Belding City Council passes fence, sign amendments, denies sidewalk amendment

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:55 am on Thursday, February 07, 2013

BELDING — During a first reading of three separate ordinance amendments Tuesday night at the Pere Marquette Depot, Belding City Council members voted through two of the amendments while closely voting down the third.

The first amendment dealt with the zoning ordinance dealing with the issue of front yard fencing height.

The Planning Commission met on Jan. 8 during a public hearing and voted to recommend for City Council approval for changes being proposed to the zoning ordinance which would permit, in certain situations, a fence to be in excess of 3 feet in height in a front yard.

According to the amended ordinance, fences erected within the front yard or the principal front yard in any district shall not exceed 3 feet in height.

Fences up to 6 feet in height may be located in the secondary front yard, however, they shall not be located within the secondary front yard setback.

According to Interim City Manager Sam Andres, the amendment was drafted to address an issue when property owner’s home that is further setback from a neighboring home wishes to locate a home in between both properties, perpendicular to the building lines.

Under the original ordinance, if both homeowners were to construct adjacent fences, there would be  a difference in fence sizes from 3 to 6 feet based on the position of the fences in accordance to their facing of the house — front yard vs. side yard.

This created an issue where one property owner may construct a fence of 6 feet in height in the same location that the adjacent property owner is restricted to a fence of 3 feet in height.

City Council members passed a motion on the first reading of the amendment unanimously in a 5-0 vote.

City Council members took more time discussing a first reading of an Industrial District Sidewalk Requirements Ordinance Amendment, which they voted down in a 3-2 vote.

Council members Tom Jones, Mike Scheid and Ron Gunderson voted no on the amendment with members Joe Feuerstein and Andrea Belding voting yes.

A change in the ordinance would permit an applicant to request that the requirement for sidewalks in the I-1 Industrial District in Belding be declared unreasonable by the Planning Commission during site plan review.

The ordinance currently requires, without exception, that sidewalks be constructed on all boundaries of the site that front a public right-of-way.

Councilman Jones said he was against waiving the ability to forgo having to install a sidewalk.

“I don’t like waiving the sidewalk (option),” he said. “I think you need a good system of sidewalks in this city.”

Jones pointed to a recent example of the newly remodeled McDonalds on M-44, which has a required sidewalk that doesn’t connect to any adjoining sidewalks.

“McDonalds has a nice sidewalk in, but it doesn’t go anywhere,” he said. “Why did we make them put it in?”

Jones said he doesn’t want to see a lack of sidewalks as a continuing problem in the future, especially in the industrial district.

“Why shouldn’t we have sidewalks or bike paths throughout that area?” he asked. “Particularly the industrial area. I think we need more of them, not less of them.”

Councilman Feuerstein agreed with Jones, adding that he believes the lack of sidewalks in Belding has been an ongoing problem that has lasted “years and years.”

“It’s in the charter in 1964 that (sidewalks) are required on all properties,” he said.

Councilwoman Belding said she believes one of the problem stems from the Planning Commission’s ability to give a two-year extension on new businesses installing sidewalks, stating that many of those businesses end up not following through with after the two years expires.

“I do think that regardless of whether we pass this tonight or not,  we have an issue where constantly, the Planning Commission is waiving the sidewalk restriction and saying you have two years to wait,” she said. “I think this issue is going to continue.”

Belding added that she does not believe sidewalks are a necessity in the industrial district, stating that there are other areas in Belding, such as along M-44, that have sidewalk issues as well.

In voting on a zoning ordinance amendment for residential signs, council members voted unanimously to pass a motion on the first reading.

The amendment would permit roof-mounted signs of up to 60 feet in size on properties in a residential zoning district that have been granted special land use approval for a golf course or country club.

The request for the amendment came from the owners of Candlestone to install a 60-foot, roof-mounted, internally illuminated sign.

The property is zoned R-1 which allows the golf course and country club as a special land use.

The business currently has one ground ponded sign fronting Storey Road (M-91), but Candlestone Manager Craig Crebressa said the roadside signage is not enough.

“Over the last two years we’ve realized that people do not realize there is a restaurant in the facility,” Crebressa said. “Being so far off the road, it is hard for people, especially from out of town, to know that there is more than just a golf course and hotel.”

Crebessa said the rooftop sign would be installed above the overhang of the raceway, the area where cars pull up to drop off passengers, not on the actual Candlestone building itself.

Jones said he believes the extra signage would be beneficial to the business.

“It’s a fine establishment and I think they could probably use some extra signage as it is set back from M-44,” he said.

Feuerstein said he agreed that the restaurant could use additional signage, but added that he would rather see the property rezoned rather than given an additional special land use.

Mayor Ron Gunderson said that the owners at Candlestone have pursued rezoning as an option at the city level, but at this point it is viewed as too costly as an option for the establishment.

Crebressa added that there is discussion to create an automated shutdown of the illuminated sign, possibly sometime after 3 a.m. after business hours.

“We’re definitely not interested in light pollution,” he added.

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