The Alert obtained this printout of the proposed free WiFi coverage area from Frankfort City Council member Richard Haan. This is just a preliminary plan, not final; if you’re interested in this issue, contact a Frankfort City Council member or attend one of their regular meetings, on the third Tuesday of each month at 7 pm in City Hall. The next meeting is June 18.
Archive for the ‘Infrastructure and Planning’ Category
By James Ward
April 9, 2013
ELBERTA LIBRARY—Present: Carl Noffsinger, Doug Holmes, Ron Beyette, Sharyn Bower. Guest: Don Tanner, James Ward
Don Tanner, our county commissioner for District 7, spoke about the reorganization of health care services. Benzie County is among the 21 counties in the Northern Zone that shares state funding for mental health services. He noted that the Grand Traverse Band provided grants to the Special Olympics, the Sheriff’s Department, and Grow Benzie. Benzie Area Christian Neighbors also received a grant.
The minutes from the previous meeting and the Treasurer’s report were accepted.
Clerk Sharyn Bower said the Board of Review went well and said that a grave owner has requested a tree removal at the cemetery.
Under old business, township board supervisor Carl Noffsinger noted that he will discuss cemetery maintenance with Mr. Eric Anderson, the groundskeeper. He discussed the need to verify the township’s role in enforcing fines for failure to submit a property transfer document continues to be tabled pending further research.
The board discussed the current contract with the fire department.
Carl Noffsinger was appointed by the board to be the emergency contact person for County Emergency Services. Ψ
Putney Team Responds to PC’s Request for Additional Information on “Elberta School Apartments” Plan Ahead of Hearing TonightIn Agriculture, Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron on May 7, 2013 at 9:46 am
By Emily Votruba
Last night (May 6), the Alert received an email from Loy Putney’s attorney, Bradley Putney, with answers to some of the questions the Planning Commission asked at the first hearing on his proposed Elberta School Apartments, on April 16. According to Village attorney Edgar Roy, a number of the questions were sent to the Putney team in writing before that first hearing, but at the hearing the Putney team did not have answers prepared. The second hearing is scheduled for tonight at 7 pm at the Elberta Library.
In the letter above, Brad Putney said he would provide the 21 page pdf of answers to the Village Hall (presumably the Village Office) this morning. View the pdf here Putney Team Answers to the 4-19-13 List of Planning Commission Questions
By Emily Votruba
Village zoning administrator Ken Bonney came by today to give the Alert a copy of the letter he sent to Loy Putney April 24 outlining the reasons for the stop work/evacuation order.
The letter outlines the history of the situation since January 9, when Mr. Putney applied for a land use permit for apartments. A land use permit is required whenever a change in use is proposed. In this case, the change was from “motel” to “apartments.” Because the Village zoning did not yet have a definition for apartments, and apartments were not an established use for the area in which the property is located, Mr. Putney was then required to submit a special use permit and application for site plan review. (At the April council meeting, Planning Commission recommended, and Council approved, a definition of apartments and the inclusion of apartments as a special use for district in question.) Mr. Putney did not appeal this decision, and did submit applications for site plan review and special use permit on February 26. Those applications are still under review, because, the letter says, Mr. Putney did not supply all the information required by the ordinance at the hearing on April 16.
That hearing will continue at the next Planning Commission meeting, on May 7 at 7 pm at the Elberta Library.
The letter refers to a letter sent April 19 from Village attorney Ed Roy to Mr. Putney’s attorney, Brad Putney, advising the Putneys that MDARD has not taken the position that he was free to remodel and occupy the site without zoning approval.
Included with the letter are parts of the zoning ordinance dealing with enforcement procedures. The penalty for noncompliance may be fines of up to $100 a day or a maximum of 90 days in prison.
Yesterday Brad Putney sent the Alert a copy of his April 25 response to the April 24 letter. Letter from Brad Putney to Ken Bonney In the letter, Brad Putney claims that the requirements of the Planning Commission are only applicable to new construction and were issued to cause undue burden and expense. He further says that the portion of the building now being occupied has met “the State’s safety requirements,” presumably meaning MDARD’s requirements for labor housing, for which Mr. Putney received a license for two units on April 19.
