CITY OF MUSKEGON
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
August 14, 2013
Chairman R. Hilt called the meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. and roll was taken.
MEMBERS PRESENT: R. Hilt, S. Warmington, B. Larson, W. German Jr., S. Brock,
MEMBERS ABSENT: E. Fordham
STAFF PRESENT: M. Franzak, D. Renkenberger
OTHERS PRESENT: T. Weatherbee, 1747 Edgewater; E. Carter, 1741 Edgewater; G.
Nolan, 2221 Riordan; G. Borgman, 228 Houston; L. Spataro, 1567
5th; N. Simonson, 461 W. Webster; O. Bailey, City of Muskegon
Community & Neighborhood Services Dept; B. Wright, 452 W.
Webster; Dr. Abiade, 1946 LeTart; M. Burt, 846 Stevens; G.
DeCamp, 475 W. Webster; J. EldenBrady, 1336 Spring; J. Bass, 380
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
A motion that the minutes of the regular meeting of April 9, 2013 be approved was made by B.
Larson, supported by S. Warmington and unanimously approved.
Hearing; Case 2013-02: Request for a variance from Section 404, Zoning and Bulk
Requirements, of the zoning ordinance to construct a new home with a rear setback of less than
30 feet and a height of over 35 feet at 1747 Edgewater Street, by Thomas Weatherbee. M.
Franzak presented the staff report. The applicant will be constructing a new home on the vacant
lot at 1747 Edgewater Street. The property is zoned R-1, Single Family Residential and measures
83 x 100 feet. The applicant would like to line the front of the building up with the surrounding
houses; however, he would not be able to meet the minimum rear setback of 30 feet if he does.
The applicant is seeking a variance for the house to be constructed as close as 16 feet from the
rear property line. The surrounding houses do not meet the rear setbacks either, which makes
them legally non-conforming. The applicant would also like to construct an observation look-out
as shown on the drawings provided, and is seeking a variance from the height restriction of 35
feet for an additional 7 feet, 2 inches. To the rear of the subject property is a vacant 76-acre
parcel owned by Sand Products Corp. Notice was given to property owners within 300 feet of
this property. Thomas & Joyce Voyt, 1760 Edgewater Street, are in favor of the variance.
T. Weatherbee explained his project and provided additional photos of the area and the views
from his property. W. German asked how many square feet the house would be. T. Weatherbee
stated that it would be around 3,600 square feet. B. Larson stated that many lots in the Bluffton
area of town were non-conforming, and it was not uncommon for property owners to have to
Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes – 8/13/13 1
come before the Zoning Board of Appeals. Board members concurred that the requested
improvements should not negatively affect the neighbors, especially since there was a very large
vacant parcel behind this site.
A motion to close the public hearing was made by S. Brock, supported by B. Larson and
The following findings of fact were offered: a) that there are exceptional or extraordinary
circumstances or conditions applying to the property in question or to the intended use of the
property that do not apply generally to other properties or class of uses in the same zoning
district, b) that such dimensional variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a
substantial property right possessed by other properties in the same zoning district and in the
vicinity, c) that the authorizing of such dimensional variance will not be of substantial detriment
to adjacent property and will not materially impair the purposes of this chapter or the public
interest, d) that the alleged difficulty is caused by the Ordinance and has not been created by any
person presently having an interest in the property, or by any previous owner, e) that the alleged
difficulty is not founded solely upon the opportunity to make the property more profitable or to
reduce expense to the owner, and f) that the requested variance is the minimum action required
to eliminate the difficulty.
A motion that the findings of fact as determined by the Zoning Board of Appeals be adopted and
that the variance request to allow a rear setback of no less than 14 feet and a height of no more
than 42 feet, 2 inches at 1747 Edgewater Street be approved, subject to the conditions that 1) the
additions to the property must be complete within one year (Sec. 2504) or the variance is void,
and 2) the variance is recorded with the deed to keep record of it in the future, was made by B.
Larson, supported by W. German and unanimously approved.
Board member B. Larson asked if there were any objections to hearing the next two cases out of
order, with the board hearing case 2013-04 next, since he anticipated case 2013-03 being
lengthy. No objections were voiced and case 2013-04 was heard next.
