August 18, 2009
Present: Council & Staff Present:
Ms. Alexander Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Rudi
Ms. Babich Councilman Barry McCullough
Mr. Garnos Chris Helmer, Planning Specialist
Ms. Smith Scott Wingerson, Assist. City Manager
Mr. Velasquez Melinda Mehaffy, Econ. Dev. Administrator
Mr. Whitten Becky Jarrett, Admin. Assist.
Absent: Ms. Babich
Item 2 on the Agenda: Pledge of Allegiance.
Chairman Hill led the group in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Chairman Hill welcomed Mr. Turnage to the Commission; as this was his first meeting.
Item 3 on the Agenda: Approval of the May 18, 2009 minutes.
MOTION: By Mr. Steffens, second by Mr. Garnos to approve the May 18, 2009, minutes as submitted. The minutes were approved as submitted.
Item 4 on the Agenda: Communications from the Audience.
Item 5 on the Agenda: Other Business: Discussion on Alternative Energy Systems.
Planning Specialist Helmer began his presentation on alternative energy systems by going over several things the City is doing internally regarding sustainability initiatives, which all lead back to the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. A few of the items briefly discussed were: new City vehicles, partnership with the greater KC Chamber, ATA discussions, “Green Gladstone” page on website, “Green Team”, Earth Day activities and the water plant sustainability study.
Continuing on to the presentation, Mr. Helmer reminded the Commission that at one of their last meetings (April) he gave a presentation on renewable energy that only included wind production; however, at this time the ordinance has expanded to include solar energy. The PowerPoint presentation began with issues that were considered when the ordinance was being written. Mr. Helmer said that the top four issues he concentrated on were: setbacks to distances and height, lot size, aesthetics and abandonment.
The next section of the presentation gave photographs of small urban turbines, both tower types and roof-mounted types. Mr. Helmer then went in greater detail the four main issues of the ordinance.
The next images were of solar panels, both roof mounted and ground mounted as well as commercial and industrial panels. Mr. Helmer said that the regulation of solar panels would include placement, setbacks, height, freestanding ground mounted panels, accessory use, screening and projection of roof plane. Two types of permits are proposed: administrative and special use.
Mr. Helmer continued by highlighting sections of the ordinance by first explaining the difference between the administrative process and the special use permit process. Allowed uses, meeting the guidelines or the provisions within this ordinance, would be allowed under administrative right. This would mean that if a property owner was able to come in and illustrate that not only that they have the monetary means to construct a monopole-type design, but that they have met the series of issues mentioned previously. The Building Official would also verify that the unit is a certified or engineered structure from a reputable firm. Safety, setback and maintenance would also be reviewed at this time. These guidelines would be for a Small Wind Energy Conversion System (SWECS). For a compliant SWECS, permit fees would be waived.
If a resident desires to construct a large, utility scale wind turbine a special use permit process would be followed. This would include submittal of a site plan.
Mr. Helmer reviewed Section 3, page 5, which included setbacks, roof-mounted wind turbine height and maintenance, safety shutdown and abandonment. He then asked for questions at this point.
Ms. Alexander said she was assuming that these structures do not take the amount of space at the base that cellular towers do.
Mr. Helmer said that is correct; it should not be an issue. The safety component of a wind turbine is that many of them do not have a ladder that can be climbed from the base of the tower. Typically, it’s a minimum of a twelve foot clearance where there would have to be a very tall ladder to begin climbing it.
Ms. Smith said she is not sure she understands the concept of the setback from property lines as it relates to the PowerPoint slide.
Mr. Helmer answered that some of the turbines you might see in a dense, urban setting can be anywhere from 50’ and above. There becomes a point in time where it’s not just about the height, but also about the geographical location. There will simply be some pieces of property that won’t be as productive for wind energy. Staff wanted to be relatively flexible in the ordinance so that if someone is really wanting to do this and spend their dollars, they could work with them. Mr. Helmer explained that the slide she was referring to probably isn’t the best example of setbacks.
Ms. Smith asked if it made sense to require a resident to have the tower roof mounted rather than freestanding. She also read in her packet that the taller they are the more effective they can be and then they aren’t seen at eye-level.
Mr. Helmer replied that staff felt they didn’t want to rule out the option of the monopole.
Ms. Alexander asked if trees around the turbine would make a difference.
