Morenci planning commission 2013.03.12


Morenci planning commission members heard a citizen's view of a proposed change in the fence ordinance, then approved a proposal to send to city council.

Karen Mepham expressed her concern about the wording of the current law that requires placement of a fence 18 inches back from the property line. Mepham said she understands why the law was written that way—the owner of a fence wasn't given access to maintain the fence by the adjoining neighbor—but in essence, she said, you're giving property away to the neighbor because you can no longer use it. 

Mepham said there was a court case in Lenawee County a few years ago in which a judge ruled in favor of the neighbor in a property dispute. Both parties knew the location of the survey line, she said, but the judge stated that the fence established the property line for practical purposes. In that case, the owner of the fence lost three inches of his property. If that happened in Morenci, 18 inches of property could be lost.

Planning commission chair Brad Frederick said he favors leaving it at 18 inches unless permission is granted from the neighbor.

"What if your neighbor won't give you permission," Mepham asked. "Then you lose the use of your property. We pay taxes on it, but we don't get to use it."

Frederick said she had a valid point.

The new revision states that fences may not extend beyond the property line nor onto a right-of-way. If a fence is built on a property line, a professional survey must be presented to the city zoning administrator.

TURBINE—City attorney Fred Lucas wrote about two concerns he has with a proposed ordinance governing wind turbines in the city. Lucas think there should be mention of decommissioning a turbine if it were no longer in operation. Lucas also questioned the 200-foot maximum, but Frederick explained that wasn't an error because commissioners have decided that a large turbine would not be appropriate inside the city limits.

Commissioner Lowell Oberhaus agreed with Lucas that decommissioning should be addressed.

"If it were abandoned," he said, "you wouldn't want it to just sit there." 

The commission will table the issue while members study an ordinance established in Clinton County. In that document, if a turbine in out of service for a year, the owner has 60 days to bring the  equipment back into compliance or 90 days to apply for a demolition permit.

DESIGN STANDARDS—City administrator Michael Sessions told the commission that it should think about the word "good" in the proposed ordinance, as in building components having "good proportions and relationships to one another."

"My definition of 'good' could vary from the next person's definition of 'good," he said. 

He doesn't favor putting subjective language into a law, but commissioner Sean Seger pointed out that the issue of design standards has a lot of subjectivity to it.

Sessions suggested considering the Standards for Rehabilitation established by the Secretary of the Interior. This would address issues such as maintaining the original appearance of a structure.

Morenci mayor Bill Foster said there's a need to consider the variety of buildings in town. Should the bowling alley, for example, still look like a car dealership?

Sessions offered to bring a guest from the State Historic Preservation Office to speak to the commission about rehabilitation issues.

OFFICERS—Frederick was chosen to serve as chair of the planning commission for 2014 and Oberhaus was chosen the vice chair.

ORDINANCE—Sessions spoke to the commission about the need to update the city's planning commission ordinance, a document that defines the role of the group and lays out how it operates.

An update is long overdue, Sessions said, and need to be made "to give teeth" to zoning decisions.

PLAN—Commissioners will study the City of Milan master plan to use as a reference for developing its own plan. The document must be updated every five years.

The planning commission has the sole authority for developing the plan, Sessions said, and thus for making the city's zoning and land use decisions. Once created, the document will be sent to city council for review and comment, then come back to the planning commission for a public hearing.