Dec. 2 2013 12:00 AM

Council approves plans for five different redevelopment projects, including SLU for a church on South MLK

Monday, Dec. 2 — Despite objections from the city’s Planning Department and citizen-advisory Planning Board, the Lansing City Council unanimously approved a special land use request tonight for a church to open on South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

It was the second time in the past two months the Council unanimously agreed to allow a church to move into a commercial corridor, even though city planning staff recommended the permits be denied because the plans don’t fit with the city’s master plan.

In October, the Council approved plans for Holt-based Riverview Church to move into REO Town in the former Cadillac Club. Tonight, the Vietnamese American Buddhist Association of Lansing was given permission to move into the former Casa Nova restaurant at 3015 S. MLK.

In committee meetings leading up to tonight’s vote, the City Attorney’s Office also advised the Council that it would not sign off on a resolution saying the church’s plans are consistent with the master plan and the zoning code, as planning staff found they weren’t. Instead, the Council amended the resolution to simply say it considered those plans when making its decision.

At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar said you could perhaps make the case that the church’s plans are consistent with the master plan, as the building the association plans to renovate isn’t at a main intersection of MLK, but rather a few blocks north of one.

In other SLU news that had the Council at odds with the Planning Department, the body voted 7-1 tonight to approve a request by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce to build a surface parking lot at the corner of Hillsdale and Walnut streets downtown.

The property was formerly owned by the Michigan Jaycees and included a 93-year-old structure  when the chamber bought it earlier this year. After buying the property, the chamber demolished the house and submitted a request to turn it into a parking lot to accommodate more workers at its headquarters across the street.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko voted no based on the Downtown Neighborhood Association’s general opposition to new surface lots downtown.

The chamber and Vietnamese association requests cap a fall season in which the Council grappled with the intent of the city’s latest master plan. See here for a recap on that, including reactions from Bob Johnson, the director of planning and neighborhood development, and a Planning Board member who thinks the Council is rendering the master plan useless.

In other development business, the Council unanimously approved brownfield plans for projects near Old Town.

The first will redevelop the former Heeb building site at 1113-1119 N. Washington Ave. for mixed-use retail and low-income housing.

The Council also approved a brownfield plan for High Grade Materials, which wants to repurpose a cement-mixing site at 1800 Turner St., demolishing a series of eyesores to replace with new buildings and landscaping.

Finally, the Council approved a resolution accepting a sanitary sewer easement from Meijer Inc. at its store on South Pennsylvania Avenue. The company wants to replace sewer lines on its property rather than under the street, which would lead to heavy road reconstruction.

The move comes at no cost to the city, At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries said tonight. Meijer is paying for inspection fees and soil contamination work. Jeffries said Meijer is preparing a portion of the property for redevelopment, but the company has not yet provided specifics on that.