Hearing; Case 2013-04: Request for a use variance from Section 400, Principal Uses Permitted,
of the Zoning Ordinance to allow a two-unit home in an R-1, Single Family Residential district
at 1133 6th Street. M. Franzak presented the staff report. The house at 1133 6th Street is zoned
R-1, Single Family Residential. The applicant would like to convert the house into a two-unit
home, which is not allowed in R-1 districts. The applicant has stated this was previously a two-
unit home, but there are no city records showing that it was ever registered as such. A letter from
the City’s Code Coordinator was provided, showing the inspection history at this address. The
applicant had applied for funding from the City of Muskegon’s Rental Rehab Program through
the Community and Neighborhood Services Department, to make repairs and improvements to
the home. However, if the home is only allowed to house a single family, the funding amount
would be reduced and not sufficient to cover the repairs. Several residents responded to the
notification letters and all were opposed to the request. Elizabeth Sherman, 570 W. Clay Avenue,
resident of Renaissance Place, was opposed due to the limited parking in the area. Lavonne
Kennedy, 570 W. Clay Avenue, resident of Renaissance Place, was opposed due to the limited
parking in the area. She said that Clay Avenue is narrow and there is only parking allowed on
one side of the street. Also, visitors to the Hackley & Hume homes often park on 6th Street,
especially in the busier summer months. Bruce Stanton, 207 Fulton Street, a landlord in the area,
is also opposed because of parking. Nancy Williams, the manager Renaissance Place at 570 W.
Clay Avenue and representative for the owners, Brookstone Capital, called to say they are
Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes – 8/13/13 2
opposed to the request. She said parking in that area is scarce, and this house has a very small
driveway – barely big enough for 1 car, let alone a 2-family home. Museums are located in that
area too, and need on-street parking. She feels this would be an additional burden for the places
already there that utilize on-street parking – including Renaissance Place, the museums, and
current residences. In addition, the house right next door is a 3-unit, and there is not enough
space in that small area for 5 families.
S. Brock asked if the house was set up as a two-unit right now. M. Franzak stated that it was not,
and had never legally been, according to City records going back to the 1950’s. In addition, it
had been vacant over two years. G. Nolan stated that it had always been a two-family home with
two kitchens and two bathrooms, up until the last tenant moved out in 2001. She said she had
assumed that she could continue the two-family use once she was ready to make the repairs and
get the home re-occupied. R. Hilt explained the R-1 zoning requirements. W. German asked if
the home was livable as it was now. G. Nolan stated that it was not. She was working with the
City and State to obtain grants to do rehab work. W. German asked what was done with this type
of situation in the past. M. Franzak explained grandfathered rights, and how they expired after
two years of vacancy. G. Borgman owned two houses in the downtown area that he had
converted from multi- to single-family. He stated his opposition to the request and asked the
ZBA to keep this a single-family home. L. Spataro was a member of the Nelson Neighborhood
Improvement Association (NNIA) board and a city commissioner. He was opposed to the request
and stated that the neighborhood association and city commission had both worked hard over the
years to stabilize this neighborhood and get multi-family homes back to single family use. He
also stated that the multi-family use would cause parking issues. N. Simonson recently purchased
a home in the area and stated that he preferred that this property retain its single family status.
O. Bailey worked for the City of Muskegon Community & Neighborhood Services office. She
had been working with Ms. Nolan to obtain grant funds to rehab this house, and was not aware
until recently that the two-unit use was not allowed. She stated that the side yard could be used
for parking, as well as on-street parking. She stated that Ms. Nolan would not be eligible for the
same amount of grant funds if the house were a single unit. R. Hilt stated that the house had been
out of compliance for 12 years, which was the issue the board had to deal with. G. Nolan stated
that she had made a point to keep up the taxes on the property over the years, since she believed
she would be able to have a two-unit home when the time came to fix it up and rent it. B. Wright
was a board member of the NNIA and the Heritage Village Committee and was opposed to the
request. He stated they had worked very hard to deal with the problems of inner-city living and
the number of rental properties was an issue. He asked the ZBA to keep this a single family
home. Dr. Abiade stated that he understood the necessity of a zoning ordinance, but asked the
board to find ways to encourage the residents who were trying to improve their properties. M.
Burt was in favor of the request. She had been working with Ms. Nolan and stated that this
would be a very nice house when it was fixed up. S. Warmington asked if anyone lived there at
this time. G. Nolan stated no. S. Warmington stated that if the house had been properly registered
as a rental property, notices would have been sent to the owner annually, making them aware of
the zoning regulations. He stated that the City Commission had put a lot of thought into the issue
of multi-family properties, and their consensus as well as input from the residents was a desire to
get homes back to single family uses. G. DeCamp of 75 W. Webster stated that he was strongly
opposed to the request.
