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New Genisys facility gains PC approvals



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Here's a rendering of the proposed Genisys Credit Union that is to be built on the parcels now known as 114, 118 and 120 S. Washington St. (click for larger version)
March 12, 2014 - Genisys Credit Union is a few steps closer to being able to construct a new facility in Oxford Village.

Last week, the village planning commission voted 4-0 to give final approval to Genisys' site plan with conditions such the landscaping must be irrigated and maintained, and the credit union must agree to contribute funds for the eventual development of a new village roadway on the site's east side known as the East Alley.

Genisys is planning to build a 3,296-square-foot facility, complete with drive-through area, on the site of what is now 114, 118 and 120 S. Washington St. The site consists of two residential homes, which would be demolished, and a vacant lot between them.

The lots, located just north of Holy Cross Lutheran Church and just south of Coldwell Banker Shooltz Realty, will be combined into one and the new address would be 120 S. Washington St.

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"I'm very pleased that the bank is doing this," said local landowner/developer Chuck Schneider. "It's a great asset to the community. I appreciate their commitment to the community."

Genisys is planning to invest more than $1.2 million in the project, according to village Manager Joe Young.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to recommend conditional rezoning of the three parcels from Commercial Office (C-O) to General Business (C-2).

The credit union needs the conditional rezoning in order to have a drive-through.

Drive-throughs are not permitted in C-O zoning, but they are allowed in C-2 zoning.

The conditional rezoning agreement must now be approved by the village council in order to take effect. It was scheduled to be an agenda item at the March 11 meeting.

Under the proposed conditional rezoning agreement, if the property at some point in the future ceases to be a Genisys Credit Union, the potential uses for it would be limited to what's currently allowed in C-O zoning, not C-2 zoning.

"The planning commission would be required to approve any new use," explained village planner Chris Khorey, senior planner with the Northville-based McKenna Associates.

Permitted C-O uses would be places of worship, private instructional facilities, public or community buildings, retail uses, restaurants without drive-throughs, bars, professional offices, medical offices, funeral homes and banks. Special uses would include essential services, childcare centers, bed-and-breakfasts, boarding houses and wireless telecommunications facilities.

Khorey noted the drive-through would only be permitted for banks and other financial institutions. "It would not be permitted . . . for food service," he said.

Village attorney Bob Davis agreed.

"The permission to use a drive-through is limited to a financial banking institution," he said. "It's not a blanket approval of a drive-through."

"If (Genisys) sold (the property) to another bank, that bank could continue to use the drive-through as long as it remained a bank," continued Davis, but any other business could not use it.

Planning commissioners also voted 4-0 to approve Genisys' request for a special use sign with conditions, one of which is if the property is ever sold or changes use, the special use is nullified and the existing sign must be removed.

The credit union is planning to install a 32-square-foot freestanding sign on a brick base featuring a 19.75-square-foot electronic message board.

As a condition of approval, light from the sign must not illuminate any lots other than the Genisys site. This is meant to protect the residential uses immediately to the south.

Every two minutes, the electronic sign would change to display messages for advertising purposes and community events.

Tom Alter, senior vice president of research and development for Genisys, told commissioners the sign would not feature any moving lights and scrolling text. There will be no videos, either.

"Ours is basically a rotating billboard, for lack of a better word," he said. "It has a static image, static words on it."

Alter promised that one out of every five messages would be to promote a community event in Oxford.

"We do this in other communities and with community groups where we allow them to put a message (on the sign) or we promote a message (for them)," he said. "Generally, that's accepted as a gift-in-kind valued at $1,000 for 30 days. So, that's about a $12,000 value to the community."

Based on 2008 traffic data, Alter claimed 200,000 people would see these messages on a monthly basis.

Special use approval was required because electronic message signs are prohibited in the village zoning ordinance and the maximum area for signage in the C-2 district is 24 square feet.

Alter explained the extra 8 feet is needed so the electronic sign is "large enough to be readable"

Khorey had no issue with approving an electronic sign, but he did recommend denying the 32-square-foot size.

"I'm concerned that a very large sign in this part of town could be a distraction to drivers, especially because other signs in this area . . . are much smaller," he said.

Khorey expressed his concern that Genisys's sign could potentially block the Coldwell Banker Shooltz Realty sign to the north.

"That's one thing to keep in mind," he said.

Even though Genisys is requesting a conditional rezoning to C-2, the site is still located in the C-O district, where it's surrounded by properties that conform to those zoning requirements.

Signage in the C-O district is limited to 16 square feet, which means Genisys' proposed 32-square-foot sign is "going to be twice the size of permitted signs at other businesses," Khorey said.

"That's a bit of concern to me in that this district had, for a very long time, very strict requirements on freestanding signs to the point where they all had to have a specific look to them," he said. "That's no longer in the zoning ordinance, but when comparing this sign to what the neighbors are going to (have), it is something of a concern of mine."

Commissioner Jack Curtis, who visited the site, said he measured the Coldwell Banker Shooltz Realty sign and it's 32 square feet.

"I . . .walked through the snow and looked to see if (the proposed Genisys sign) would block the traffic (and) see if it would block the sign," he said. "I think it doesn't do any of that."

Given Genisys is committed to donating 20 percent of its signage to community events, Curtis sees that as a "benefit."

Commission Chair Sue Bossardet, who also visited the site, had no issue with the sign and liked the fact it would be used to advertise local happenings.

"I think it's a nice addition to that area," she said. "I'm not going to say that I want to see this sign on every single property, but I think (at this particular site) it certainly fits in . . . I like it . . . I think that this is a nice addition to the town and I think it's appropriate for that property."

Curtis noted if there are any complaints or concerns regarding the sign being illuminated 24 hours a day, the village could request Genisys turn it off between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"We would prefer not to to be honest with you," said Genisys CEO Jackie Buchanan. "People are still driving by (at that time) and we'd still like them to see what benefits there are to (being a member of) Genisys and the community events."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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