Kids in the Hall

By Andy Balaskovitz

Council considers another church’s request to move to commercial corridor after Planning Department recommends denial

Tuesday, Nov. 5 — For the second time in a month, the Lansing City Council is considering a request from a local church to relocate into a commercial corridor in the city.

In both cases, the city’s Planning Department recommended denying a special land use permit because such a use in commercial space is not compatible with the city’s Master Plan.

On Monday night, the Council held a public hearing on a request by the Vietnamese American Buddhist Association of Lansing to move from its temple on Washington Avenue nearby to 3015 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., the former site of Casa Nova and Point After restaurants.

The building, just north of the MLK and Holmes Road intersection, has been vacant for over six years, according to property owner Tobin Weston. It’s zoned commercial and, if the church’s request is approved, would come off the city’s tax rolls.

Last month, the Council unanimously approved a special land use permit for Riverview Church to open another location in REO Town in the former Cadillac Club.

In staff reports for both requests, the Planning Department recommended the Council deny the permit because applicants failed to meet five of nine criteria:

  • It would not be “harmonious with the character of adjacent properties and surrounding uses”;
  • It would “change the essential character of the surrounding properties”;
  • It “may interfere with the general enjoyment of adjacent properties”;
  • It “does not represent an improvement to the lot”; and
  • The proposed use “is not consistent with the specific designations of the Zoning Code” and the Master Plan.

Also in both cases, the city’s citizen-advisory Planning Board recommended denial. Councilman Brian Jeffries said Monday the request was “forwarded from the administration without a recommendation” for a Council decision.

With about 100 members, the Buddhist Association says it has outgrown its renovated temple nearby at 3015 S. Washington Ave., where it’s been for nine years. It argues that the MLK site would be used throughout the week, not just on weekends, and that staying at the Washington Avenue site is dangerous to members due to lack of parking.

The association’s offer to purchase the building was accepted on July 19 this year, according to its application.

“This is the best outcome for that neighborhood,” Weston, the property owner, told the Council Monday night. “It could be another liquor store, dollar store, club — that’s not what this area needs.”

The request was referred back to the Council’s Development and Planning Committee for further discussion.