By Rosemary K. Otzman
After more than two hours of discussion on six variance requests by Menards for its proposed Belleville Road home improvement store, the Van Buren Township Board of Zoning Appeals put the process on hold.
BZA members agreed they needed more information and Trustee Jeff Jahr, who also sits on the BZA, said he just got the packet of information in the mail on Saturday and he’s been out of electricity and didn’t get a chance to study it.
He said the date on the paperwork asking for the variances indicates Menards sent it to the township on April 2 and he didn’t get it until Sept. 6.
Trustee Jahr wanted to know how high the fence at Walmart’s was since he wanted to compare it with the 14’ fence Menards wants.
Patrick Sloan of McKenna Associates planning consultants was acting as consultant and VBT staff, since the township doesn’t have a building and planning director at the moment.
Sloan didn’t know the size of Walmart’s fence. The fence height was one of the variances sought by Menards.
When the BZA found out that the IN and OUT signs on the wall requested to guide traffic on the one-way drive into the outdoor storage area was to be lighted, that made them more even eager to postpone their decision. Signage was one of the items needing a variance.
Scott Nuttleman of Menards Real Estate had explained earlier that the IN and OUT signs were on the east wall facing away from the residences to the west and north and the signs couldn’t be seen from those directions.
There were about 30 people in the audience, most from the Meadows residential development to the north that would adjoin the Menards’ complex. About ten of them got up, some more than once, to comment on the plans and ask the BZA to protect their homes from all the noise and visual clutter of a store.
Between the Aug. 27 planning commission public hearing on requested special land use for outdoor storage at the Menards’ store and the Sept. 9 meeting, Menards had added a strip of 6-10’ of additional undisturbed forest area that won’t be touched to help buffer the northern residential area.
Nuttleman said that change was a direct response to comments by neighbors at the Aug. 27 meeting.
The requested variances included two for signage, two for setbacks, and one for fence height at the front of the outdoor storage area.
Sloan recommended approval of the directional signage, but denial of the 16 cart corral signs. He recommended requiring the large Menards sign on the building to be reduced in size to fit in with the ordinance restrictions.
Nuttleman said the access drive the township has required to circulate traffic away from Belleville Road in the retail development pushes the project back from Belleville Road. He said the planning commission has discretion to allow them to have 263 less parking spaces than would be required.
They are trying to fit the parking, building, outside storage and ponds in a fixed area for building, Nuttleman said.
He said the county will be putting conditions on the size of the ponds. The proposed regional retention pond being planned is not available now.
After the neighbors discussed everything from the little animals that live in the area where the trees will be cut down to whether nearby Quirk Park will be affected, Bob McKenna said, “There’s a lot here to consider.”
“I would propose looking for fact-finding,” said McKenna, who is a planning commission member with a seat on the BZA.
BZA Chairwoman Theresa Wardwell said she felt the procedure was backward and the cart was before the horse.
She said the BZA is being asked to grant variances before the planning commission has completed its work.
BZA member Ed Miller made a motion to postpone the variances until the BZA gets fact-finding information and until the planning commission acts. The motion passed unanimously.
The planning commission said it expected to vote on special use approval for Menards outdoor storage at its Sept. 24 meeting and didn’t wish to act until the BZA made its decisions.
By Rosemary K. Otzman