Sept. 10 2010 12:00 AM

The city compromises with a mega church

The Lansing City Council reached a preliminary agreement Thursday with Abundant Grace Faith Church, which purchased the former Farmer Jack at 5750 S. Cedar St. for $700,000 about nine months ago. Because the property is zoned commercial, the city has gone back and forth on whether to grant the church a special land use permit to operate. The Council had concerns that the church would disrupt the flow of traffic on Cedar and would object to businesses already operating in the area.

A draft resolution granting the permit comes with five conditions that the church agreed to:

  • The church agrees in writing not to object to liquor licenses granted to businesses within 500 feet;

  • The church cannot object to businesses already operating in the area, such as the nearby adult video store, Best Video, at 5812 S. Cedar St.

  • Any signage must comply with city’s sign ordinance. Anything larger than 32 square feet and more than 7 feet off the ground requires a permit;

  • The seating capacity of the church is limited by the amount of parking spaces on the site. Church officials said they hope to get a couple thousand attendees in the future; and

  • The church will have to pay for the installation and maintenance of traffic lights if they are needed.

The Committee of the Whole voted unanimously to send the agreement to City Council for approval.

In other news at the Committee of the Whole meeting, discussion continued of the proposed snow and ice removal ordinance. At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood suggested requiring city to first clear its sidewalks downtown before it can go out and write notifications. Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar offered a reality check that property owners, on average, have about 60 feet of sidewalk to clear while the city has miles. Council President Robinson asked Wood, “Are you suggesting we ticket ourselves?” if sidewalks that the city maintains are not cleared.

Wood clarified that she was specifically talking about bridges, thoroughfares and busy crosswalks and that yes indeed the city should ticket itself. She compared the enforcement aspect to police cars getting parking tickets for not feeding meters, which Wood claimed has happened multiple times over the years.

Public service Director Chad Gamble said the city has always had a policy to clear snow within 24 hours.

The discussion ended with Dunbar and First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt exchanging shots at each other after Hewitt started the meeting by thanking his colleagues for working with him on drafting the ordinance and that it has moved quickly from committee to a Council vote over the past week).

“I’m not going to sit here and listen to you say you moved expeditiously on this thing,” Dunbar said. “The only reason it has moved is because your colleagues are finally involved.” Dunbar left the meeting after her speech, but not before Hewitt could respond.

“I will not be lampooned and basically attacked,” Hewitt said, adding that Dunbar’s accusation that he dragged his feet is “a fallacy and inaccurate to the max.”

During its meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to hold a public hearing Sept. 20 on the proposed snow and ice removal ordinance. There were no other legislative matters.

City Clerk Chris Swope announced at the beginning of the City Council meeting that absentee ballots for the General Election will be available soon.