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Wednesday, November 14,2012

From pole barn to policy

Lansing City Council to consider new ordinance after Niowave pole barn fallout

by Sam Inglot

The Niowave pole barn fiasco has prompted the Lansing City Council to consider new legislation that would require notifying the Council about any new construction on sites with an already approved special land use permit.

Niowave, which is headquartered in the old Walnut School north of downtown, built a 14,000-square-foot pole barn as part of a $10 million expansion earlier this year in the neighborhood. Nearby residents were surprised by the development — some called it a “monstrosity” and have installed signs in yards that read: “Fix the Fašade.” City planning officials said the expansion fit within conditions of a special land use permit approved by the Council in 2006. 

”When we looked at issuing the SLU, it covered the entire property, not just the footprint of the building,” City Council President Brian Jeffries said. “Since the SLU covered the entire property, (Niowave) didn’t have to come to Council for other land use permission.” 

That won’t be the case under the draft ordinance. 

For Jeffries, the pole barn fallout became: “How can we prevent this from happening in the future?” he said. He called the ordinance a “proactive measure.”

Jeffries said the ordinance language makes it so that no construction on a site with a special land use permit can happen without first notifying the Council. He said Council members could then correspond with people in the affected neighborhoods. 

The Council’s Planning and Development Committee will look at the draft in the coming weeks, Jeffries said. 

Walnut Neighborhood resident Mary Elaine Kiener said that neighbors met with Niowave in early October, and it’s her understanding that Niowave is still waiting on “scaled plans” by a landscape architect to fix the building’s facade. 

Niowave’s spokesman on the issue, Chief Financial Officer Mark Sinila, was unavailable for comment.

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