Barton Hills Village, Michigan

shim image News

October 16, 2006



October 16, 2006

The meeting of the Board of Trustees sitting as Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) was called to order by President ProTem MacKrell at 6:05 PMat the Village Hall.

ROLL CALL Present: Trustees Al-Awar, Bogat, Butterwick, Laporte, Lindstrom, MacKrell, Perry and Wilkes. Absent: Trustee Boddie.

Others attending: Atty. Reading, Asst. Treas. Redies, Supt. Esch, BHMC President Bultman, residents John & Olabisi Boyle, Amy Conger, Marta Dapena-Baron, Bert Haas, Karen Izenberg and architect Betsy William, Judy Jones, Lois Kane, Donna Kelly, Libby Langford and Linda Pickl, landscape architect Russell Graham and Champion Pools representative John Rice.


Public Hearing Zoning and Planning Administrator (ZPA) Perry referred to the application submitted by Mr. Zaki Alawi, represented by architect Charles Bultman, requesting variance from Section 5.03(c) of the BHV Zoning Ordinance to build in the front set back at 320 Juniper Lane. Mr. Perry noted that under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act of 2006 the standard for review is practical difficulty. He added that along with the drawing the Trustees had already received, the application included a set of photographs and a larger drawing. (Ms. Laporte arrived and assumed chair of the meeting.) Mr. Bultman displayed a drawing indicating the location of the current house, explaining that the owner is requesting variance to demolish the existing house and build a new house with the front wall at the same location, which is 23' from the lot line rather than the 35' required by the BHV Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Bultman showed photographs verifying that all but one of the homes on Juniper Lane are similarly close to the lot lines, since the neighborhood was established years before the ordinance was written, and indicating that the house next door is actually closer than the distance being requested. He also stated that the lot is about 1/3 of an acre and that about 1/3 of that is unbuildable due to the steep slope to Barton Pond. Locating the house within the required set back would disrupt the character of the lane and significantly impact the design of the new home.

Public comment:

--Karen Izenberg, 312 Juniper Lane, stated that she had no objection to the variance as such, but was concerned about the demolition of the existing house. She wondered what the replacement house would look like, since she couldn't determine the meaning of "in keeping with the existing neighborhood." Mr. Bultman responded that the house plans haven't been drawn yet, since the owner was reluctant to invest in architectural services for a specific design if denial of the variance request would mean having to draw a different design. He added that the house is intended to be a cottage in keeping with the character of Juniper Lane.

--Amy Conger, 321 Juniper Lane, asked if more information could be provided about the footprint relative to the side lot lines, since new construction could significantly impact the view of Barton Pond from her home. Mr. Bultman responded that the owner had explored renovation of the existing home, including a design that would add about a 20 foot square on the south side and would more than adequately fulfill the owner's wishes. However renovation would be less efficient due to deteriorating infrastructure of the home and having to work around the current floor plan. He added that if the footprint were enlarged, it would be towards the south side since there is no room elsewhere. There are two large oak trees and the septic field on the south side that will not be removed.

--Betsy Williams, architect for 312 Juniper Lane, asked about the front façade and the height of the replacement house, noting that most of the homes on the lane are 1 1/2 stories at most. Mr. Bultman responded that the owner had no desire to build higher than 1 1/2 stories and planned to include details such as a one-story porch that would keep the cottage look.

--Ms. Conger expressed concern over the possible addition of 20’ to the south and asked what consideration would be given to neighbors' concerns. Donna Kelly responded on behalf of Barton Hills Maintenance Corporation (owners of a lot on Juniper Lane), saying that BHMC will involve the neighbors as part of its architectural review under the Deed Restrictions when a construction plan is submitted. She added that BHMC has no objection to the variance request because it makes sense to build the new home at the same distance from the lot line rather than farther back at the full set back line or closer to the road.

--John and Olabisi Boyle, 239 Barton Shore Drive, thought the variance request was reasonable, and expressed concern for the new owner just coming into the village and facing the objections of neighbors.

Hearing no further public comment, Ms. Laporte closed the public hearing and began BZA discussion by noting that the Board could approve or deny the application, or approve with conditions, but that aesthetic review of the home was the responsibility of BHMC. In response to Board questions, Mr. Bultman stated that the new foundation couldn’t vary much from the existing due to a pine tree that will be protected, so the front wall would not be sited any closer to the road/lot line than the existing front wall. The current house is 2 rooms wide (about 35'), and the estimated 20’ may not all be needed to accommodate the owner's wishes in the new design. Other Trustee comments included:

--There is concern that in granting the variance request the Board is not sure what the three-dimensional impact of the new home will be. This is like signing a blank check and more information is needed before deciding.

