Salted with Sharks

Posts Tagged ‘#putneylaborhousing’

Putney Occupancy Rate Appeal Continues Tomorrow

In Agriculture, Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron on September 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Tomorrow night at 6 pm at the Community Building, the Elberta Zoning Board of Appeals continues its hearing on Loy Putney’s appeal of the Council’s decision to require an occupancy rate of no more than one person per 165 square feet in his new Bay Valley Inn apartments, which he is using for migrant worker housing. The housing was approved this winter under MDARD regulations at an occupancy rate of 1 person per 100 square feet and is already inhabited by about 17 people, who had moved in as of May. Mr. Putney received his special use permit from the Village of Elberta in June.—Emily Votruba

Continued Hearing on Putney Appeal

Putney Team Responds to PC’s Request for Additional Information on “Elberta School Apartments” Plan Ahead of Hearing Tonight

In 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.

May 6 letter from Brad Putney to Village attorney Edgar Roy regarding Planning Commission questions.

May 6 letter from Brad Putney to Village attorney Edgar Roy regarding Planning Commission questions.

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

Evacuation/Stop Work Deadline Passes, Putney Workers Still On Site, Work Continues

In Agriculture, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Law & Order, On and off the Apron on April 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

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.

Letter from Ken Bonney to Loy Putney April 24

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

Stop Work, Evacuation Order Issued on Putney’s Elberta School Apartments

In Agriculture, Breaking, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron on April 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

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.”



Putney Begins Moving Workers in to Elberta School Apartments; Zoning Still up in the Air

In Agriculture, Breaking, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Politics on April 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

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.

Bert Gale letter to Loy Putney re permits

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.

Part 124 of Michigan Public Act 368 of 1978 as amended: Provisions Relating to Agricultural Labor Camps

Planning Commission Hearings on “Apartments” Definition and Putney’s Special Use Permit Application

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Uncategorized on April 12, 2013 at 12:39 am

By Emily Votruba

Next Tuesday, April 16, beginning at 7 pm, the Elberta Planning Commission will hold two public hearings at the Elberta Library (704 Frankfort Avenue).

The public is asked to consider the Commission’s proposed definition of “apartments.” If approved by the commission and the village council, this definition will be added to the zoning ordinance. The commission also proposes to make “apartments” permissible as a special use in the C-1 Commercial District.

The proposed definition of apartments to be discussed Tuesday, April 16. Obtained on April 11 from the Village Office.

The proposed definition of apartments to be discussed Tuesday, April 16. Obtained on April 11 from the Village Office.

The proposed definition: “A unit with one or more rooms having a private bath(s), and private kitchen facilities. An independent, self-contained unit used for residential purposes in a building containing three (3) or more said units.”

The C-1 Commercial District is roughly contiguous with the former Bay Valley Inn property. The map below appeared in the 2008-13 Park and Recreation Plan, which was compiled with the help of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. The official zoning map of the Village is being updated and was not available at post time.

Zoning Map

The second hearing concerns Loy Putney’s special use permit application to create “apartments” in the C-1 Commercial District at the old Bay Valley Inn property, which he purchased in March 2012.

Mr. Putney’s site plan review application, special use permit application, and site plan appear below. The application was obtained today from Ken Bonney, Village Zoning Administrator. You’ll see that Mr. Putney applied for “apartments,” as a special use in the C-1 District.

application for site plan review application for special use permit

Mr. Putney’s site plan drawings for what he proposes to call the Elberta School Apartments can be viewed here: Site Plan for Elberta School Apartments.

Loy Putney brought a lawsuit against the Village board of trustees last year alleging racial bias in the denial of the land use and special use permits he submitted to create agricultural labor housing in the Bay Valley Inn Property.

On January 9, Judge James Batzer dismissed the racial bias claim and upheld the Elberta Zoning Board of Appeals’ June decision to deny Putney’s initial land-use permit application, as labor housing is not a use covered by our zoning. The Judge also found that the zoning ordinance has to be made available immediately, either printed off the computer or in hard copy for a reasonable photocopying fee, to whomever requests it.

Judge Batzer indicated that if Putney went on to apply for “apartments,” any conditions imposed on that subsequent permit application should be reasonable, and that the Village should strictly follow the timeframe for response outlined in the ordinance.

After the ruling, Village attorney Ed Roy, reached by phone, made the following comment: “The Village is pleased that the Judge agreed with the Village’s position, that both the zoning administrator and the ZBA did their job correctly. The Village is saddened by the fact that Village residents incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees in what should have been a simple matter.” Ψ

Ruling by Judge James Batzer in Loy F. Putney v. Village of Elberta