Mecosta County Board of Commissioners approve rezoning Wheatland Twp. property to commercial use

CONCERNS: Joe Sell, of Remus, shows Mecosta County Commissioners photos of his property and the proximity of his neighbor's business to his property on Thursday. (Pioneer photo/Lonnie Allen)

CONCERNS: Joe Sell, of Remus, shows Mecosta County Commissioners photos of his property and the proximity of his neighbor’s business to his property on Thursday. (Pioneer photo/Lonnie Allen)

BIG RAPIDS — Despite neighbors’ concerns a Wheatland Township business man received the green light to operate his business from the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.

Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve a recommendation from the Mecosta County Planning Commission to rezone 420 Wheatland Ave. in Remus from agricultural to commercial.

During public comment, Richard Vella, who owns the land and the business, Ed’s Garage Doors, which operates on the property, addressed commissioners about the rezoning recommendation from the planning commission.

“As far back as 30-plus years, to the best of our knowledge, the property has been operated as a commercial site,” Vella told commissioners. “My wife and I purchased the property advertised as commercial real estate. All previous owners, including myself, have paid commercial property taxes.”

Along with Ed’s Garage Doors, a rental unit off the side of the building is occupied by a local massage therapist. Vella claims when the massage therapy sign was installed on the property, his problems occurred with the neighbors.

Joe Sell, who opposed rezoning, is concerned about the proximity of the business to his home and how it could affect his family’s privacy.

“Nobody would lose jobs if you did not approve rezoning and it would minimize the impact on us,” Sell said. “There is a privacy fence. We appreciate them building that, but in the overall scheme of things it really doesn’t take away all of the privacy concerns.”

The recommendation to rezone passed the planning commission with certain restrictions, but Building and Zoning Administrator Michelle Stenger told commissioners on Thursday under the State of Michigan Zoning Enabling Act conditions cannot be added to rezoning request without a legal process.

“The planning commissions added some restrictions upon research that cannot happen,” Stenger told commissioners. “If you were to approve it, remove those conditions and approve it as a zoning change.”

Commissioner William Routley apologized to the property owners next to the business for not being able to keep the conditions in the proposal.

“It was not intentional,” Routley said. “When we made the recommendation with conditions I thought we could do that.”

The conditions required a privacy fence extension along the property line and prevention of private-service clubs, fraternal organizations, dance halls, bars and restaurants, and similar places of assembly.

“I was in error when I made those recommendations,” Routley said.

Commissioner Eric O’Neil asked about the rule of massage parlors near churches, but Stenger told commissioners the business is a professional massage therapist, not a parlor.

Commissioner Marilyn Vargo asked the Sells how their privacy is affected after the fence was installed.

“We don’t have a problem with it being a commercial business while it is still zoned agricultural,” said Margaret Sell. “We are concerned what businesses will go in there after it is zoned commercial.”

Routley appeared to be satisfied with his vote to approve the rezoning.

“I think it was the right thing to do,” Routley said. “Anytime you can improve an area without a serious infringement on the neighbor is good.”

Commissioner Linda Howard also agreed it was right to rezone the property.

“We made the right decision based on the committees investigation and recommendation to the board,” Howard said.

In other actions, commissioners approved converting the county’s mapping system to a more interactive system.

Shila Kiander, director of Mecosta County’s Equalization Department requested the purchase of a geographic information system (GIS) mapping system from the equalization fund to replace the current AutoCad map system.

GIS is a web-based interactive map that has clickable points. When clicked, these points show an information box that has text about the point, pictures, videos as well as links to external sites. AutoCad maps can only be printed or viewed by PDF form.

Commissioners approved the purchase of $53,700 system with the recommendation from Kiander to allow the townships who want to partner with the county on GIS to pay a per parcel amount based on 50 percent of the GIS cost. Approximately $26,850 would be divided by the total parcels in the 14 townships that do not have the system, Kiander said.

“It’s worth it,” Kiander said. “There are six townships who have already contacted me about there interest and they make up more than half the cost.”

Howard feels the mapping system will be good for the county.

“We will be very glad we entered into this contract,” Howard said. “I have got up close and personal with this and it works very well.”

Sheridan Township Trustee Audrey Dubois is pleased with the commission’s decision to move to GIS mapping.

“I really appreciate your support of the GIS,” Dubois said. “I had an opportunity to see a demonstration of it and I’m really excited to see it in action once it is in place.”

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Posted by Lonnie Allen

Lonnie is the Pioneer's city/county reporter. He also coordinates the Gardens and Growers page. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8328 or by e-mail at lallen@pioneergroup.com.

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