan: I have one last item, thank you to Mr. Reinke for a great year.





The Meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.











Date Approved _ _

Nancy C. McKernan

Recording Secretary