View Agenda for this meeting




Tuesday, January 4, 2000


The Meeting was called to order at 7:30 p.m., with Chairman Brennan presiding.


Present Members Bauer, Harrington, Reinke, Fannon, Meyer, Brennan and Sanghvi

Absent None

Also Present Donald M. Saven - Building Official

Alan Amolsch - Ordinance Officer

Sarah Marchioni - Recording Secretary

Chairman Brennan indicated that there is a full board present and any decisions made will be final. The Zoning Board of Appeals is a hearing board empowered by the City Charter to hear appeals seeking variances from the application of the Novi Zoning Ordinance.


Chairman Brennan indicated that there are three (3) cases on the agenda. Are there any changes to the agenda? Hearing none, all in favor to approve the agenda, please say aye. All ayes. Agenda approved.


Chairman Brennan indicated that there are minutes from December 7, 1999. Are there any changes or corrections to the minutes? Hearing none, all in favor say aye. All ayes. Minutes approved as written.


Chairman Brennan indicated that since there are no hands we will move onto the first case.

Case No. 99-080 filed by New Horizons of Oakland County

New Horizons of Oakland County is requesting a variance to allow outside storage in an I-1 (Light Industrial) zoning district for property located at 41108 Vincenti.

Vice-Chairman Bauer: I would like to abstain from this case.

Kelly Watson was present and duly sworn.

Kelly Watson: New Horizons is a non-profit organization that serves adults with developmental disabilities. It is done in a vocational rehabilitation setting and there are one hundred seventy one (171) clients that attend the facility each day. They are provided with work opportunities by contracts and are supplied with piecework to work on. A long time ago, there was not enough work to provide the people with enough things to do. Now there is ample amount of work to keep them busy throughout the day but it involves some storage outside of the building. I would like to see if we could get an outdoor storage unit so that some containers can be kept outside.

Chairman Brennan indicated that there were fifteen (15) notices sent to neighbors. There were two (2) approvals, from Burc Partners and Argent Automotive Systems.


There was no audience participation.


Don Saven: Could Ms. Watson explain what the containers are?

Kelly Watson: It varies because it depends on what type of contract there is. Recently they have been empties that hold muffler parts. A truck will drop off a shipment that needs to be worked on and the empties will be put outside. The reason for this is that the company serves a population that is either visually impaired or has restrictive mobility so the aisleways are kept clear.

Don Saven: Could Ms. Watson give a general description of how large the containers are?

Kelly Watson: They are 12 x 12 containers that are stackable.

Member Reinke: How large of an area would you require?

Kelly Watson: We were thinking of something around 16 x 13 enclosure. They do not need a very large spot, just something that four (4) or five (5) rows of containers can be stacked in.

Chairman Brennan: Will this be a screened area?

Kelly Watson: Yes. I called Hall Engineering that is down the street and has a similar case. They had an enclosure built and I talked with the individual who constructed it.

Chairman Brennan: I would like to be clear on the need here. There are handicapped people that are given the opportunity to do work and they have special needs in a work environment. They need to be given more freedom in their workspace and not have a lot of cumbersome devices or contraptions in the way. This will be stored during the day and in the evening it will come back in.

Kelly Watson: If it could be stored in the evening, that would be great too because it is time consuming. Each day it is brought out and at 4:00 is brought back in the building. I misunderstood because I thought that it could be done throughout the day.

Member Harrington: Every case is on its own merits and this is certainly a unique situation because there is just a piece of paper. I think that this may call for a twelve-(12) month variance and subject to renewal like we do sometimes with outdoor storage to see how it goes. If there are problems then we are continuing jurisdiction over the next twelve-(12) months. We can consider a permanent variance but I do not feel comfortable giving a permanent variance when I do not know what you will be doing.

Kelly Watson: I submitted a blueprint of the building with two (2) options.

Chairman Brennan: This case was tabled so all of the documentation came with last month’s information.

