Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes - September 9,
THE CHARTER TOWNSHIP OF
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
September 9, 2009
On September 9, 2009, a regular
meeting of the Chesterfield Township Zoning Board of
Appeals was held at the Township Hall located at
47275 Sugarbush, Chesterfield Twp., MI 48047.
1. CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Stepnak called the
meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
2. ROLL CALL: Present: Marvin Stepnak, Chairman
Carl Leonard, Vice-Chairman,
Nancy Orewyler, Secretary Paula Frame, Planning
Brian Scott DeMuynck, Township board liaison
3. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE:
Chairman Stepnak explained the procedures to the
4. ZBA PETITION # 2009-17: Edward Looney who
resides at 52950 Muirfield Drive, Chesterfield, MI
48051. Variance is to allow fence to remain 1’ from
Fence was installed by previous owners,
petitioner left existing post’s but installed new
fence board. The ordinance requires a fence on a
corner lot to be setback a minimum of 5’. Location
in the address stated above.
Edward Looney, 52950 Muirfield Drive,
Chesterfield, MI 48051 addressed the board
Petitioner stated that he was requesting to keep
an existing fence as it was put up by the developers
of the property. The kids in the neighborhood were
coming through his property and destroying the
fence. He used the same posts that were put in by
the developer and just added more wood to replace
the old fence. The fence is higher in back and goes
lower near the intersection. He stated that the
fence is on a main corner and people throw garbage
on his property. Kids in the neighborhood ride their
bikes and run across his grass to get to the bus
stop and that is why he replaced the old fence
Ms. Orewyler stated that she understood the
petitioner’s problems with neighborhood kids.
However, she does have a problem with the fence on
the corner. She was sure that the petitioner knew
that the new ordinances do not allow fences on
corners. She does not feel that drivers have a good
line of site to pull safely into traffic at that
corner. She was thinking if the end piece was
removed or the first couple of sections of the fence
were shorter. She stated that the petitioner would
have to do something to accommodate the safety of
people at that corner.
Petitioner asked if Ms. Orewyler was asking him
to break down the fence more from where it is at?
Ms. Orewyler explained that the petitioner would
have to shorten the fence, take down part of the
fence or maybe just remove some of the boards on the
fence so that people are safe coming out of that
subdivision on to 24 Mile Road. She appreciates that
the petitioner did not move the fence and just
replaced the boards. However, she feels the safety
at that corner is the most important issue.
Mr. Blake stated that he concurred with Ms.
Orewyler. He thought that the first two sections of
the fence should be taken down.
Petitioner stated that the first two sections
would be 16'.
Ms. Orewyler asked if the fence was in 8'
Petitioner answered yes.
Chairman Stepnak stated that the board can make
suggestions or ask questions. However, the board
cannot redesign the fence or tell the petitioner
what needs to be done.
Ms. Frame stated that she agreed with Ms.
Orewyler. She would suggest slotting the first two
sections of the fence and just leave every other
board. She sat at that in front of the petitioner’s
home for about 20 minutes and saw that people did
not stop at the stop sign at that corner. The cars
stopped 20 feet past the stop sign because they
could not see the traffic on 24 Mile Road. She was
concerned about children on bikes. She explained
that people try to teach their kids to stop at a
street and look both ways but many times they do not
listen. Therefore, she thought if the petitioner
would slot the first two sections and removed every
other board on the fence and people would be able to
see through the fence, then she would feel more
comfortable with the variance. She commented that
she understood the petitioner's problem, however, as
the fence stands right now, it is not safe. She
added that the board must consider safety first.
Mr. Leonard explained that safety is the issue
and going back a few years ago fences had to be 30'
from the sidewalk on a corner lot because there are
two sides of the house that are considered the
front. He explained that was thought to be excessive
and it was brought down to 15' off the sidewalk. It
was later amended to 5' so that people could have
more use out of their yards. He talked to one of the
building inspectors and found out that there were
never any building permits pulled for this fence.
They thought the fence was put in by the original
developer. Another part of the ordinance is that
there should be 15' area along the side of the road
for clear vision. His concern would not be so much
for the traffic from the cars, it was the sidewalk.
Children ride bikes and roller blade down the
sidewalk and no one would be able to see anything
with the current fence. He suggested that if two
sections were taken out it would take care of the
safety issue. He did not have a problem with the
remaining part of the fence.
Mr. Klonowski stated that he concurred with the
other board members.
Mr. DeMuynck commented that he understood the
petitioner's problem with kids crossing on their way
to the 7-Eleven. He stated if the petitioner could
do something with the first two sections, he would
not have a problem with the rest of the fence. He
added if the petitioner can work with that; the
board could work with him.