Also on April 19, Brad Putney submitted two FOIA requests, one to Sharyn Bower, Village Clerk, requesting the zoning map that was in effect on March 28, and copies of the wetlands surveys performed for the sites of the current ball field and Community Building located adjacent to Putney’s property. At post time this reporter has not found out why the wetlands surveys were requested. It also requests the complete assessor’s file for Putney’s property, with dimensions. The FOIA request to the Planning Commission was for all communication between the Planning Commission and the Village attorney with Ginger Bardenhagen, labor housing inspector for MDARD. Putney FOIA request to Elberta Planning Commission Putney FOIA request to Sharyn Bower April 19
According to Bonney, as of noon today, the two families who moved in to Putney’s proposed Elberta School Apartments over the weekend of April 20 are still there, and renovations are continuing.
“It ain’t anything against the people [who moved in]. The rules are the rules, and they apply to everybody. This is nothing compared with what other people have gone through.” Bonney cited the Trick Dog coffeehouse on Bye Street as an example of a long permitting process in the Village’s history.
“Judge Batzer ruled that our zoning ordinance didn’t allow labor housing. [Putney] was supposed to put apartments in there. If he did that and followed the ordinance and then put his workers in there and let them live there for free, or whatever arrangement, nobody would have minded.” Ψ
“The City of Frankfort was provided an opportunity to have a Master Plan created for the Lake Michigan Beach and Cannon Park area. The Master Plan study was performed by the Michigan State University Planning Department. The MSU Planning Team consisted of four (4) senior level undergraduate students. They have been working diligently on the Master Plan document since January 8. The Master Plan document including numerous recommendations for the Lake Michigan Beach and Cannon Park has been completed by the MSU Team. They will be presenting the document at Frankfort City Hall on Thursday, May 2nd at 7:00 pm. This presentation is open to the public. Please pass this notice along as public attendance is encouraged. The information generated will be useful as the City of Frankfort will be performing an update to the Recreation Master Plan.”—Josh Mills, City Superintendent
By Emily Votruba
April 25, 2013—This morning a stop work and evacuation order was issued to Loy Putney by Zoning Administrator Ken Bonney for the proposed Elberta School Apartments. The families who moved in over the weekend of April 20 need to move out by Monday, April 29, Bonney said. A statement from Village attorney Edgar Roy is forthcoming.
Mr. Putney, reached by phone this morning, had heard about the stop work order but had not yet seen it. He said he was waiting for advice from his attorney.
At the hearing on April 16 to review Putney’s special use permit application and site plan, the Village Planning Commission requested information from Putney, all required in the zoning ordinance, for his proposed Elberta School Apartments. After the meeting Edgar Roy said he had sent a list of at least some of the questions to Putney in advance of the hearing but that Putney had not taken the opportunity to come prepared with answers.
At the hearing, Mr. Roy said this was the first time since the January 4 court ruling by Judge Batzer that it became clear that Putney intended to create agricultural worker housing rather than standard apartments. Judge Batzer had upheld the Village’s decision to disallow worker housing as a regular use in that zone. Agricultural labor housing is regulated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and not by local building codes. It can only be used for seasonal workers and is not open to the general public. It is also assessed at a much lower rate for taxes, according to Benzie County assessor Marvin Blackford.
Tuesday’s IPR story included a photo of a smiling group of people newly moved in to the building and identified them as the Torres family.
“That’s no surprise. It’s the way it goes,” said Putney, referring to the stop work and evacuation orders. Mr. Putney wasn’t sure of the names of the people who had already moved in but said there were two families. “I’m going to have to look at what [the Village] sent me. I don’t know much at this point. I’ve got 5,000 peach trees to get pruned here in the next month.”
By Emily Votruba
Three days after the Planning Commission’s inconclusive hearing on Loy Putney’s special permit application to put apartments in the old Bay Valley Inn Property, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development approved and licensed three of the completed units, and workers will begin to move in.
According to Jennifer Holton, media rep for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Loy Putney received a license for three of the units in the “Elberta School Apartments” (former Bay Valley Inn) property on Friday, April 19, with approval to house up to 17 workers. As additional units are ready, he is expected to call Ginger Bardenhagen of MDARD and have them inspected. Holton said the building is deemed acceptable for a total of 50 workers once the units are ready, inspected, and approved. Each unit will be inspected to make sure it conforms to worker housing regulations (viewable here, and below as a pdf).