Chairman Brennan: I have the same sense of giving continued jurisdiction and if there are not any problems after a year you will be invited back to get a permanent variance. I applaud what your business is doing and I thank you for being part of our community. I am moved to help and I do not see any problem with your request.

Kelly Watson: Do you mean that we would build the structure and you would make sure that it functions?

Chairman Brennan: You will build what you need and work through Don Saven in the Building Department.

Don Saven: I want to make sure whatever is going to be built is the same type of construction that the drawings show.

Kelly Watson: I got the blueprint from Hall Engineering and spoke with the individual. He did the same thing but for our building.

Member Fannon: I suggest that we look at what is behind the screen at Hall Engineering. I think that there is a lot of stuff back there that does not have anything to do with the business.

Moved by Member Harrington,

Seconded by Member Fannon,


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


Don Saven: I would like to get clarification on the rendering coming back to the board. Do you want to see this for the next meeting?

Chairman Brennan: I think that you have the ability to look at a rendering.

Case No. 99-087 filed by Larry Leo

Larry Leo is requesting a side yard setback variance of 4 feet to allow for the construction of a single family home at the corner of Lemay and Eubank Streets, sidwell number 5022-03-381-014.

Larry Leo, Sr. was present and duly sworn.

Larry Leo, Sr.: I am asking for a four-(4) foot variance to construct a single family house. The building envelope is only twenty (20) feet wide, which would make it very hard in a unique situation to build a house. I proposed a house that is basically twenty four (24) feet wide with a nice elevation. I think that it is very appealing and would look nice in a neighborhood.

Chairman Brennan indicated there was a total of ninety one (91) Notices sent. There was one approval from the next door neighbor, Walter Radu.

Larry Leo, Sr.: It affects him as far as the four-(4) foot variance is going towards his house.


Jim Korte: I would like to address the lot split first. There is an Ordinance that governs how you split lots. This original 120 x 110 was split into two (2) sixty’s (60) in October. I find it interesting when we have an Assessor that can say this does not guarantee that you have a building site. I talked with Terry Morrone with regards to how these things happen. He said that it has happened before 13 Mile Road when the northern part of Howell’s Walled Lake Sub was split from forty’s (40). The corner was treated different as any corner in any square of a subdivision is. Now that these lots have been divided it is all new city. The originals were grandfathered and the new ones are not. East Lake lots were split and Council had to do it because of the nature of the beast. A sixty-(60) foot building site in the middle of a block is not a problem. You can easily get a forty-(40) foot house and meet all current codes.

Jim Korte: There is another interesting problem. The water main just went in and there is no water tap. I talked with JCK and there is no water tap because it was not considered but one building site. That is why lot fifty-seven (57) has the tap and was to always be three (3) pieces. The Assessor had to do the role and the role went to Council. A year ago, it was not dividable. How does it get to be divided today? Terry Morrone also had a problem in understanding why I would argue this point. The last time I was here, I was arguing a thirty-(30) foot piece of property. That thirty-(30) foot piece of property was awful and could not grow anymore. If this piece were acceptably divided, do you allow new construction variances all over? I think that it is a pleasant house. Where does the garage go? He cannot put a garage on the property and even a detached would have to come back to the ZBA because it is substandard. A lot that was acceptable by anyone’s standards was taken and divided into two (2) substandard. I do not think that any of the Ordinances are meant to do this. I would at least like you to postpone and I do not know how you would allow variances on the new construction.

Sarah Gray: I live within one hundred (100) feet of where this is going. This has taken one (1) conforming property in old Novi and made two (2) non-conforming. There is also the issue of the water main installation. When the Eubank/Lemay/Maudlin water main went in we were the first in the city to gain the concession of a per building site basis rather than linear footage. This was lots fifty-seven (57), fifty-eight (58) and fifty-nine (59) that were deemed to be one (1) building site. Anything else in the subdivision that is greater than this 120 x 110 is not part of the current water main. If there is a water tap on lot fifty seven (57) there is no tap on fifty eight (58) or fifty nine (59) and the whole assessment will have to be refigured and recertified to allow for a new water tap. This is not the issue for the ZBA but it does have a bearing on this case. This would not be an improvement. It would be an improvement for the existing house on lot fifty-seven (57) to expand as two (2) owners ago intended to do. The key in this area is lake access. Everyone wants it and nobody makes it anymore. I am sure that Mr. Leo wants to get into this area because he wants lake access to Walled Lake. I would ask the ZBA to table this until you get the rest of the details. I do not think that you can make a decision tonight without having the benefit of the Council to make the lot split. I question whether the lot split was legal in view of the Ordinance.

