By Rosemary K. Otzman
“Steve and Harlan, you’ve been appropriately slapped on the wrists,” said Belleville City Manager Diana Kollmeyer to the Davenport brothers at the Feb. 13 meeting of the Belleville Planning Commission.
Davenport Brothers had been roundly chastised by the planning commission for laying foundations for a building different from the plans approved by the planners last July for their strip mall on East Columbia Ave.
“For the future, we have to all be on the same page,” Kollmeyer said.
But even after being chastised for what they were doing, Steve Davenport said it sure would be nice to move forward with the second building they have added to their plans.
He said a lot of things have to be ordered for the veterinary clinic they want to build, such as steel, and it would be good to get started.
But the planning commission said since Davenport had already laid the foundation for the new, unapproved footprint, and there was no plan to make them dig it up, they could continue to lay blocks on the main building.
But, they tabled the amended site plan and wanted nothing else done until after the March 13 regular planning commission meeting when the revised site plan will be reviewed.
At the beginning of this agenda item, architect Wayde Hoppe explained the revisions to the site plan. That’s when planning commission chairman Steve Jones dug in.
“I have concerns and confusions,” Jones stated. “It doesn’t match what we approved in July.”
He wanted to know how the building got from what was approved to what is being constructed.
Steve Davenport said it was tabled last summer because of the zoning and in the following month they presented the changes.
But Jones said it did not include the building change or the parking change or the reduced parking from 121 to 112, plus two other proposed structures on that evening’s plans.
Hoppe said the dotted lines on the plan were for a future building, not one for now. He was told to take it off.
“You’re working with a plan we never approved,” Jones continued.
Hoppe insisted that what they’ve done is an enhancement and improves the project.
“We expected an L-shaped building and find one building and an adjoining building,” said Commissioner Mike Renaud.
Planning consultant Jill Bahm said it was a smaller building that was approved.
Jones said the size went from 15,000 square feet to 17,200 square feet, which is 2,200 square feet bigger. Also the face of the building moved 3’ closer to Columbia Avenue.
“It’s a sizeable change,” Jones said.
Hoppe said the Secretary of State is their anchor tenant and they came back and said they don’t want the shape they originally approved, but need a 50’x70’ space, which is a size used throughout its buildings.
“Yes, we should have come back before adding the square feet,” Hoppe said.
“You’ve changed it considerably, which voided the site plan approval,” Jones said. “It’s gotten fatter and you’ve changed the footprint of the building.”
“We probably should have come back a lot sooner,” Hoppe repeated.
Jones said they are bringing the new building as a change order when it should have been brought for a new approval.
Hoppe was given about 11 changes to make to the site plan that will be brought back March 13 for review by the commission.
Harlan Davenport said they would be glad to pay for a special meeting if possible to move things along.
Keith Boc, director of Public Services, said he had been on vacation last summer and when he came back he was not given the correct drawings by Davenports and so he gave the permits for the foundation based on the plans that were not approved by the planning commission.
“Technically, the building permit is null and void,” Boc said.
Commissioner John Juriga expressed sympathy for the Davenports, saying the weather was holding them up enough in their construction and the planning commission should help them along.
But Jones said allowing anything that hasn’t been approved is wrong.
“What the building turns out to be is not what we approved,” Jones said.
He said the commission let them start their underground work early, changed the zoning for them, and then they changed the building.
“We were held back,” Steve Davenport said. “I don’t want to show you the emails. The foundation was the only permit. He had plenty of time to look at the plans,” referring to Boc. “He should have had comments.”
Boc said he thinks he sent comments to Davenports.
“What guarantee does this board have that this isn’t going to change again?” Jones asked.
Commissioner Juriga said they could rely on the reputation of the company.
Harlan Davenport pointed out the foundation of the building is in.
“If you want us to pay for another meeting, we can,” he said. “If you want us to change something, we can… We’re asking for a little bit of help here … We’ve had terrible, terrible weather … If we had good weather that building would have already been up…”
Jones said the commission has been as positive as it can on the project.
“I just want to move forward,” Harlan Davenport said. “We’ll get the revenue for the city and people down the street… The most current drawing is the one the foundation is poured for.”
Jones asked if the commission was interested in putting a stop work order in place to stop the construction.
“The damage has been done,” said Commissioner Renaud. “The project is way behind. I cannot see stopping the project.”
“I agree,” Juriga said.
Commissioner Mike Hawkins said he can’t see what difficulty it would bring to lay the blocks on the main building.
“It’s a pretty tough situation,” Renaud said. “Hopefully, we can move forward as one.”
“I look forward to having a completed project in the city this summer,” Jones said.
In other business at the Feb. 13 meeting, the commission:
• Reelected Steve Jones as chairman for the year and elected Mike Hawkins as vice-chairman;
• Listened to Sam Kassab and advised him to get detailed drawings for the proposed upgrades to his building at 510-524, plus detailed information on the sign he wishes to erect and bring them back for commission review. He said he will work with planning consultant Jill Bahm to make sure it all complies with city ordinances; and
• Noted there are two vacancies on the planning commission and applicants for the seats are welcome.
By Rosemary K. Otzman