By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Van Buren Township Planning Commission, at its regular meeting Aug. 13, voted unanimously to approve a water feature already built in front of Yost Sand & Gravel at 45697 Ecorse Road.
The pond and waterfall was in violation of five different setback requirements, but the commission decided the reduced setbacks would not have adverse impacts upon the public health, safety, and welfare.
The commission approved the variances in setbacks necessary to get the pond permit.
A letter from Wayne County official John Jones was submitted stating no soil erosion and sedimentation control permit is required for constructing an ornamental waterfall at Yost Sand & Gravel.
Jones stated, “A soil erosion permit is required under Part 91 of PA 451 and Wayne County ordinance if you are creating an ‘earth disturbance’ (grading, excavating, trenching, etc.) of greater than one acre in size OR creating an earth disturbance of any size that is located within 500 feet of waters of the state (Lake, stream, county drain, MDEQ regulated wetland).
“If you do not fall into either of these two categories, you are exempt from obtaining an SESC permit…” he wrote.
The total site is about 1.15 acres and is located in the O-T (Office-Technology) zoning district on the south service drive on Ecorse.
Sally Hodges of McKenna Associates read the Aug. 4 report to the Planning Commission from Patrick Sloan of McKenna, who is serving as interim head of the VBT Building and Planning Department.
Sloan wrote that Yost Sand & Gravel recently constructed a pond in the front yard of its site. On June 2, the VBT Code Enforcement Division notified property owner Richard Yost that the pond was in violation of township ordinances and a pond permit is required before a pond can be constructed.
Upon notification of this requirement, Yost submitted an application for the pond permit.
The pond is 24 feet long, varies between 8 to 10 feet wide, and is 2 to 3 feet deep.
Glenn Gatt of Norway Landscape & Design, 45263 Ecorse, designed and constructed the water feature. He represented Yost at the Planning Commission meeting.
He told the commission he was unaware he needed a permit and was stopped before he could complete the landscaping part of the waterfall and pond.
He said they built the pond for “attention, for beauty, and since the intersection was done at Ecorse and Belleville Road, we decided to beautify this…”
Hodges said this is a small pond and falls under general ordinances for ponds written in 1981 to include landscaped and farm ponds.
She said the Yost pond is on a lot too small to meet setback requirements. It is steeper than prescribed, but has a “ledge situation.”
“It’s an unusual case,” Hodges said referring to the design of the Yost pond. “It’s a square peg in a round hole.”
VBT Treasurer Sharry Budd said with just the stone and mulch, it looks pretty bare. She said the waterfall is beautiful, but there are bare spaces and it needs something.
Gatt said he plans Colorado spruces and wild grasses, along with perennials and annuals. He said he had to stop the project before he could do the plantings when the township shut him down.
Commissioner Carl Johnson asked if this was the only water feature ever built in Van Buren Township and Hodges said she didn’t know.
She said years ago she review a farm pond. She said she didn’t know if people weren’t building them or if they weren’t coming in for permits.
Hodges said it would be beneficial to the township to go back and look at the pond ordinances.
Commissioner Johnson said that setbacks should be different for water features and farm ponds.
Commission chairwoman Carol Thompson asked if someone could tumble into the pond since it is so close to the front porch of the house and Gatt said the porch has a railing and they don’t use the front door and want to block it up. He said they want to cover the house up with trees and “leave the open beauty from Ecorse Road.”
“This property is zoned Office-Technology,” Hodges said, adding they did make the wording in the ordinance to encourage landscaping.
“This ordinance isn’t satisfactory. It needs help,” Hodges said.
VBT Downtown Development Executive Director Susan Ireland said the property is in the DDA district and, “It does look very nice. It’s a type of amenity we haven’t seen.”
On behalf of the DDA, she supported approval of Yost’s water feature.
The commission then unanimously approved the water feature.
“We look forward to seeing it finished,” said Thompson.
Costco ZBA request
In general discussion at the end of the half-hour meeting, Hodges reported that at its Aug. 12 meeting, the VBT Zoning Board of Appeals granted the request for 35-foot-tall light poles for the Costco Truck Depot, to be constructed on the west side of Belleville Road at the VBT border with Canton Township.
She said Costco should be back to the planning commission with its changed plans at the last meeting in August or first one in September. She said Costco worked with Bayloff to have a driveway to Bayloff and Bayloff will be adding parvement at this entry and extending its parking lot across the front to wrap it up to Belleville Road.
“I believe we can process this administratively,” Hodges, adding it may trigger storm water requirements, but engineer Dave Nummer is on top of it. That would have to come back to the planning commission, she said.
“I like administrative approval to keep the project going – unless there are storm water issues,” Thompson said.
This project is scheduled for staff review soon, she said.
Hodges said the commission will be very busy at its Aug. 27 meeting, with the following items scheduled:
• Public hearing for Menards special land use approval, so it can have outdoor display and storage. A few variance requests will be heading to the BZA;
• Preliminary site plan review for Clark gas station at Hull and Sumpter roads;
• Costco plans; and
Ecorse/Haggerty Master Plan, dealing with commercial zoning on the south side of Ecorse from I-275 to Hannan.
“Things are happening in Van Buren Township,” Hodges said.
By Rosemary K. Otzman