By Rosemary K. Otzman
The first completely revised zoning ordinance for Sumpter Township in more than three decades was approved by the Planning Commission at its regular meeting March 14, following a public hearing.
The Planning Commission has been working on the zoning ordinance for a year and a half. The last major overhaul of the zoning ordinance was in 1977.
Laura Kreps of Carlisle Wortman has been working with the commissioners on the project. She said many things have been changed as required by the state. Also they have reduced the number of zoning districts and came down to two residential and up to three business districts.
One of the most-asked-about provision is on outdoor furnaces. She said if you already have one, you are grandfathered in. This furnace is only allowed in Agricultural, Rural Farm, and Residential-1 districts.
Kreps said it’s not for cooking or grilling and owners are not allowed to burn leaves, garbage or rubber.
The furnace needs to be placed at least 200 feet from the property line and the chimney must be at least 30 feet from the principal building. The flue should be no less than 30 feet tall. All brush should be cleared in a 30 foot radius of the furnaces.
Gary Rogalski of Executive Drive said he has been selling wood-burning furnaces since 2005. He said he is the No. 1 seller of outdoor furnaces in this area.
Rogalski said a two-story house is only 21 feet high, speaking about the 30 feet height required for the stack. He also asked how you would support a 30-foot stack. Later he was told guy wires would work.
He said he installed 60 units in Sumpter Township. He said if a furnace has to be 200 feet from the property line and the furnace is in the middle of the lot, you would need 400 or 410 feet of frontage.
He asked what kind of experience she had with outdoor furnaces and she said her firm is planning consultant for more than 70 municipalities, including Huron, Ida, Manchester, Linden, and Augusta.
“I’m inclined to agree with him,” said Trustee Alan Bates, who sits on the Planning Commission, noting there is a 150 foot minimum frontage for lots and they couldn’t have furnaces.
“If everyone had one, there would be a lot of smoke…” said Commissioner Jim Clark.
Rogalski said he has a 3,000 square foot house and doesn’t make $40,000. He has paid over $1,000 a winter for propane and he can heat for a whole year for less than $1,000 with the furnace.
He said some people in Sumpter grow their own food, hunt, and work on their own cars – plus pay $3,000 in taxes.
Rogalski said most people can’t comply with the 400 feet and, “I guess that’s the way to get rid of them.”
Commissioner Clark said the township isn’t able to watch everyone and there has been irresponsible burning.
Rogalski agreed, but said Dundee adopted a very similar ordinance on outdoor furnaces and then dropped it because it didn’t work out. They required Phase II stoves, which were twice the price of Phase I stoves. Now they are accepting Phase I stoves.
Brad Traskos of Willis Road said these stoves are expensive, starting at $8,000 and then getting up to $10,000 by adding a little. He said when they cover more than 4,000 square feet in two buildings, it comes to $16,000.
“I don’t think you’re going to be overrun with these in Sumpter,” Traskos said. “It’s a very expensive project … people don’t have the money.”
Rogalski said in 2009, he did 70 units and in 2011 and 2012, he did seven each year. He said he did four this year, with only one in Sumpter.
“It’s not for everyone,” Rogalski said, noting you have to have 30 to 40 cords of wood a year and you become a slave to your unit.
“The fad is here and gone,” Rogalski continued. “You’re going to stand in the way of people having these stoves.”
He said the next highest heating procedure is geothermal, which costs $30,000.
The Planning Commission did not change anything on the new zoning ordinance before approving it.
Rogalski was told the zoning ordinance would next go to the township board for its 6 p.m., March 26 meeting, where the board will discuss it and then make the final decision at the 6:30 p.m. meeting. He was advised to go to that meeting to tell the township board of his concerns.
The commission also discussed flag lots and Kreps said she didn’t think flag lots would be appropriate in the zoning ordinance.
It should be covered by private drives in the general ordinance, with a shared easement with everyone using that drive, a “multiple family residential drive”, or have the drive built to county road standards.
“My boss Enos and I talked about flag lots yesterday,” Kreps said. “It doesn’t comply with the ordinance and never is going to meet the minimum width… It should be in the general ordinance.”
Rogalski asked about road maintenance of Executive Drive, a private drive which has nine homes with the oldest one started in 1978 and the newest one 2 ½ years ago. The road is 1,400 feet long and some of the residents don’t pay for road maintenance and the road gets barely passable.
Commissioner Sharon Claxton told him to form a road committee and get bids and get the work done. “Let them know of the legality of the road agreement. The township is supposed to help if there’s a road agreement,” she said.
Rogalski said some residents say they didn’t sign a road agreement, but Claxton said there is an agreement and it should be on their deeds.
Trustee Bates said he is the original builder on Claxton Drive and he sends residents a bill every year and makes sure the snow is plowed, a load of gravel is dumped, and chloride spread. On Oddessy Drive, where he lives, there is a road agreement.
Rogalski said he has gone door to door to get money for the road. Some pay and some don’t. “It’s hard to sue the neighbors,” he said.
By Rosemary K. Otzman