--It is not the function of the BZA to assess the impact or appearance of the house; it is the Board's role to make sure the project adheres to the zoning requirements.

--The house already violates the current zoning requirements so restrictions should be attached to make sure it doesn't adversely impact the neighbors.

--All the homes in BHV will eventually be torn down, with probably 80% replaced by something bigger. The Board should not attach restrictions that will tie the hands of BHMC in their architectural review.

--Restrictions can be attached by the BZA as long as they are not arbitrary or capricious. Mr. Reading arrived

--More information has been requested for other projects that aren't as big as this one.

--This is considered a non-conforming structure on a non-conforming lot, and is fine until the structure is changed. Tearing down the existing house removes the grandfathering aspect and subjects the project to current zoning requirements.

--It seems the owner has met the standard of practical difficulty. It wouldn't be good to move the house closer to the street, and the topography of the lot doesn't offer much in the way of options. The Zoning Ordinance doesn't address the neighbors' concerns about the mass of the replacement house.

--Is the owner aware of the neighbors' concerns and willing to work with them? Mr. Bultman replied absolutely, but that this project is the responsibility of his client, not a client-neighbors committee.

--It is true that BHMC has the major say on appearance of the home, but the BZA needs good reason to grant the variance.

--The legal requirement is practical difficulty--there is no legal basis for decision based on appearance.

--Is financial concern considered part of practical difficulty? Atty. Reading responded yes.

--It appears that the width and height of the new house is of more concern than the front set back.

--If the front set back variance is denied, then the house design would have to be wider and higher.

--If more information is desired, the BZA needs to give the applicant clear direction on what it is looking for--full blown plans, a sketch, or whatever.

It was suggested that in lieu of the BZA imposing restrictions on the variance request, the applicant might like to return with more information and essentially make the decisions about what limitations would be respected. Mr. Bultman responded that it is difficult to move forward in the design process without knowing what the front set back would be; further that all of the other requirements set forth in the Zoning Ordinance relative to height, set backs and so on would be met. The owner is reluctant to invest money in designs that cannot be built and must be replaced at additional cost.

Motion Mr. Wilkes moved to postpone consideration of the application for variance submitted by Mr. Zaki Alawi until the November 13, 2006 meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals; further to request that the applicant submit additional information as to the appearance of the new construction and the impact of the project on neighbors. Mr. Lindstrom seconded; the motion carried with Ms. Laporte and Mr. Perry voting no.


Public Hearing ZPA Perry displayed plans submitted by Marta Dapena-Baron and Christie Nordhielm for a swimming pool and retaining walls at their home at 180 Underdown Road. The applicants are requesting a variance to construct in the set back of their lot on the northeastern side where it abuts the property of 140 Underdown Road. The stone retaining wall is proposed to project 4' into the set back. Landscape architect Russell Graham showed an additional drawing which indicated the location of the pool had been moved by 10' to allow for more landscape screening along Underdown Road. He added that permits relevant to the soil and creek had been obtained.

Public Comment:

--Charles Bultman, speaking on behalf of BHMC, stated that the Directors of BHMC had reviewed this project at their September 28, 2006 meeting and were in full support of the project. He added that the rock walls would follow the contours of the lot and would help with erosion control on the steep banks.

Hearing no further public comment, Ms. Laporte closed the public hearing and asked for comment from the BZA:

--Will the large trucks hauling in dirt and stone cause damage to BHV roads?

--Similar trucks have been used on other construction projects, including BHV projects, without bonding or other conditions.

--It is very helpful to see the response of the applicant to the concerns voiced by the Trustees when the project was discussed at the September 18, 2006 meeting.

Motion Mr. Wilkes moved that the variance from Section 5.03(c) of the Barton Hills Village Zoning Ordinance requested by Marta Dapena-Baron and Christie Nordhielm of 180 Underdown Road to construct a retaining wall in the set back be approved. Mr. Al-Awar seconded; the motion carried.

The meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals was adjourned at 7:02 PM.



October 16, 2006

The regular meeting of the Board of Trustees was called to order by President Laporte at 7:02 PM at the Village Hall.

ROLL CALL Present: Trustees Al-Awar, Bogat, Butterwick, Laporte, Lindstrom, MacKrell, Perry and Wilkes. Absent: Trustee Boddie.

Others attending: Atty. Reading, Asst. Treas. Redies, Supt. Esch, BHMC President Bultman, residents Marta Dapena-Baron, Judy Jones, Lois Kane, Donna Kelly, Libby Langford and Linda Pickl, landscape architect Russell Graham and Champion Pools representative John Rice.