Larry Leo Jr.: My father has been guiding me along the principles in what needs to be done as far as the jurisdiction and what can be done. It is not a matter of lake access in this situation. It is hard to find a lot in the Novi area under $100,000 these days. There was a question of whether or not I am encroaching on the lot setbacks. If I get the variance going towards the gentleman’s house then I would be meeting the thirty (30) foot setbacks that are being questioned. The garage is not even the point right now.

Larry Leo, Sr.: We are in the process of buying this and we assumed that it was a legal split. I do not understand why this point in time these issues have come up. I did not intend to cause anything to this degree of a problem. However, I do not see why I should be penalized for something that has already been handled and done.

Don Saven: There is a provision in the Ordinance that talks exactly about what Jim and Sarah were discussing. When there is single ownership of two (2) or more lots the property can be split provided it meets certain requirements. Those lots by the lake are either thirty (30) or forty (40) foot lots. As long as they have the same frontage and are contiguous under the same ownership they can split the property pursuant to the Ordinance, provided that they have the sixty (60) foot frontage and six thousand (6,000) square feet. This is probably what Mr. Lemmon had used in his determination of a lot split.

Don Saven: This is a corner lot and is a difficult situation to deal with. Corner lots always present a problem whether it is an eighty-(80) foot lot or a sixty (60) foot lot. The fact is that you have two (2) front yards. The building looks very attractive. However, the issue being brought forward appears to be some concern to the individuals coming forward. I do believe that with the information received from the Assessing Department that the lot split is legal.

Chairperson Brennan: Is the next door neighbor, Mr. Radu, the one that applied for the lot split?

Larry Leo, Sr.: I presume he was because he is the one that I bought the lot from.

Chairperson Brennan: Bought or in the process of buying?

Larry Leo, Sr.: In the process of, I have a purchase agreement.

Chairperson Brennan: Is it contingent upon this variance?

Larry Leo, Sr.: It is contingent upon a buildable site.

Member Fannon: What is the minimum setback?

Don Saven: It is thirty-five (35) feet. The two-(2) thirty (30) footers are off the street sides, the thirty five (35) is the rear and the ten (10) foot is on the one side. Also, a garage may be able to put up.

Chairperson Brennan: Is it common for an appeal of a lot split?

Don Saven: If there was anything about the split that was unique in character to the Zoning Ordinance then Council would definitely see this matter. Glenn Lemmon would ship it to City Council.

Chairperson Brennan: That wasn’t the case though, correct?

Don Saven: Exactly, because it met the requirements of the Ordinance under 2520.

Chairperson Brennan: The whole issue of the lot split was not even Mr. Leo’s business.

Don Saven: This property was under single ownership at a time when the water system was being put in. Whether this person decided to split the property now or two (2) weeks ago and the Ordinance was still the same then it would be under the same condition. I think that when this took place to when these people were going to buy the property is one of the issues that could be taken into consideration.

Member Meyer: What about the concern mentioned about the SAD (Special Assessment District) regarding the water main?

Don Saven: I think that Mr. Jerome should address this issue. Also, water mains have been put in and these people pay tap fees just like everyone else.

Chairman Brennan: There are some issues to be discussed, reviewed, pursued and debated but none of them appear to be anything that we have dealings with other than the variance request.

Member Reinke: What was there before? A non-buildable lot has been created without a variance. The lot size was large enough so that anything could be done as it existed. To me, this is an overbuilt lot. Secondly, you are creating a lot that you cannot build anything. A no-win situation is being created and is being condoned by a variance.