Chairman Stepnak explained that the fence was
probably put in by the original developer of the
property. It was probably the white picket fence and
was used for advertising for the builders. He
understood that the petitioner thought the fence
looked dilapidated and he would just replace the
wood with new panels, so it looked better. He stated
that the board was considering a couple of
ordinances in this matter. The fence should be at
least 5' from the sidewalk. He commented that he did
not have a problem with the fence at the back of the
yard. He explained that his problem would be with
the fence at the front of the property. He commented
that when driving around there are very few places
where any type of fence was allowed in the front
yard. He stated that his biggest problem with the
fence was the lack of clear vision. He referred to
the petitioner’s photo of the intersection. He
commented that the mini van in the photo is
practically out on 24 Mile Road before the driver
can make the turn. He explained that the cars
probably stop and crawl forward. The problem would
be that the vehicles have to go farther onto 24 Mile
Road in order to make the turn because the drivers
do not have a clear line of vision with the fence.
He reiterated that the board cannot tell the
petitioner what to do; the board can only suggest
changes the petitioner may want to make in his
petition. He stated that it was up to the petitioner
to present the changes to the board. He explained
that if the board did not approve the variance,
there was no appeal process. The petitioner's next
step would be the court system.
Ms. Orewyler read a letter in favor of granting
the variance from the petitioner’s neighbors Michael
& Jacqueline Thomas. The letter was retained for the
Val Derieu, 52931 Muirfield, Drive, Chesterfield,
MI addressed the board.
Ms. Derieu commented that the petitioner's fence
was actually one foot from the sidewalk.
She stated that there was a fence in Hillcrest
Meadows that may be grandfathered in that is very
high and a huge safety problem. She explained that
the beginning of the petitioner's fence is short and
she did not believe there was a real problem at that
intersection. She elaborated further on the reasons
that the board should approve the variance. She
stated that there was an entire subdivision up to
Higgins Elementary that has these fences. She asked
why Zoning Enforcement only had a problem with this
Mr. DeMuynck asked Mr. Looney if he was contacted
by anyone from the Building Department or did
someone issue a stop work order on the fence?
Petitioner answered someone red tagged the fence.
Ms. Derieu stated that she talked to Mr. St.
Germaine and was told that when zoning drove by they
noticed that the fence was new and that was the
reason the fence was tagged.
Chairman Stepnak stated that the problem was
handled on its own merit. He stated why one thing is
approved and another turned down would depend on the
make-up of the board at the time.
Mr. DeMuynck explained that just by looking at
the fence with the nice shiny boards up there; it
probably threw up a flare to the ordinance officer
or zoning officer driving by. On the other hand, if
the fence had looked old and worn probably nothing
would have happened. He commented that he did not
have a problem with the fence. However, he explained
that the board keeps talking about the safety issue
and from a traffic standpoint. He informed the
petitioner that there is a wide county easement
there from 24 Mile back to the sidewalk which is
county property. He stated that the motor vehicle
code states that a driver must stop 15' prior to a
stop sign. He explained that he was just playing
devil's advocate and asked if someone pulls up, gets
into an accident there and does not have a clear
line of sight... He asked if the petitioner knew
where he was going with this?
Ms. Derieu spoke up agreeing that it would be the
Mr. DeMuynck stated that he was very expertise in
traffic and law enforcement. It happens all the time
and the petitioner could be held liable. His point
being that the board was willing to work with the
petitioner, but the fence as it stands now is a
liability with the location of the fence, the stop
sign and the sidewalk. He reiterated that the board
would be willing to work with the petitioner.
However, he stated that the petitioner must look at
where the board is coming from as far as clear
vision and the motor vehicle codes for the State of
Michigan. The sign is placed there by an order from
the County and that is where it must be. However, if
there would ever by a serious accident on that
corner; they will investigate that and if there is a
sight vision problem; the petitioner may be held
Leroy Breazeal II, 52943 Muirfield, Chesterfield,
MI addressed the board.
Mr. Breazeal asked the board if basically they
gave the petitioner two options; either to tear down
the first two sections of the fence or put the fence
15' feet back from the sidewalk?
Chairman Stepnak stated that the board did give
the petitioner options. They were simply giving the
petitioner suggestions. The problem would be that
the board cannot design the fence for the
petitioner. He explained that the board has simply
concurred that they have a problem because of the
lack of clear vision. The board would like to see
the fence further from the road way or the side walk
in the front yard. Therefore, the board has
suggested that the petitioner either remove some of
the boards or bring the fence back.
Mr. Breazeal stated that the petitioner and his
neighbors would like a decision to be made on the
variance that evening.
