March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Walnut Neighborhood residents speak out against Niowave’s pole barn, want pending tax incentives tied to design improvements

Monday, July 16 — Six residents of the Walnut Neighborhood spoke out against local high tech manufacturer Niowave Inc. at tonight’s City Council meeting because of a building they say has ruined the look, feel and property values of their neighborhood.

Niowave, a six-year-old company in the middle of a $10 million expansion, erected a three-story, 14,000-square-foot pole barn adjacent to its headquarters in the former Walnut Street school, 1012 N. Walnut St. The expansion has been heralded by Mayor Virg Bernero and local economic officials as positive development, despite the pole barn. A recent groundbreaking ceremony brought in Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin.

The development is in the middle of the Walnut Neighborhood, which is north of downtown and west of Old Town.

“Some of what we’ve learned is that future property appraisals are likely to suffer as a result of the new building,” Mary Elaine Kiener said tonight, who owns two properties “less than 100 feet” from Niowave. “A realtor friend told me that unless the prospective homeowner is a Niowave employee, she wouldn’t bother showing the house to anyone.”

A local residential property appraiser told City Pulse last week that the new building creates an “exterior obsolescence,” but that he would need to perform an appraisal to determine exactly how it would affect nearby properties.

Elaine Kiener said a meeting with Niowave representative Beth Grimm — wife of Niowave owner Terry Grimm — and eight residents earlier today was “neighborly and respectful.”

“Beth listened and yet admitted simply that they never thought of the building’s impact on the neighborhood,” Elaine Kiener added. “I understand the process was apparently legal, but being legal doesn’t necessarily make it right.”

“Apparently we’re in a new age now when a business can freely do this,” said Richard Lott, a North Capitol Avenue resident who lives about a block from Niowave.

Lott and three others questioned whether the development conforms to the city’s new “Design Lansing” comprehensive master plan Council approved in April. They are also calling on Council to delay a vote on a personal property tax exemption for Niowave until a compromise is reached. The abatement, worth more than $200,000 over six years on new equipment installed in the new building, is up for a public hearing at next week’s meeting.

More on this story to come in the next print edition of City Pulse.