Mr. Helmer said he hasn’t read anything that has indicated that trees are a real issue for a turbine.
Ms. Abbott asked how much wind you need to propel a turbine.
Mr. Helmer said that it depends. A smaller one could turn with 30 mph winds. The height of the tower and the area it is in will make a difference.
Mr. Garnos said that his observation was that the setback the ordinance is describing was not what is being depicted in the PowerPoint slide. He asked if the tower were 40’ tall would the setback have to be 40’ from the property line.
Mr. Helmer answered that is correct.
Mr. Garnos asked if the same guideline would apply to the roof-mounted unit.
Mr. Helmer said yes, the maximum allowable height [of the unit] would be half the height of whatever the home was. He said that the PowerPoint slide is really just showing the elements of discussion and apologized for any confusion if may have caused.
Mr. Garnos asked if there was anything regulating the towers in the City Code at this time.
Mr. Helmer replied that getting this ordinance in front of the Planning Commission and City Council is an excellent opportunity to be pro-active with what’s coming down the road. It’s a State initiative, it’s a National initiative, there’s funding out there and right now people are calling and are curious as to what they can build. Mr. Helmer said that there are other communities that are considering this subject, but there are a whole lot that aren’t too. This technology has been around long enough that the answers are there and by passing this ordinance it sends the message that at least the City is willing to have the conversations.
Mr. Whitton asked if what Mr. Helmer is saying is that some cities are not allowing these towers/units.
Mr. Helmer said that during his research he found that communities are receptive to it, they just want to make sure that they are cognizant of what the issues and ramifications are. He hasn’t seen anything in the metropolitan area where a City Council has prohibited them.
Mr. Whitton commented that the City just eliminated pole signs in commercial areas and now we’re going to have to deal with these in residential. He asked Mr. Helmer if he had seen the big ones up in the Maryville [Mo.] area; they are atrocious! They are just everywhere; all over the skyline.
Ms. Alexander asked if they will need to get a permit before they start a pole. If the ordinance is not in place do they still need to get a permit?
Mr. Helmer answered that they would need to obtain a permit prior to construction. There is a lot of review to be done internally. Currently, staff has to scramble to find something in the code if someone comes in, so having a guiding document is going to be very helpful.
Ms. Smith asked if anything in the proposed ordinance limits the number of towers on a piece of property.
Mr. Helmer answered yes, only one per property.
Mr. Garnos said that it would seem that many lots in Gladstone would not be feasible for a tower because of size and setback, but they would always have the option of a special use permit. He commented that he thought he saw a rather large fee associated with that permit.
Mr. Helmer replied that it could be viewed as a large fee for a resident; $500 is the amount. People are generally willing to pay that in the current special use permit process because of the return for them, but if they need to fall outside the administrative review, staff felt it was the best thing to consider.
Mr. Turnage asked if there would be an incentive offered to the homeowner for putting one of these units in and if not why would a homeowner do this because he can’t see that there would be that much of a savings from one turbine.
Mr. Helmer said that the draft ordinance does state that permit fees may be waived if someone is going to consider doing a renewable energy application, either wind or solar. The decision for someone to make is simply a personal choice.
Mr. Steffens asked if there is anything that says how far above the roofline the turbine has to be in order to collect the wind.
Mr. Helmer answered that it would be very site specific. If someone is only able to get the turbine up 50’ and the wind speed analysis says it needs to be higher it would have to be granted through a special use permit. There are a lot of factors that would be included to calculate that.
Mr. Helmer continued to solar energy section of the ordinance. He explained that obviously the solar panels, when roof mounted, wouldn’t have setback issues; but if roof mounted the ordinance states that the panels wouldn’t exceed the area of the roof itself and cannot project 2-3’ over the edge of the roof. This section also covers height, ground and roof mounted units and visibility. Any site plans that did not comply with the administrative regulations could be reviewed under a special use permit. Mr. Helmer stated that incentives were not included in the solar section; however, with the Commission’s comments, he has made a note to include it when it’s reviewed by City Council. He asked for questions at this time.
Mr. Turnage asked if the energy generated could be stored to use at a later time.
Mr. Helmer answered that yes, it could be captured and stored in battery cells.
Mr. Velasquez asked if there were any styles of turbines that have a lower noise level.
Mr. Helmer said to his knowledge, style has no real bearing or issue with noise. The top of the turbine seems to be pretty consistent.
