Sumpter Township Planning Commissioner Matthew Oddy said he has nothing against the new market being built by Joe Nasser at the corner of Willis and Sumpter roads, but he wonders about the process used to OK the construction.
The approvals completely avoided the planning commission and he was surprised when he saw the building under construction.
At the commission’s Oct. 14 meeting, Oddy found that the minutes of the May 13 meeting, which were up for approval, were incorrect and that may have led to some confusion – but doesn’t account for everything.
Oddy pointed out the minutes were coming for approval five months after the meeting and he would like to see a different process so this couldn’t happen again.
Since state legislation changed, the planning commission has to meet only once each quarter, unless it has business before it, so the October meeting was the first meeting since May.
At the May meeting, the commission was asked to comment on the concept of a market at that corner, so Nasser wouldn’t spend money on engineer drawings if the commission didn’t want a market there and would deny it in the future.
Commission Chairman Jane Stalmack said the motion stated in the minutes was not correct, lot 3 hasn’t been rezoned as required or, “If so, I wasn’t invited to the zoning meeting.”
Township attorney Rob Young said the minutes came to the township board with a recommendation, but the minutes were wrong. He said the township board permitted the building to go forward, based on the minutes.
“My concern was that procedure wasn’t followed … I don’t know how we could approve it without a site plan,” Oddy said, noting all that Nasser had at the May meeting was an artist’s drawing of how the building would look from the outside.
“I guess I dropped the ball,” said Deputy Supervisor Craig Moody. “METCO [engineers] reviewed the plans… I apologize on my part. I’ll take the blame.”
Attorney Young said he should have realized something was wrong, but, addressing Moody, “If you’re willing to take the blame, I’ll share it with you.”
Young said he would make sure the plans that were submitted will be given to the planning commission to study and correct.
“I would like to see the plans, but I don’t know they would be corrected,” Oddy said.
“We have to treat everyone the same,” said Commissioner Jim Clark. “It’s a great building, but …” indicating that people could complain that Nasser got special privileges.
Deputy Clerk Esther Hurst, who is the regular secretary to the planning commission, was not present for the May 13 meeting and so, in her absence, the minutes were prepared by Executive Secretary Denise Komora. The unapproved minutes were given to the board who thought the commission had approved the project, rather than just the concept.
Hurst said that Nasser brought only one set of plans to the township and those were sent to METCO, the consulting engineers.
“Let’s get the plans to you,” Young said. “It’s not the right chronological order, but at least you can have a look at them…”
Oddy said it was hard for him to speak up to question the process, “But, I don’t want anyone to accuse us of not following procedure.”
“We’ll bring the plans. If they are not proper, we’ll have them change it. We have to treat everyone alike,” Young said.
“We have to keep our credibility,” Moody agreed.
The commission voted to correct the minutes to reflect what happened at the meeting.
Stalmack scolded Moody, stating the planning commissioners are part-time and meet only occasionally and Moody is full time and should have followed through. Moody agreed he dropped the ball.
Oddy noted that the minutes were submitted to the board without the commission reviewing them, which is a concern.
“I should have made sure the process was followed,” Moody agreed.
In other business at the Oct. 14 meeting, the planning commission:
* Heard a presentation from Laura Kreps of Carlisle Wortman planning consultants on the procedure for updating the zoning ordinances. She first will do an assessment to see what is out of date and what needs change. She will present a full draft to the commission in December. Young said it would work best for the commission as a whole to review the draft and make suggestions. “We want everyone to have as much input as possible,” Young said. Once the ordinances are in a condition the commission is happy with, it will be sent to the board. Young said the commission probably is going to deal with medical marijuana as a zoning issue;
* Heard Young say that the township board has asked him to look into an ordinance that restricts putting piles of dirt on a property that changes the grade and floods out the neighbors. The township has an ordinance that restricts excavation, but not the addition of dirt. Young will bring a proposed ordinance to the commission in the future;
* Discussed Young’s proposed changes to the accessory building ordinance and decided the changes needed more work. Young will present it again in the future;
* Approved a site plan for Keystone Charter Academy, 47925 Bemis Road, for a parking lot expansion. Jason VanderKodde, an engineer for National Heritage Academies, said they will do whatever the township requires. While NHA at first was told last spring that a hard surface wasn’t necessary and gravel was OK, they learned that was incorrect. VanderKodde said their contractor told them they didn’t have to get township approval for the expanded lot. [The contractor who told them they didn’t need to pull any permits from the township was Bill Budd, husband to Van Buren Township Treasurer Sharry Budd, who serves on the VBT Planning Commission.] Clark asked who did it and was he trying to skirt the ordinance? VanderKodde said it was a “landscaper” and the mistake was probably done “out of ignorance.” He did not name Budd, but an irritated township official gave the name. The new paved area will alleviate some of the traffic congestion at the school as parents come to pick up their students after school during a 30-minute window (that recently was expanded from 15 minutes); and
* Set a public hearing for Nov. 18 at 7:05 p.m. to consider approval for a pond at 46569 Arkona Road, owned by Stan Alexander.