By Rosemary K. Otzman
Davenport Brothers was given approval to get started on their new strip mall project – but they are proceeding at their own risk.
At the regular meeting of the Belleville Planning Commission on June 20, the commission was presented with two, last-minute letters and so the “Davenport Plaza” was added to the agenda.
One letter was to the commission from Steve Davenport dated June 13 in reference to the development of 164 East Columbia.
It said: “The Davenport Brothers is seeking planning commission approval to start the excavation of the storm water system. We understand we need site plan approval to obtain a permit and we are asking permission from the planning commission that we can start prior to site plan approval at our own risk. We will be giving the city of Belleville a hold-harmless agreement. Thank you for your time.”
The second letter was a June 13 reply to Davenport’s letter from Keith Boc, the city’s director of public services, advising him the City of Belleville administration is recommending to the planning commission approval of their plans. However, it was contingent on city engineers approval prior to any construction or permit to proceed.
Boc stressed the administration’s recommendation is for the storm water system only.
Boc told the commission Davenport plans to start with the detention pond and storm sewer only, but they need planning commission approval to move more than 100 cubic yards in one year.
“This will allow them to move dirt,” explained planning commission chairman Steve Jones.
Another commissioner noted, and others agreed, Davenport has been moving a lot of dirt on that site for a long time.
Engineer Mark Gaworecki from Hennessey Engineers said what they are doing is just the storm sewer: a detention basin and pipe.
“They have submitted a site plan,” Boc said, noting the engineers and planning consultant Jill Bahm have looked at it. He said the site plan is in his office and applications have been filled out and paid for.
Boc said the site plan will be on the agenda of the next planning commission meeting on July 11.
“They are doing this at their own risk,” Boc said, adding, “It’s a nice project to come before you next month.”
He said Davenport will prepare and secure the site.
Commissioner Michael Hawkins said the request before them would be like forcing the commission to approve the project once they are started.
Bahm said the hold-harmless letter is so if they do all the work and aren’t approved they can’t come back later and say, “You said we could.”
Boc said Davenport has a lot of stuff on the property to move and he doubts if they will have the pond and pipe done by next month’s meeting.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the plan for the storm water system for Davenport under the terms discussed.
Chairman Jones said Davenports were in a hurry to start construction. The sign on the property says the mall will be available in 2013.
Commissioner Jesse Marcotte, who was the longest-serving member of the commission, was attending his last meeting since he is moving out of the Belleville community. He commented on his disappointment of the cursory review of the Davenport plan by the Belleville Fire Department.
Marcotte, who is a fire fighter in Northville Township, is moving from Belleville to be closer to his job.
He said he had the misfortune to respond to the May 8 disaster in Westland where 29-year-old fire fighter Brian Woehlke was killed after the roof of a strip mall collapsed during a fire. Marcotte said he knows how important building safety is.
“I’d be glad to do review of plans under the fire code,” Marcotte said.
Later, he said when Darwin Loyer was fire chief, Marcotte was asked to go over plans with Loyer, making sure fire codes were complied with. Since Loyer left, Marcotte said he has not been asked to review any plans.
In other business at the 37-minute meeting, the commission:
• Held an 11-minute public hearing on the updated zoning ordinance and the ClearZoning municipal coding process of the ordinances, which makes the city ordinances accessible at any time on the internet. Belleville Realtor Glenn Silvenis said he was not clear what they were finally proposing on the required 100% retail on the ground floor and restricting of offices in the downtown district. Bahm said after there was opposition to that, the commission agreed that up to half of a downtown block could be office space on the ground floor (instead of none, as is now the case). Silvenis said he still believed this restricting of office space is not good for the growth of the city;
• Approved recommending the Zoning Ordinance/ClearZoning to the city council for approval as one unit. A new zoning map is a part of the unit and all ordinances will be repealed and replaced by this. The zoning changes include current B-3 zoned properties on Main and South streets to the railroad tracks to be converted to B-2, Central Business. Also, the parcels south of Columbia, north and west of the railroad tracks to the end of Wabash has been changed from I-1 Light Industrial to B-1, Local Business. Belleville is the first community in Wayne County that will be under ClearZoning and Mayor Kerreen Conley said from the audience that that was quite impressive. Bahm’s firm, that used to be called Birchler Arroyo Associates, developed the ClearZoning procedure and then changed the firm’s name to ClearZoning;
• Was advised by chairman Jones that the proposed new sign ordinance still needs some minor changes, but it will be ready for a formal presentation at the July 11 meeting; and
• Heard Mayor Conley commend the commission and planner for the monumental task they’ve completed in the downtown zoning and conversion to ClearZoning, which she said would make it easier for the city to develop.
By Rosemary K. Otzman