Ms. Abbott asked if there is going to be a notification of the neighbors before one of these permits is issued.
Mr. Helmer said there would be under a special use permit application. If the guidelines were followed under the administrative process and review then it would just be a permitting process in the Community Development Department.
Ms. Abbott commented that she wouldn’t be very happy to have one next door to her.
Mr. West asked how it would effect homes association requirements.
Mr. Helmer answered that there is some language in the ordinance that states that the applicant would still have to adhere to any type of covenants that would be in their subdivision regulations.
Discussion: Outdoor Parking and Street Lighting on Public/Private property.
While Mr. Helmer was changing the PowerPoint presentation, Mr. Wingerson approached the Commission and said that while Mr. Helmer is providing them with a great amount of detail, from a general standpoint the Council has asked staff to look at this issue of sustainability pretty seriously and pretty globally. This is just one aspect. Some of the Commission will remember when satellite dishes were first introduced- they were quite large. Residents began putting them facing the right direction wherever they thought was best for reception and then all cities were in a “catch-up” mode. What Mr. Helmer is proposing this evening is a pro-active way to get some regulatory things “on the books” and then as the market develops whatever requirements need to be updated can be made.
Mr. Steffens asked what the cost might be for putting a wind turbine up.
Mr. Helmer said it really depends. Some of the smaller monopole designs can be anywhere from $10,000-$20,000 depending on how large they are. There are a lot of tax incentives for them right now also.
Mr. Steffens didn’t think there would be many of their neighbors putting them up.
Mr. Helmer introduced the outdoor lighting regulation ordinance by beginning the PowerPoint presentation. He said that one way to save energy costs is to retrofit existing outdoor lighting. A lot of the nation’s lighting is very dated. The technology has far surpassed what is out there. The beginning slides depicted an aerial map of the planet and what it looks like every night and where lighting is most concentrated.
Mr. Helmer spoke about some of the traditional lighting mechanisms such as mercury vapor, metal halide and high-pressure sodium. These are all types of lighting being used in Gladstone as well as all over the country. The first energy efficient street lighting technology Mr. Helmer spoke about was Light Emitting Diodes (LED). He highlighted several points of LED before moving on to the next option- Induction Lighting. The benefits of induction lighting are superior to LED and include doubling the life cycle as well as a higher percent of savings.
Mr. Helmer concluded the PowerPoint presentation by speaking about public safety and how energy efficient lighting can enhance darkened areas and provide a much safer environment. The last slide illustrated three types of lighting fixtures that would be required. Figure four was a teardrop style and would not be allowed. This type of fixture would spread the light out and not face it downward. Mr. Helmer asked if there were any questions at this time.
Ms. Alexander asked if this would solve the concerns that the neighbors had who live behind Walmart’s new proposed employee parking lot.
Mr. Helmer answered that it would and that staff has had on-going conversations with their architect about the reduction of lighting in the parking area. It’s actually pretty standard because they want the light going downward onto the lot to help with safety.
Introducing the ordinance, Mr. Helmer briefly explained that the City will not be retroactively going after property owners as far as switching out energy efficient lighting. They key components of this ordinance is looking at large re-development and new development projects. The section of this ordinance that he has not seen in regulations in other parts of the county is the very particular energy efficiency lighting that staff is looking at. From a long-term standpoint of the retrofit of our city streetlights as well as new development staff would really be looking at the applications of LED and induction lighting. He offered to answer questions at this time.
Chairman Hill asked if this ordinance would be able to address a resident who erects a streetlight type in their driveway or backyard.
Mr. Helmer said he would have to look back at the ordinance in greater detail, but he thinks that they would have some footing with this ordinance. He will look into it and get back to them with an answer.
Mr. Helmer informed the Commission that these two ordinances will be moving forward to the City Council next Monday as a study session item.
Item 6 on the Agenda: Communications from the City Council and the City Staff.
Mayor Rudi welcomed Mr. Turnage. She said that he is Councilman McCullough’s replacement and that the Council will be looking for a replacement for Commissioner Newsom. She also announced that Gladfest is not too far off and she would be happy to sign up some volunteers.
Councilman McCullough welcomed the Commission back from a long break. He said that the Amphitheater schedule includes Magic Great Delani on August 29th as well as many concerts in September and October. He will be staffing the beverage stations with Chairman Hill during Gladfest and is looking for volunteers as well.