FENCE REVIEW Mr. Perry summarized the application submitted by Marta Dapena-Baron and Christie Nordhielm requesting a permit for a fence around the swimming pool and for retaining walls as required by Section 4.05 of the BHV Zoning Ordinance.  The applicants submitted a brochure showing the appearance of the fence that will surround the pool and a sample of the fence itself (non-spiked wrought iron style, coated metal). They also submitted detailed plans complying with the requirements of Section 4.05 showing the fence and walls.

Motion Mr. Lindstrom moved that the application for permit for a fence and stone retaining walls submitted by Marta Dapena-Baron and Christie Nordhielm, owners of 180 Underdown Road, be approved. Mr. Butterwick seconded; the motion carried.

Pickl Fence Mr. Perry asked for guidance from the Trustees for Linda Pickl, representing resident Ruth Pickl, owner of 860 Colliston Road. He explained that Ms. Pickl had hired a company to repair/reroof the leaking roof on the garage of the home. Ann Arbor Township Building Inspector Gary Dresselhouse noticed that the work included changing the pitch from flat to peak, and advised Ms. Pickl to seek a permit from BHV. Mr. Perry reviewed the plan and approved the work for zoning compliance. BHMC declined approval and called attention to additional work, which turned out to be replacement of rotting timber retaining walls with stone. Mr. Perry asked if the wall replacement, which was completed in 2005, still needed a permit. Ms. Pickl showed photographs of the wall, stating that they were completely deteriorated and were a safety hazard before replacement. After discussion the Trustees concluded:

--A permit for this wall is needed, since that is what the Zoning Ordinance requires.

--Section 4.05 of the Zoning Ordinance should be reviewed to address the difference between landscape walls and border walls. It was felt that landscape or retaining walls shouldn't require the same attention as border walls, and that this should be discussed further by the Zoning Committee.

--More effort should be made to remind residents about the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance and the construction/renovation review process. Inspections are important in maintaining safety standards, both for present and future homeowners, and need to be done during construction rather than after the fact. BHV staff were also asked to relay information if they notice that work is being done in the village.

Motion Mr. Al-Awar moved that the replacement of retaining walls completed in 2005 at the Ruth Pickl home, 860 Colliston Road, be approved after the fact and that a proper application be filed. Mrs. MacKrell seconded; the motion carried.

PUBLIC COMMENT Resident Lois Kane spoke regarding the Village Administrative Center project, urging the Trustees to remember the unique heritage of Barton Hills Village. She stated that a great deal of effort and money was invested to design the community as a work of art and that the result is a place of beauty that needs to be protected. BHV has the choice of constructing a fine building that will reflect community values or a merely functional structure that will make do. Mrs. Kane felt a small group was very vocal in opposition to spending money, with not enough said about doing the job right. She urged the Trustees to provide a financial analysis showing the cost in relation to home valuation, and to look at the project as an opportunity to invest in the long-term future rather than as just another expense. She further urged that the wonderful site be enhanced with an architecturally wonderful building in keeping with the character of Barton Hills. The Trustees responded to Mrs. Kane's comments with applause.

MINUTES Motion Mrs. MacKrell moved that the minutes of the September 18, 2006 Trustees meeting be approved as printed. Mr. Wilkes seconded; the motion carried.

FINANCE Mrs. Redies read the cash balances as of October 16, 2006:

Cash Balances

General Fund

Checking Account $ 11,185

Savings 834,608

Total General Fund $845,793

Public Improvement Reserve Fund

Savings $143,629

Motor Vehicle Highway Fund

Savings $110,209


Bank One Govt. Trust Account $ 548,439

Bank One CD 100,000

Bank of Ann Arbor CD 124,056

Ann Arbor Commerce Bank CD 112,076

United Bank & Trust Washtenaw 101,723

Flagstar Bank CD 102,152

Total Savings $1,088,446

Mrs. Redies distributed the comparison report, noting that $5,758 was taken out of the Motor Vehicle Highway Fund to pay for paving the portion of Country Club Road beyond the West Gate. It was agreed that in order to streamline meetings, future Cash Balances/Comparison Reports could be distributed at the Trustee meetings in written form rather than verbal. Atty. Reading knew of no legal obligation to have the figures read aloud. Treasurer Boddie and Mrs. Redies can set a new report date if needed. In response to a question, Mrs. Redies explained the procedure for addressing unpaid taxes. About 5 parcels in BHV were not paid by the due date this year. Repeat billings with penalties were sent. Eventually unpaid accounts are turned over to Washtenaw County, which pays the taxes and pursues collection/foreclosure. Mrs. Redies also distributed the Financial Statement dated September 30, 2006.

Motion Mr. Lindstrom moved that the second quarter cash disbursements be approved (see Aux. Book XIII D). Mr. Wilkes seconded; the motion carried.


