Local resident Jim Fink has written a letter to the Mayor and City council questioning the city’s recent attempt to ban churches, union halls, and fraternal organizations in downtown Ypsilanti. As long time readers know, the city has gone to war with local resident and attorney Doug Winters over his rental of his building to a church on North Huron. The city, after getting slammed by the public, backed down and said that the church can stay. Now the city has launched a new attack that would not only ban any new churches, it would also ban fraternal orders, service clubs, union halls, and schools K-12.
The city incorrectly quotes state law that a church downtown will prevent a restaurant from getting a liquor license. Mr. Fink points out this is not true, but a reading of the minutes of the last planning commission shows that the city attorneys and staff continue to propagate bad information. (See Planning Packet — Warning file is 13MB in size)
Ypsilanti’s greatest strength is our heritage and yet our city government all too often forgets that. The Riverside Arts Center, a hallmark of our downtown revitalization and what Gov. Granholm calls the jewel of Ypsilanti was originally the Masonic lodge. That building and use would not have been allowed under this new zoning plan.
Cleary College, before it was a college, was as a school for children in what was later the Kresge building downtown. Yet it would have been banned under this ordinance. The Ladies Library, which also began in the Kresge Building, and is today our public library, would not have been allowed under this new zoning ordinance. The Moose lodge for years was in the building that is today Materials Unlimited. It would have been banned as well. One of the proposed uses for the vacant Smith Furniture building is a meeting hall and banquet facility. It too would be banned.
There is a real question on whether the NAACP would be allowed downtown if they again moved.
I recently drove around downtown Detroit and marveled at all the beautiful churches. Under this new zoning law, none of those churches would have been allowed to be built.
If the city continues with this zoning change, given the incorrect information presented to council and the planning commission, the ordinance would likely be overturned and will surely face a referendum vote.
The city is dealing with a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, Water Street continues to flounder with no developer and the senior city planner for Water Street having just resigned, and the parking lots downtown are still unfinished as the city and DDA prepares to tear up the parking lots again in the Spring.
We are facing serious problems in our community, churches in our downtown is not one of them. The planning commission and city council should stop this zoning text amendment and lets get back to working on the real problems in our community.