Mr. Marty Brennan, a neighbor (did not sign in),
addressed the board.
Mr. Brennan made comments in favor of the board
approving the variance.
Ms. Frame reiterated that she sat in front of the
petitioner’s home for about 20 minutes and saw about
six or seven cars that did not stop at the stop sign
at that corner. The cars stopped 20 feet past the
stop sign because they could not see the traffic on
24 Mile Road. She claimed that nobody stopped at the
stop sign. She was concerned about children on bikes
and on the sidewalk at 24 Mile Road. Even though the
sign was chest high, if there is a five year old on
a bike, no one in a car would be able to see the
child on the other side of that fence. She commented
that the main concern of the board was safety.
Mr. Leonard suggested putting in a split rail
fence to eliminate kids from cutting through his
Petitioner answered that the kids would just jump
over a split rail fence and that it would not look
right. He stated that he would be willing to agree
to take off every other plank off the fence because
then people would be able to see through the fence
in that area. Furthermore, he thought that would
look better than going with the split rail fence.
There was a discussion among the board and the
petitioner about how the kids in the neighborhood
broke the boards and tore down a lot of the old
Mr. Leonard stated that if the petitioner starts
pulling off every other board, the kids may still be
able to pop off the boards and tear up the fence. He
commented though, he did not know how the petitioner
would stop kids from cutting through his yard. The
problem with the clear vision of the sidewalk and
street is serious. If a kid comes down the sidewalk
and someone hits the child. He knew he would feel
terrible. He commented that the kids are not looking
for the cars and there is a real problem when the
drivers cannot see them. The traffic and cars do not
really concern him. His concern would be the kids
zipping back and forth on bikes and skateboards. and
the cars are not slowing down until they get right
up to 24 Mile Road. He stated that the board would
like to work with the petitioner, however, safety
would their first concern.
Chairman Stepnak claimed that the board would
really be looking at three variances:
First, the fence in the front yard, second, the
fence being one foot from the sidewalk and Third,
that there should be 15' area along the side of the
road for clear vision
Ms. Frame stated that the new fence was solid and
she thought even if the petitioner would take out
every other plank; it would still be a very solid
fence. She did not think kids would be able to rip
down the new part of the fence because it would
still be a nice sturdy structure.
Chairman Stepnak asked if she was just suggesting
taking down the every other board in only the front
Ms. Frame answered yes, the first two sections in
the front yard.
Ms. Orewyler commented that the board’s only
concern in this matter would be the safety issue.
The board would be allowing the petitioner a large
variance in keeping even portions of the fence. The
ordinance states the fence has to be a split rail or
a decorative fence especially one foot from the
sidewalk. She suggested that the petitioner take
down the first two sections of the fence and instead
put up a split rail.
Chairman Stepnak called for a five minute recess
so that the petitioner may discuss his options with
his family and neighbors.
Chairman Stepnak called the meeting back to order
after the short recess.
Petitioner stated that he would like to remove
every other plank from the first two sections of the
fence at the front of his home.
Chairman Stepnak stated that the petitioner has
proposed to amend his petition and would remove
every other plank from the first two sections of the
Mr. Leonard commented that a portion of the fence
in the middle looked as though it was leaning toward
the street. He suggested that the petitioner talk to
someone in the Building Department and figure out
what to do about that problem.
Motion by Chairman Stepnak to approve Petition #
2009-17 to allow the current fence to remain in
place at 52950 Muirfield Drive, The fence would be
allowed to be one foot off of the sidewalk. The
board would also be allowing the fence to remain in
the front yard provided that the petitioner remove
every other plank off of the first 16' of the
beginning of the fence which would be street side
toward the back of the house. The board believes
that the petitioner has shown a practical difficulty
due to the area he is currently living in. The board
believes that by granting the variance the Township
will still have a clear vision corner.
Supported by Ms. Frame
Nay: None Motion Granted
Chairman Stepnak instructed the petitioner to go
see the Building Department for the proper permits.
5. OLD BUSINESS:
There was no old business.
6. NEW BUSINESS:
There was no new business.
7. APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF PRIOR MEETING:
Motion by Ms. Orewyler to approve the minutes
from the meeting on August 26, 2009.
Supported by Mr. DeMuynck
Nays: None Motion Granted
8. COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR:
Chairman Stepnak welcomed Mr. Blake back from an
illness. He commented that he really appreciated
having Ms. Frame back on the board. He stated that
it was great to have a representative from Planning
in attendance at every ZBA meeting.
Motion by Mr. Blake to adjourn at 7:49 PM
Supported by Chairman Stepnak
Nays: None Motion Granted
Nancy Orewyler, Secretary
Grace Mastronardi, Recording Secretary