IPR reported this morning that Putney was beginning to bring workers in to the property, saying he couldn’t wait any longer to begin trimming his peaches. Village resident Iris Jones, of Wayfarer Lodgings, which is located farther south from the Putney property on the opposite side of Scenic Highway, posted on the Alert‘s Facebook page Saturday that she had seen mattresses being moved in to the building. (View/hear the IPR story here, and see a nice photo of some of the new residents.)
At the hearing on April 16, Putney was asked by the Elberta Planning Commission for additional information required by the zoning ordinance for his special use permit application. His application and site plan will be reviewed again at the continued hearing scheduled for May 7. Putney has not yet received approval from the Village Board of Trustees for his apartments.
In an April 10 letter from Bert Gale, Benzie County building official, to Loy Putney and cc’d to Village zoning administrator Ken Bonney, among others, Gale informed Putney that the department would not be processing mechanical and plumbing permits Putney had applied for:”Since the Department of Agriculture has approved this property for a migrant housing camp, no permits are required from this office.” At the time, however, according to Holton, Putney had not yet received his license from the state.
On April 12, Charles Sessoms, inspector for the Benzie County Building Department, told the Alert he had received verbal confirmation from Ms. Bardenhagen that the Building Department no longer has jurisdiction over the property. Putney had not yet received his license from MDARD, but Bardenhagen had done an initial inspection. According to Sessoms, Bardenhagen told him that Ag was taking over; Sessoms also said he had spoken with a state building official, who “told me to back off.”
“There are housing exemptions for migrant housing. It doesn’t exempt them from the taxes and the zoning,” Sessoms said, “it just makes that building is an ag use and therefore I have no jurisdiction over it.”
Tax assessments are based in part on zoning. In an interview with the Alert last year, Marvin Blackford, the county tax assessor, said agricultural property is zoned at about half the rate of a comparable stucture in another zone. The Putney property is currently zoned Commercial. So the question naturally becomes, does MDARD have the power to override local zoning?
In an email response to this question April 10, Holton wrote simply, “Zoning is not something that the Migrant Labor Housing Statute looks at or requires for a license.”
Loy Putney has always maintained in interviews with this writer that he intends to put migrant workers in the property, and that he intends to follow the state’s regulations for worker housing rather than the county building code. In a tour through the property in February, Mr. Putney pointed out that the state’s requirements are actually stricter in some cases, for example with regard to egress. At that time he was about to begin replacing several picture windows with ones that could be opened.
Marvin Blackford said Tuesday that he’s never encountered a case like this in 28 years of assessing, in which an agricultural use was proposed—and apparently under way— in a commercial district, and in which the local body had not yet approved the use. Blackford said he had spoken with his district supervisor. “He told me I was not allowed to issue anything on that unless it was ag production property, meaning 50% of it was in agricultural production, but he said the state would have the ability to override anything that I did. I asked him if he had ever worked with them before, and he said, ‘Nope.’ I would think that the Village would have to have copies of [the licenses and other paperwork] to prove that [Putney] was doing what he was told [by the state] to do.” Blackford said he too would need to be provided with that material to back up his eventual assessment determination.
“As it is, I don’t have a clue. Everything I’ve heard tells me [Putney]‘s going to use it for migrant workers. If he’s going to do that, having it zoned commercial is a moot point. If he’s already got [approval] for migrant workers, all he’s got to meet is the Ag building codes.
“I don’t understand the thought process. You’ve got two things happening simultaneously, one having nothing to do with the other,” said Blackford, referring to Putney’s application for commercial-zone apartments, and for agricultural labor housing. “Is he trying to make it a split use? Is he going to rent out some of the apartments to other growers?”
The Alert could not reach Putney for comment, but in an interview published in the January 2012 issue of the Alert, Putney said he planned to house up to 40 people “from May through apples,” and he reiterated that number after the Planning Commission hearing. In January Putney also said two families might stay through the winter.
Blackford says the state will ultimately decide how the property is assessed. “We are not going to be able to override what the state allows.”
“I find these kind of things hard to believe,” he added. “It runs counterproductive to everything we’ve done our whole lives as far as zoning and rules and regulations. But there are government agencies that essentially stand independent.”