Roads Mr. Al-Awar reported that gravel and seeding along the newly paved roads have been completed, with striping in progress

Vehicles/Equipment Mr. Al-Awar stated that the police car, which is 11 years old (about 60,000 miles) needs a new heater at an estimated cost of $1,000. Discussion focused on whether to make the repair or replace the car, which was included as a budget item but then removed to balance the budget. The cost of road paving was under budget, but the water account is over budget, so it was doubtful if there is enough money in this year's budget for a new car (approximate cost $20,000). It was asked if another vehicle could be used for security rather than a specific car that doesn't get much use. It was also noted that a $20,000 car that lasts 10 years is a security expenditure of $2,000/year. Motion Mr. Al-Awar moved that the Treasurer determine if there are sufficient funds to replace the police car with a similar vehicle; if not, that Mr. Esch be authorized to spend $1,000 for a new heater for the current police car. Mr. Lindstrom seconded; the motion was defeated by unanimous vote. Motion Mr. Al-Awar moved that Mr. Esch be authorized to spend $1,000 for a new heater in the police car. Mr. Wilkes seconded; the motion carried.

Buildings Mr. Lindstrom distributed a graph showing the financial breakdown of the VAC project in relation to three options, noting that decreasing the cost of the building itself does not impact the overall cost enough to meet the budget limit of $380,000 (math error in the chart noted). He added that in a meeting with consultant Gibb-Randall last week, she advised that the $130,000 budgeted for site work could be reduced some, but would still be $100,000-$120,000. Mr. Lindstrom also stated that the interior design from the Royall company is slow in coming since the person working on it isn't an architect (although the original design was done by a professional architect). In response to a question, BHMC President Bultman confirmed that BHMC architectural approval is needed for the building. It was suggested that the home at 320 Juniper Lane scheduled for demolition might be purchased and moved to the VAC site; Mr. Bultman (architect for the owner of the home) agreed it was a viable option. Mr. Lindstrom will take the idea back to the VAC Committee.

Environmental Impact Mr. Butterwick reported that there is still money left in the budget for control of Garlic Mustard, and that there are things that can be done in the fall, so he will pursue that. Information will be included in the next Barton Bulletin so residents can also deal with the invasive plant.

BHCC Liaison Ms. Laporte deferred to Mr. Bultman who described the discussion of the BHMC Directors concerning the access drive from 530 Hillspur Road to Barton Shore Drive (through Otsego Park). A right-of-way was granted by shareholder vote in the 1950's for the drive, which was constructed and maintained by the homeowner at 530 Hillspur Road. The drive has been discussed in previous years relative to use by walkers and use only under certain circumstances but no further documents seem to change the original agreement. BHV 10/16/06 P. 7

Personnel Ms. Laporte stated that Bill Hewett had knee surgery and will be off work at least through the end of 2006. Mrs. Redies confirmed that the employees are not covered under disability insurance provided by BHV. The injury is not work-related and not covered by Workman's Compensation. Bill has a large amount of accumulated sick time that is supported by BHV Fund Balance amounts. He is also covered by personal medical insurance (choosing to opt out of BHV-provided health insurance with no other compensation for opting out). Several issues were identified:

--The exact amount of accrued/used sick time needs to be determined.

--Paying for Bill and a temporary replacement employee will impact the budget.

--Personnel policies need to be examined. Chris Ward's employment agreement is written, and differs in some aspects from the other employee agreements which are not written.

--Disability insurance costs should be researched.

Mr. Esch noted that the $5,000 budgeted for summer help was not used because he couldn't find anyone suitable to work. He has contacted Manpower (temporary employment services) who can provide a temporary employee for $13.50/hour. Under the Manpower agreement, taxes and insurance are paid by the company rather than the village. Motion Mr. Al-Awar moved that Mr. Esch be authorized to hire a temporary employee during Bill Hewett's medical absence through Manpower at a cost of $13.50/hour as quoted by the company. Mr. Lindstrom seconded; the motion carried.

Ms. Laporte agreed that the Personnel Committee needs to investigate these issues and will have more information at the next Trustees meeting.

Finance No report.

Long RangePlanning No report.

Recreation No report.

Security No report.

Water No report.

Zoning No report.

POOL Mr. Reading has found no insurance coverage in his review so far, but will continue to investigate a possibility of builders risk insurance to see if BHV has such coverage and if it would apply to this situation.

NEW BUSINESS Mr. Lindstrom asked the Security Committee to address the issue of dogs running free, especially on Underdown Road. He suggested a letter be sent to residents highlighting the BHV ordinance requiring dogs to be under control at all times.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:31 PM.

Jan Esch, Assistant Clerk