A motion to close the public hearing was made by B. Larson, supported by S. Warmington and
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The following findings of fact were offered: The property can be used (put to a reasonable use)
for the purposes permitted in that zoning district; The property is not unique compared to other
properties in the area; The proposed use would alter the essential character of the area and would
negatively affect the neighbors and/or the public; The alleged hardship was created by the
property owner and not the ordinance; The alleged hardship is founded solely upon the
opportunity to make the property more profitable or to reduce expense to the owner.
A motion that the findings of fact determined by the Zoning Board of Appeals be adopted and
that the variance request to allow a two-unit home in an R-1, Single Family Residential district at
1133 6th Street be denied based on the findings of fact, was made by S. Warmington, supported
by B. Larson and approved, with W. German and T. Halterman voting nay.
Hearing; Case 2013-03: Request for a zoning appeal and to be granted a business registration to
operate a farm at 1192 Ambrosia Street, 381 Catherine Avenue, 383 Catherine Avenue, 370
McLaughlin Avenue, 1272 Spring Street, 1336 Spring Street, 1192 Wood Street and also to
operate a market at 1198 Wood Street, by Joshua & Anna EldenBrady. M. Franzak presented the
staff report. The applicants had applied for a business registration with the City Clerk’s Office
for “Patchwork Pastures Urban Farm & Wood Street Market.” The application stated they
would “grow produce at 1272 Spring, 381 Catherine, 383 Catherine, 1192 Ambrosia and 370
McLaughlin and 1192 Wood. They will sell the produce only at 1198 Wood and only have a set-
up of table and possibly tent at time of sales. The main office will be at 1336 Spring which is
their residence. They may possibly grow produce at 1198 Wood and 1336 Spring also.” The
application for a business license was denied because farming is not allowed in the city. The City
does allow community gardens, but not commercial farming. The zoning appeal filed by the
applicants is a result of the Zoning Administrator’s denial of the business license. There are
multiple zoning districts involved in this request: Properties at 370 McLaughlin, 1272 Spring and
1336 Spring are zoned R-1, Single Family Residential; properties at 1192 Ambrosia and 381
Catherine are zoned RT, Two Family Residential; and properties at 383 Catherine, 1192 Wood
and 1198 Wood are zoned B-1, Limited Business District. Farming is not an allowed use in any
zoning district in the city. The applicants claim that the Community Garden ordinance allows for
M. Franzak stated that the applicants had purchased some of these lots from the City, and at that
time was told that farming was not an allowed use in the City. S. Brock asked if that was put in
writing. M. Franzak stated that it was conveyed verbally. J. EldenBrady stated that the farming
operation would not be much different than what was currently there; the only change would be
that they would be selling the produce. He described his plans for each property and argued that
the community garden ordinance allowed the requested uses. Staff disagreed. S. Brock asked J.
EldenBrady if he would have cows on the property at some point. J. EldenBrady stated that he
was not sure, but if a condition of approval was that he could not have animals, he would comply
with that, although he didn’t think it was proper. M. Franzak stated that a produce stand would
be allowed in the B-1 district if the City allowed urban farming, but it didn’t. He also stated that
the EldenBradys currently had 4 goats on the property in violation of City ordinance. J.
EldenBrady cited several state and case laws in his arguments. S. Warmington stated that J.
EldenBrady had the right to state his case; however, he was not comfortable making a decision
since he was not familiar with the laws cited. B. Larson suggested getting an opinion from the
City Attorney. J. EldenBrady asked that the board deny the request rather than table it, if they
had already made up their minds. W. German concurred with S. Warmington that the board
needed more information on the legalities of the proposal.
Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes – 8/13/13 4
J. Bass lived next to one of the properties and stated that he was opposed to the request. He could
hear the goats from his porch and stated that it was a nuisance. He had lived there since the
A motion to close the public hearing was made by B. Larson, supported by W. German and
R. Hilt stated that he had concerns regarding the proposal, but he would like more information
from the City on the basis for their decision before he felt comfortable voting on the issue.
A motion to table this case to enable the board to get a legal opinion from the city attorney was
made by B. Larson, supported by S. Warmington and unanimously approved.
S. Warmington asked M. Franzak to find out a time frame from the city attorney for getting the
information and let Mr. EldenBrady know.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:20 p.m.
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