Mr. Wingerson welcomed the Commission back and Mr. Turnage to the group. He made a few announcements. Walmart is scheduled to begin at the end of August, first of September. The sidewalk on M-1 Highway/Prospect is being constructed with Federal Stimulus money through MoDot. After that project will be the creation of bicycle pedestrian trails on the other side of M-1 that will go from Prospect Plaza past Walmart to the bridge that will connect to a trail to Happy Rock Park and through to Maplewoods Parkway. Mr. Wingerson said that although the City was successful in obtaining Federal stimulus funds for the overlay of N. Broadway, from 68th to Englewood Road, the project is likely to not begin until 2010.
Mr. Garnos asked what the status of Stratford Park is.
Mr. Wingerson answered that the project is due to begin infrastructure work in Spring 2010; maybe a few models in the Fall of 2010.
Ms. Abbott asked about the hill on 64th Street. [Tower Plaza]
Mr. Wingerson said that the funding for that project is provided by the Transportation Development District that is created by that development [Tower Plaza]. The development is not performing like anyone anticipated and therefore there is no funding for the road.
Item 7 on the Agenda: Communications from the Planning Commission Members.
Ms. Abbott welcomed Mr. Turnage and thanked Mr. Helmer for a comprehensive presentation.
Mr. Turnage said he is glad to be a part of this group and that he really appreciated Mr. Helmer’s presentation. He thinks this is a bold step.
Mr. West welcomed Mr. Turnage. He would like to have the turning arrow at 72nd and N. Oak reviewed for timing.
Ms. Smith thanked Mr. Helmer for an excellent job.
Ms. Alexander has a friend who was very impressed by the City’s magazine. She thanked Ms. Mehaffy and others who work on it for a great job. She also wanted to thank Ms. Newsom who has given so many hours and so much time to Gladstone; she will be missed. Ms. Alexander said she will be having her knee replaced Wednesday at North Kansas City Hospital.
Mr. Velasquez said that there is an area along the sidewalk on 68th Street near Tanglewood Apartments that has an excessive amount of foliage hanging over it and wondered if it could be looked at.
Chairman Hill said that at the top of his list is Creative Arts Academy. Since their inception it has been violation of City Ordinance of their Special Use Permit. It continues to be in violation and ignores City staff and basically just flaunts whatever it wants to do. His thought is that there are three elements of violation that have existed for a period of time and will continue to exist unless they do something. The first one, probably not the main one, is that the fence is not compliant with the ordinance. The ordinance requires a wooden fence; not a white plastic fence. The second violation is the continuous use of an off-premises sign on the property of Englewood Baptist Church. That sign, or the structure for it, has been up for months and most recently there is a new sign up with balloons and other attention gathering devices that are off-premises and it’s a billboard sized sign promoting business in R-1 zoning. The third item of violation is the dumpsters that are in the parking lot that are not on the site plan. Chairman Hill said that there are probably more violations than that, but those are the primary ones that are negatively impacting an R-1 neighborhood. When the Special Use Permit came before this Commission, City staff and others told the neighbors that we would protect their neighborhood and that we would prevent a negative impact and we have gone several years now and that has not happened. They have basically done what they’ve wanted to and then after City staff has been all over them, usually for several months, sometimes they comply and sometimes they don’t. His thought is that it’s time that the Commission start looking into a revocation of the Special Use Permit. He realizes they have a significant investment there, but the homeowners also have significant investment. He also realizes that there is a permitted billboard on the white fence, which he has no idea why it was ever approved. If he was running for public office and it was a politically motivated sign, he could not come to the City and get permission to put a 4’X8’ billboard in his front yard that said “Brian Hill for President” and that’s a much more protected speech than a commercial type billboard.
Mr. Wingerson said that for those who were not here in 2004, Creative Arts Academy is a children’s dance studio/youth education type of facility that is located at Englewood Road near Holy Cross Church. The facility that Creative Arts Academy is currently in was part of a church that had a much bigger congregation and it aged and dropped down and the education part of the church was for sale and was ultimately purchased by Pam Raisher and her husband at the time named Scott who came to the City and applied for a Special Use Permit to operate the dance studio. It took the better part of the year to get it through the process. There was a lot of back and forth between the neighborhood/applicant, the Commission/applicant, the Commission/neighborhood, the Commission/Council, etc. For a Special Use Permit it was one of the controversial applications that the City had heard in some time. It resulted in a split vote at the Commission level and he believes a less than unanimous vote at the City Council.
