A full house greeted the Columbia Township Planning Commission last evening (Tues 1/23). At stake were two proposals for zoning changes. For these two proposals, the Planning Commission role is to make recommendations to the Township Board. The Board, in turn, would decide to go forward or to deny the requests.
What drew the crowd was a request to rezone agricultural to residential suburban for property located in Clark Lake’s north shore area. The property is owned by Hitt Farm Incorporated, and is located north of North Shore, and south of North Lake. Although the same parcel continues north of North Lake, owner Rick Hitt asked to change only the section closest to the lake. As Rick Hitt and his attorney Kevin Thomson (previously) explained, the zoning change would enable a neighboring lakefront property owner, Vincent Simonetti, to buy a piece of it so he could build a garage. The current zoning (agricultural) would prevent a standalone “accessory structure.” If the zoning were changed, to residential suburban, as in the request, such a structure would be allowed.
Some neighbors worried that the property could become a subdivision and that these new home owners could gain lake access on a community dock connected to another Hitt parcel that is lakefront. That set off alarm bells about possible funneling, a term used to define this kind of usage.
A planning commission board member, Mike McKay, pointed to inherent issues in the proposed rezoning. First, the County is not sure if they own the north-south road, known as F Lane, that goes through the property. It also appears to be only 25 feet wide, which would not meet criteria for a subdivision. Second, at least part of the property would be required to hook up to the sewer system. A moratorium currently exists preventing additions of the kind of scale that might occur under new zoning – 30 single family dwellings or 60 duplex units. If parts of the rezoned area were not required to be part of the sewer system, soil conditions might not be acceptable for septic systems.
Mike noted these issues could create future problems if the entire area were rezoned as requested. Mike then pointed to another solution. Parts of the property could become backlots for lakefront owners for about 400 feet (108 feet deep) along North Shore, and be used to build garages. Mike made a motion to forward the recommendation to the Township Board. It is up to the Township Board to accept or reject the recommendations of both rezoning proposals.
In this video, you can review how the discussion played out. It has been edited to reflect how the interactions led to a motion made by Planning Commission member Mike McKay, and to save time for the viewer.
The other rezoning request came from Chris Kudner, who owns property on the north shore, east end. His rezoning request would change residential suburban to residential rural. That would allow him to accommodate horses on the property. The Planning Commission voted in favor.
For reference, here is the notice regarding the rezoning.