Diane Jenks, Village board trustee and president pro tempore, said Tuesday that the Village is seeking paperwork from MDARD confirming Putney’s license. At the hearing, the Planning Commission asked Mr. Putney to provide any correspondence he’d had with the department of agriculture regarding his housing, including anything he’d sent to them by way of application and anything he’d received back.
In a court ruling on January 4, Judge James Batzer upheld the Village zoning board of appeals’ denial of a land use permit to Loy Putney for labor housing on the property. He indicated in his ruling that if Putney applied for “apartments” as a special use in that commercial district, he could see no reason why the Village would not approve that use if Putney submitted an acceptable application fulfilling the requirements outlined in the ordinance.
By Eric Pyne
MILLS COMMUNITY HOUSE, April 22, 2013—The “Framework for Our Future” Input Expo at the Mills Community House in Benzonia drew members of the public and some protesters. ”The Grand Vision,” a project of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, held an open house from 4-7 pm Monday. Scott Gest, one of the presenters, is a regional planner for the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments and is also the founder of the Elberta Land Holding Company, which owns property on either side of Elberta’s Waterfront Park, including the old Koch Fuel property and the former Ann Arbor car ferry aprons. (ELHC is not a partner with NWMCoG in the Framework for Our Future.) Gest described the evening as a chance for the public to walk through and see what the organization was about. He said that the NMCoG was presenting a “toolbox” of guidelines to assist local units of government in planning and zoning. He stressed that adopting these guidelines is completely up to the local units.
The Alert spoke with two of the protesters after the presentation. Kevin McGinty said, “They are bringing in Agenda 21 from the United Nations. This will result in the dissolution of property rights as we have known them.”
Ed Bianco, another protester, told me, tapping my notebook, “Write down U.N. Now there’s ICLEI [the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives]. That’s who is doing this Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. They are the first regional affiliate pilot in the midwest.”
A release on the ICLEI’s blog, October 4, 2010, confirms that NWMCoG was ICLEI’s first regional affiliate pilot. According to the release: “ICLEI developed the program because of the growing emphasis on regional planning in many places around the country and the need for accessible, streamlined regional data for local governments to make timely, informed decisions about climate protection and sustainability. Pilots are also underway in New York and California. The official program will launch in early 2011.”
Kevin McGinty went on to say that ICLEI wants to move people off the land and into cities. “They use the Delphi technique, to make senior citizens feel happy. But who are they to go someplace else and make a final decision? We can handle it right here.”
Bianco said another NGO (not NWMCoG) had proposed a master plan and zoning for Springdale Township, where he lives. Some members of the community, including Bianco, felt the organization was promoting some of the tenets of the United Nations Agenda 21. “We voted them out,” he says.
See the schedule for the other expos here.
Roving Alert reporter and photographer Jen Wilkins informs us that Ken Bonney and Charlie Hendershott removed the dock tops from the Marina Park inlet yesterday, as directed by Council. She says: “It looks good. They even stacked them nicely at the end there for anyone who wants them to come get them. Only one broke and is standing on end, he said he’d get it tomorrow [Wednesday, today] with the other side docks.”
Council/DPW are hoping people will take the opportunity to use the dock tops as planters or for other purposes, which will save the Village the cost of disposal.
Council and Parks and Rec have been discussing putting a boardwalk around the inlet on the existing support beams. Former trustee Bill Soper took this us as a matter of concern last year. He felt the dock tops, which were askew and loose in places, were unsafe and that especially now with the lack of water and the deep muck in the inlet, posed a serious hazard. —Emily Votruba
Herewith are three handouts from the Planning Commission meeting of April 9, 2013, provided to us by Planning Commission chair Bruce Ogilvie: the Annual Report for 2012, the most recent draft of the Medical Marihuana Caregiver Facility (Land Use) Ordinance, and the Alternative Energy Ordinance Draft. ”These ordinance drafts are just that—the best thinking to date on the subject. They have not been approved or voted on by the PC or presented to the City Council for consideration,” says Ogilvie.
The moritoria on medical marijuana and alternative energy continue until June 30, 2013. The Commission hopes to have the two ordinances ready for a vote by the City Council in May.