Mr. Wingerson explained that what Creative Arts Academy ended up with was a 15-Year Special Use Permit that has fourteen separate conditions to it. Many are the same as the standard ones, but there are a couple that were added in the process. Parking was a big, big deal. Nobody thought they had enough and so in response they negotiated where Creative Arts Academy bought additional parking on the north side of the church and then turned around executed a shared parking agreement with the church so that they would have enough parking on Sundays and Wednesdays. Chairman Hill refers to two specific conditions in the ordinance. The ordinance says
“A six foot privacy fence installed along the north property line. Fence constructed finished side out and supplemented with shrubbery no smaller than 5 gallons spaced 6’ on center and maintained in perpetuity.”
Mr. Wingerson said that Chairman Hill is exactly right- the fence is not wood; it is a plastic fence generally regarded as when those fences are installed professionally and appropriately have less maintenance and are more durable and long lasting than a wooden fence. He is sure that based on those criteria, although he doesn’t remember, he’s sure staff approved the plastic fence compared to the wood. Although technically a violation of the words of the ordinance, it is maybe not a violation of the intent of the ordinance.
Regarding the sign, Mr. Wingerson said that that issue has come up many times since 2004. He read the condition:
“Signage at the location shall be limited to the applicant owned property or included in a shared signage agreement with the tenant of the contiguous parcel and shall follow all rules and regulations associated with the City of Gladstone Sign Ordinance.”
What staff has been telling Ms. Raisher since 2004 is to follow the terms of the ordinance and what is being implied is that the off-premises nature of those signs are not appropriate. What staff is arguing with themselves about and trying to be careful with is the language, “a shared signage agreement with the tenant of the contiguous parcel.” The plot thickened last week when the church called to request a temporary sign permit. The question became who the sign was actually for. When Mr. Wingerson found out it was for Creative Arts Academy, further discussion was needed. He asked if had addressed all of Chairman Hill’s concerns.
Chairman Hill commented that what needs to be kept in mind is that at the Planning Commission and City Council level the idea behind the shared signage portion of the ordinance was to allow directional signage and identifying signage on the church property. That is what was discussed at the public hearing and what has been allowed. There was no mention or request for advertising signage.
Mr. Wingerson said that is correct. The intent of the language was to share the monument sign in front of the church and then some directional signage to direct people down the side street. The point is that if the Commission and Council agree to a round of public hearings on this permit that is the kind of “gray” that they will be dealing with.
Mr. Garnos asked about the shrubbery and whether it was ever done.
Mr. Wingerson said that it was done in 2004, but if it’s there today he is not sure.
Ms. Alexander thought the neighbors had requested a gate.
Chairman Hill replied that was never a part of the ordinance.
Mr. Wingerson said that the neighbors requested the gate of Ms. Raisher. The neighbors said she agreed to it; she said she didn’t. It was never brought to the attention of the Planning Commission or City Council publicly so no one knew about it.
Chairman Hill said that his thought would be that when staff meets with her that at the very least she be advised that a revocation is being discussed at the Planning Commission level so maybe she realizes they are serious for a change. He also suggested having Counselor Ramsay research the revocation process to discuss at the next Planning Commission meeting.
Mr. Whitton said he would be willing to make the motion to start the process.
Chairman Hill said they will wait until the next meeting to see what happens. He said he did have a few other things. There is a $5 foot long sign on a truck at the Subway on Antioch Road. There is also a sign in the back of a truck at the sports memorabilia store in the same parking lot. He thinks the Subway truck is being parked there overnight. There is also a banner at Heritage Village on 64th Street, off of Antioch Road. Chairman Hill said that it seems that Auto Zone still has not sodded all of their property facing N. Prospect per their site plan ordinance. It is full of weeds. Another topic he feels the City may want to be proactive with is home-based farming. With the growing interest in fresh vegetables, meats and eggs he thinks it might be a good idea to have something in place to deal with it.
Item 8 on the Agenda: Adjournment.
Chairman Hill adjourned the meeting at 9:10 pm.
______________________________________ Approved as submitted _____
Becky Jarrett, Recording Secretary
______________________________________ Approved as corrected _____
J. Brian Hill, Chairman