Member Harrington: The winner is the person who split the lot and is going to get a premium price conditioned upon a variance. The losers are the residents and the people in the area. I think that we are sending the wrong signal to encourage this kind of activity.

Chairman Brennan: We have variances on every new home constructed in that section of town. Call it old Novi or new Novi, they are all small lots.

Larry Leo, Sr.: There is a twenty-(20) foot envelope that is buildable. I was just trying to build a nicer looking home in the area. We are not asking to go overboard here and are very reasonable, percentage-wise, of what we are trying to accomplish. If you do not grant the variance and I do not buy the lot then someone can buy it and build a house that is twenty (20) feet wide.

Member Meyer: On the side that you are asking for the variance, there would still be thirty one (31) feet between you and the gentleman who wrote the letter of approval. On the Eubanks side there is thirty (30) feet and on the Lemay side there is thirty (30) feet so there is a very good balance here. I do not want to make any decision here if this is a matter that should be before the Council because of the lot split.

Larry Leo, Sr.: So is this an issue prior to the split?

Member Meyer: From the information that I am trying to hear tonight, yes.

Member Fannon: If this goes through, the variance is granted and the new home is built. A year from now, the house on the left wants to build off the right side of the home that has thirty-one (31) feet. They are an old, existing house. What would they be able to do?

Don Saven: They could possibly go up within fifteen (15) feet of that property line. They can come over another 10.4 feet. He could come forward from that lot forty-seven (47) feet, come back seventeen (17) feet forward and move over.

Member Fannon: Is this because this lot will always be looked at under the old Ordinance?

Don Saven: No, that split is a new split so it would fall under the provisions of the existing Ordinance requiring ten (10) feet on one side and fifteen (15) feet on the other. The corner lot issue is what is actually hurting this project.

Member Fannon: Let me get this straight, which Ordinance is the existing house under?

Don Saven: Everything that goes to that house from this point forward is today’s Ordinance.

Moved by Member Reinke,

Seconded by Member Harrington,


Roll call: Yeas (5) Nays (1) Motion carried

Case No. 99-088 filed by Cal-Neon, representing Countrywide Home Loans

Cal-Neon, representing Countrywide Home Loans is requesting a 23.25 sq. ft. variance to allow the placement of a wall sign 21.0’ x 2’3" (47.25 sq. ft.) at 31190 Novi Road in the Maple Place Shopping Plaza at Fourteen Mile and Novi Roads.

Craig Menerd was present and duly sworn.

Craig Menerd: We are asking for a variance in signage size to allow for what we consider to be proper identification for our client. The client is Countrywide Home Loans and he feels that for their federally registered trademark to read properly from the street that we need additional size. We have proposed an attractive sign that will blend well with the building. If you allow us the sign that we are asking for then we feel that it will read properly from the street. We fit into the center criteria as far as what they allow minimum/maximum letter height. One of the reasons that we feel it is important to go a little larger on the sign is that the Countrywide logo is upper and lowercase copy with the two (2) small lines of copy at the far right hand side of the sign stacked. Although the larger copy, the capitals of which there is only two (2) or three (3) letters would be two (2) feet three (3) inches tall, the smaller case letters are over one and a half (1 ½) feet. The smaller letters reading Home Loans would only be eight (8) inches in height apiece. While the traffic would be able to see the larger sign relatively easy, we feel that the smaller sign would not be able to receive the full benefit of visibility. In addition, within two (2) or three (3) miles there are several shopping centers that use more signage than what is being used here. We are asking to cover a little bit more than fifty (50) percent of the frontage and some other shopping centers use almost ninety (90) percent of their frontage.

Chairman Brennan indicated there was a total of five hundred sixty nine (569) Notices sent to adjacent property owners. There were two (2) approvals and eighteen (18) objections. Most of the objections are from the Maples of Novi, the adjoining neighbors.


