HARRISON – At its April 11 meeting, the Harrison Planning Commission commenced its business with a full compliment of members: Commissioners Don Patch, Robin Witkowski, Dena Woods, Andy Saxton, Tom Mondeau, Stacy Stocking, George Muscott, Tom House and Ed Kerr, as well as Justin Cavanaugh, ex-officio member/recorder, and Mike Freeman, code enforcement officer.
Cavanaugh provided commissioners with the Planning Commission By-Laws 2023 Update which the body approved. He also informed of his work on the Master Plan and Zoning rewrite. The work will be awarded to Wade Trim, the cost for which Cavanaugh said would be paid 75% by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., with the remainder paid by the city. He said the update would include an audit and assured the cost going forward would be less, such as when a zoning map update might be necessary.
Cavanaugh explained that the work will include correction of various errors which had occurred in the 2017 Master Plan mapping done by the previously contracted firm Beckett & Raeder: errors which had resulted in misunderstandings and considerable consternation among residents and city personnel alike.
Commissioners then move to recommend that Harrison City Council award to Wade Trim the Master Plan and Zoning Rewrite, with 75% would be paid by MEDC and 25% by the City of Harrison, with a total expenditure proposed of $39,840.
Commissioners oversaw the review of two site plans at the meeting: one for a proposed used car lot at the former Remedy site, and a second for a Dollar General to be built to the southeast of Family Fare grocery/gas and a short way north of Mostetler Road.
The commissioners had heard previously from John Marshall, the current owner of Maxi Muffler, who had leased the old Remedy site across the highway from his business at the intersection of Lake and S. First streets. His proposed plan was to use the property for temporary parking of cars he might be servicing and/or sale vehicles such as those acquired via a mechanic’s lien. This would have necessitated a change of use from “restaurant” to “plated vehicle in-service parking.” The commissioners had approved his site plan contingent on his receiving blanket easement permission from MDOT. Cavanaugh explained to commissioners that MDOT does not grant such permission, and as such the previous motion was null and void, thus a site plan was not reviewed.
He went on to say the city’s attorney had advised that if any of the site plan involved using MDOT right-of-way it had to be denied.
The site plan graphic which was provided at the April 11 meeting showed the triangular area intended for use, an area which was described to commissioners by Cavanaugh [based on the listing for Harrison Realty] as only 159 square feet of useable land [roughly the equivalent of two vehicles]. Cavanaugh added that if a site plan is legal, it must be approved, but that the current plan’s legality couldn’t be determined based on the drawing provided.
It was noted the city’s attorney had advised use of the Michigan Department of Transportation right-of-way must be denied. Freeman explained that MDOT requires a 90-foot setback on a curve and that, basically, MDOT does not allow something that could cause a problem/lawsuit down the road. That said, several commissioners spoke of previous accidents on that curve.
Without authorized right-of-way use, the remaining useable space is not enough to allow for a prospective customer to pull in to examine a vehicle, leaving the only other option being to park elsewhere, such as at Marshall’s business then walk across the highway.
After hearing all the barriers to the proposal and the need for further useable property clarification, commissioners moved to table the proposed site plan. Commissioners also included the suggestion that the property owner provide accurate survey dimensions, rather than ask Marshall as a renter to incur the cost of an additional survey.
The Dollar General site plan was presented by a representative of Overland Engineering, LLC. He identified himself only as “Dave” and explained he was a land surveyor who had done surveying on the site being reviewed. That site is along N. Clare Avenue to the southeast of Family Fare and a short way north of Mostetler Road. Cavanaugh further noted it is by the Coyne Oil property near Mostetler.
Commissioner Witkowski mentioned that this will make a fifth Dollar General in the Harrison area, citing the existing stores on the north end at Arnold Lake Road, in Dodge City to the east, in the City of Harrison, and in Lake George. When asked if there was any intention to close a pre-existing store, Dave said he was unaware of that, but that in his experience working on Dollar General construction, it was not uncommon to see another one within 1.5 miles.
After reviewing the Dollar General site plan, which was thorough and left very few questions to be asked, commissioners moved unanimously to approve it.
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