St. Clair Shores votes to allow different materials on Harper buildings

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 30, 2019

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — St. Clair Shores is expanding the list of allowable exterior building materials in the Harper Avenue Overlay Zone, which also dictates the building requirements in the Lakefront Business District.

Since it was first added to the city’s zoning ordinance, the Harper Avenue Overlay Zone called for the use of brick, stone or glass on building walls facing a public street. In more recent years, however, the City Council and the Zoning Board of Appeals have considered newer construction materials like Hardyback and Nichiha for buildings in the zone as developers have requested them.

“I think this is just the beginning,” said City Planner Liz Koto. “More exterior finish systems are going to be coming down the pipeline.”

Koto pointed out that the city already allows some of the “brick applications,” and that the amended zoning ordinance simply streamlines what will be considered: brick, including tilt-up systems and structural brick; fiber cement panel systems; and pre-finished metal, stone, glass or “other durable, weatherproof, commercial-grade exterior finish with a minimum 30-year warranty as reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission and City Council.”

The Planning Commission reviews and decides whether to recommend plans to the City Council, which then votes to approve or deny plans.

The changes also allow reflective and mirrored glass and expand how much of a building can make use of a secondary accent material.

Those coming before the Planning Commission and the City Council with a product that has a manufacturer’s warranty of fewer than 30 years will still need to get a variance to proceed with the materials, Koto explained.

Councilman Chris Vitale said that he would prefer at least a 30-year warranty because brick is “essentially a lifetime material,” he said.

“We were looking for better materials,” agreed Councilman Peter Accica. “Something that would last without falling apart in 15 years.”

Mayor Kip Walby pointed out that the City Council could always amend the zoning ordinance again if new materials begin to be suggested that aren’t covered by the changes.

“It’s kind of where the building industry was going, in terms of alternatives to brick,” Councilman John Caron said. “It would at least drive the businesses that are coming in (to) start with durable materials.

“We are forcing them to come up with a higher standard.”

The changes were approved with a 6-0 vote. For the complete ordinance, visit