Changes proposed for some zoning ordinances in St. Clair Shores

By: Jon Malavolti | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 30, 2018

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Years after creating a subcommittee to review suggested changes to certain aspects of the city zoning ordinance, City Council initiated the zoning ordinance amendment process for several ordinances.

Proposed changes to the RM-1 multiple-family low rise, RM-2 multiple-family high rise, O-1 office, CR commercial recreation and LI light industrial zoning ordinances were debated before City Council March 19. With council’s approval, the proposed amendments will now head to the Planning Commission for a public hearing and recommendation before returning to City Council for action.

A zoning ordinance amendment committee made up of some members of City Council had been reviewing the changes since 2015. 

Changes to the zoning ordinances include adding a screening requirement of a 6-foot privacy fence between RM-1 and single-family zoning for complexes up to eight units, and a 6-foot concrete wall for those with more than eight units; eliminating minimum acreage for independent living facilities and RM-2 multiple-family high-rise units; clarified language in CR commercial recreation to show that all properties with that classification are special land uses in the district and have to be at least 100 feet from any residential district; allowing museums in a light industrial district; allowing outdoor storage with proper screening in a light industrial district; and eliminating a dwelling unit for a night watchman or caretaker in a light industrial district.

There was also a proposal to allow all uses within the B-1 and B-2 business districts in O-1 office zoning, but council members said they were afraid that would virtually eliminate the office district designation.

Mayor Kip Walby pointed out that City Council had denied a request to put a Dollar General store on land near Kroger on Nine Mile Road that was zoned as office.

“This would have allowed that to go into there,” he said. 

City Planner Liz Koto said that a planning consultant hired to advise the zoning committee had recommended that change, which would allow retail establishments within the bounds of the office zoning requirements.

City Councilman Chris Vitale said that the proposed language prohibited interior displays from being visible from the outside of the building and that the total display area for merchandise cannot exceed 15 percent of the usable floor area.

“My understanding when we discussed this (was) ... let’s say you took over an office and you weren’t a doctor, you weren’t a lawyer, (you) did bathtub reglazing. You would have a small showroom. That’s all we would really allow,” he explained. “Something like a Dollar General would definitely use more than 15 percent of their floor space to display merchandise.”

Council members eliminated the language allowing B-1 and B-2 in office zoning to avoid opening Pandora’s box, as it were, with unclear language as to what actually would be allowed, and voted to create a definition of “display” to be added to the ordinance before unanimously approving the initiation of the amendment process. 

Council members also approved starting the amendment process for the other zoning classifications being considered March 19, but did not vote on a change to the ordinance that would have allowed home occupations. That change will come before City Council again after City Attorney Robert Ihrie has reviewed it.