Sarah Gray: I live within a mile of this and I do not drive to Fourteen Mile as regularly as I used to. I drove by the other day and I was surprised to see the two-(2) signs up. I finally figured out what they are allowed to have and what they are proposing. I am of an age where I have to have the visual enhancement and I had absolutely no problem reading the small sign. The senior complex is required under the PUD to build on the southwest corner and will go in between Novi and Beechwalk Apartments. I think the neon sign with the larger sign is going to be intrusive into some of the seniors’ apartments. I do not think that there is any problem with having the smaller sign. The colors make it eye-catching and it was a sunny day when I was looking. I think that the applicant is citing signs that may have been in place prior to the current Ordinance. I do not see a problem with using the standard, which is the smaller size. I would urge you to deny the variance request.

David Golberg: I am with Maples Place Shopping Center and I have no objection to the sign being built as they are proposing it. It is located on one (1) of the more prominent peaks of the building. We think the sign is very pretty and enhances the building.


Don Saven: I have no comments.

Chairman Brennan: We hear cases on their own merit and other stores have no bearing on our decisions here. We take a great deal of stock in residential interest, especially adjoining residential communities. Eighteen (18) objects, even out of five hundred sixty nine (569), is a lot. I have the same sentiment as the member of the audience that the smaller sign seems to be readable and offers enough visibility. Unless there is something else to be presented then I cannot support your request.

Vice-Chairman Bauer: I also saw the signs and I have no problem seeing the smaller sign.

Member Harrington: The sign set forth by Code is perfectly workable. There are no unique circumstances or features on site. I am concerned that what we have here is a brand new structure. We are starting to see brand new requests for variances without any demonstration of a hardship or need. I think it is a sliding scale of hardship on one end versus marketability on the other. The two (2) are different and blend in the middle at some point. I think that we are dealing with a marketability issue here and that can be handled through advertising in other forms. There are not any other commercial businesses within a long way. I will listen to arguments about other signs because similar cases should produce similar results.

Member Fannon: I sat in the parking lot today and I agree. I think it is great when we have the actual and the proposed next to each other as they were. I cannot see why we would grant a variance. The center itself has high visibility just because of its location. That alone is one of the reasons that we should deny it. Other centers that we have seen over the years do not have that type of visibility from the corners.

Moved by Member Harrington,

Seconded by Member Reinke,


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

Other Matters

Member Harrington: I would like to say that Nancy McKernan, the former recording secretary, will be sorely missed by this board and this member. She was a wonderful city employee who literally worked overtime month after month, year after year and was most effective in giving us the material that we needed. I know some of the sacrifices that she went through to help us out. She will be sorely missed and her service to the board over the years is really appreciated.

Moved by Member Sanghvi,

Seconded by Member Harrington



Roll Call: Yeas (7) Nays (0) Motion carried


Sarah Gray: Please understand, that what you have you done in the past on thirty (30) and forty (40) foot lots has to do with the phrase "originally deeded and platted". It makes a big difference. Thirty (30) foot lots, originally deeded and platted, can be built and require variances. They are overbuilt and have generally been an improvement to the area. This, as stated, is new construction and takes away all that old grandfathering that originally deeded and platted includes. Thank you for your vote.

Don Saven: One of the things that should be looked at is the provision in the Ordinance. He could have built a house that he wanted on that sixty-(60) foot lot.

Sarah Gray: I would respectfully disagree with you, Don. We are trying to do the best that we can for that area. Putting another "substandard house" on a small lot is not an improvement, it is a detriment.

Don Saven: If you take a look at the house and the sixty (60) foot lot then I think that it is possible that he can come up with something really nice.

Sarah Gray: He probably could but then you have to take into consideration that he is going to want a garage and will have to come back for more variances for additions, etc.

Jim Korte: We have a new tool and it is an Ordinance that has to do with eleven (11) points. Don Saven can demand either that it is removed or brought up to all code. We have never had exactly an Ordinance before that allows a very easy search warrant situation to get into these.


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






Date Approved: February 1, 2000 __________________________________

Sarah Marchioni

Recording Secretary