Amber land owner frustrated with zoning process.

November 14, 2019

Dan Quinn

Amber land owner frustrated with zoning process.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief


AMBER TOWNSHIP — Dan Quinn is a frustrated property owner. Quinn, who owns U-Win Motorsports , 2284 W. US 10/31 between Stiles and Quarterline roads, wants to build a storage building on property adjacent to his recreational vehicle sales business. His plan is to use the building for storage, but the county’s zoning administrator is trying to force Quinn to merge the two properties, insisting that the building must be part of the U-Win land.

“I have explained to the zoning administrator several times that my intention is to use this building for storage,” Quinn said.

U-Win Motorsports sits on 1.72 acres. Adjacent to that property’s west and north boundaries is another 5.24 acres that includes Quinn’s Towing, a business that Dan Quinn no longer owns. However, Quinn still owns the building and the land. Quinn wants to build a 200-feet by 40-feet pole building on the northeast portion of the property, which would place the building behind U-Win.

Mason County Zoning and Building Director Brady Selner is asking Quinn to reconfigure his property in order to obtain a special land use permit to build the building.

Quinn said he has owned the land since the late 1980s, and said he believes the county’s zoning and building director is making an illegal request.

“When I applied for the permit, I was told by the zoning administrator that I have to jump through some hoops in order to build the building. I don’t want this building to be on the same property as U-Win because at some point, I’m going to want to sell the U-Win business but keep the other property.

In a letter to Quinn, Selner stated the reconfiguration is so the storage building is on the same lot as the U-Win sales building.

Quinn said the Michigan Land Division Act 288 of 1967 does not allow him to reconfigure the property due to the ratio of the division. Plus, he added, he wants the building on a separate piece of property.

Last week, Quinn attended the county planning commission meeting. Though his request was not on the agenda, he addressed the commission during public comment, and presented his site plan. Quinn said he feels the zoning administrator is over-stepping his authority and is tacking on requirements that are irrelevant to the purpose of the storage building.

“I assumed it was permitted use,” Quinn said the commission. “Now Brady said I have to have a site plan, which I have provided. Then he said all these things are going to be added, such as where is snow storage is going to be. Those things just don’t pertain to what I am trying to accomplish.

“I got a list of 22 things that need to be done just to apply for the special use permit,” Quinn said. “Then I have to set up a meeting in front of the planning commission. I wanted to have this building up before winter and now it looks like I won’t even be able to get in front of the planning commission until mid-December — if I properly address all the issues properly.”

Selner told MCP that Quinn’s business is considered an “open air business.” The property is zoned neighborhood commercial. Quinn initially contacted County Building Inspector Tom Fulker in early October. Fulker received an email from Quinn’s contractor on Oct. 15 with the engineered drawings. On Oct. 28 Quinn’s contractor then spoke with Selner. The next day, Quinn contacted Selner. Selner then reached out to the county’s attorney.

Quinn said he was told by Selner on Oct. 29 that there wasn’t enough time to place the topic on the Nov. 5 agenda. If he were able to complete all the stipulations by Nov. 13, he could get on the Dec. 3 agenda, however.

Quinn said his experience is just another example of how the county’s zoning ordinance is hindering a business. Currently Amber Township does not have its own zoning ordinance and utilizes the county’s zoning ordinance and enforcement.

“It’s time Amber Township has its own zoning ordinance and enforcement,” Quinn said. “Amber is the second largest commercial township in the county and still relies on the county to enforce zoning. In my opinion this has hindered business growth in the township.”

In the past year, other Amber Township businesses have clashed with the county’s planning commission, including Starving Artist Brewing Company and SyncWave.

When Starving Artist Brewing Company owner Andy Thomas opened the business on South Stiles Road in 2015, he had requested a special use permit to allow the brewery to be a home-based business. At that time, the county’s zoning ordinance did not have a stipulation about microbreweries. Since that time, the zoning ordinance was amended to include microbreweries under the agribusiness category. However, Thomas’ original request was for production only.

When Thomas decided to expand his business to include a tasting room, he approached Seiner. It was agreed that he was changing the terms of the original special land use and then applied to be a microbrewery. However, one of the restrictions he did not meet was the 10 acre minimum requirement. Thomas only has five acres and there is no land adjacent to his land for sale. His land is zoned agriculture, however.

The zoning ordinance also states that an agribusiness must include an active farm operation with a minimum of two acres and that portions must be tasting room portions and that the tasting room cannot operate as a bar. 

When Thomas originally appeared in front of the planning commission in March of this year, he was referred to the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals. That board unanimously denied his request in early April.

It was discovered that Thomas’ state-issued liquor license trumped local law and he was exempt from the zoning requirements.

In the case of SyncWave, the business moved from the 300 block of North Amber Road to the old Pump Engineering building at 499 W. US 10, just west of the Scottville city limits. Owner Russell Manning made significant changes to the building including wiring, mechanical, and general structural updates.

The county’s zoning office placed a stop-work order on the property with Selner stating the changes to the property were more significant than the approved permit.

Ultimately, the stop-work order was lifted and Manning was able to complete construction of his business.

“It just seems that Mason County’s government wants to hinder business growth,” Quinn said.

Quinn said has now been informed by Selner that he should approach the zoning board of appeals with his request.

“This is just very frustrating,” Quinn said. “It’s time something changes.”

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