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Monday, September 27,2010

Snow and church

The Lansing City Council votes tonight on the snow and ice removal ordinance and granting a special land use permit to a mega church

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, Sept. 27 — After nearly two years, the proposed snow and ice removal ordinance, which grants the city permission to clear snow from sidewalks if residents fail to do so (and charges them), is up for a vote at tonight’s Lansing City Council meeting.

There have been multiple public discussions on the draft ordinance over the past month, drawing both criticism and support from city residents. Under the proposed ordinance, residents will have 24 hours after a snowfall to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks. If they don't, the Public Service Department can issue notices by mail and post them on the property to clear the snow.

If a sidewalk isn’t cleared within 24 hours of notification —mail will be deemed received two days after it is placed in the mail — the Public Service Department will clear it, for which property owners will be billed. Upfront costs for the city to remove the snow would be about $116, which covers an administrative fee and 20 minutes of time. Property owners would be charged $45.29 for each 20 minutes after that. If that fee is not paid within 60 days, it will be placed on the owner's property tax bill with a 5 percent additional administrative fee tacked on.

At a Sept. 20 public hearing, multiple residents expressed concern that they would have to clear snow that was pushed on their sidewalks from city trucks plowing roads. Support for the ordinance has come from the League of Michigan Bicyclists and the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. Both have said the ordinance makes it easier for all pedestrians to move about the city.

In other business, the Council is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to grant Abundant Grace Faith Church a special land use permit to operate out of the former Farmer Jack store at 5750 S. Cedar St.

Church members pooled their money together in December to purchase the vacant building for $700,000. The assessed value of the 106,000 square-foot building is more than $1.1 million.

The city Planning Board recommended the approval of this special land use permit 3-1 on April 6, though zoning administrator Susan Stachowiak objected. She said the church would create little commercial activity.

City Council President A’Lynne Robinson has expressed concern that the church hastily bought the property without guarantee that the city would grant them the special land use permit. The Council also has expressed concern that the church, which hopes to draw more than 1,000 attendees for service, would disrupt the flow of traffic along Cedar Street and object to existing and potential businesses in the area, like the nearby Best Video adult movie store.

At a Sept. 9 Committee of the Whole meeting, the city laid out some compromises that it had worked on with church officials. By granting the permit, the city requires the church to comply with and not object to nearby businesses and also pay for public service upgrades, such as a traffic light, if necessary.

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