Sunday, August 17, 2014

Muslim Unity Center on 8/18/14 MONDAY AGENDA

Hi All,
Here is the agenda for Monday night.  I will comment only on the Muslim Unity Center parking lot expansion issue.

Bloomfield Township Planning Commission
Monday, August 18, 2014 at 7:00 P.M.

III. Site Plan / Special Land Use
A. 1830 W. Square Lake Road – Muslim Unity Center – Parking Lot Expansion

IV. Site Plan
A. 2100 Telegraph Road – Shops at Bloomfield Place – New Retail Development

(Immediately following Planning Commission Meeting)II. Local Wetlands Hearing
A. 2100 Telegraph Road – Shops at Bloomfield Place – New Retail Development

The Muslim Unity Center (MUC) agenda item appears to be just a parking lot expansion....
....however, is it much more?

Quickly looking at the question:
  • Does the Muslim Unity Center need more parking spaces and would the parking lot expansion proposal solve the parking problem?   How should that be answered?
  • FIRST.... is that the REAL ISSUE?   Reading the information below shows that a previously submitted site plan was TABLED.  That site plan included proposed building additions and a parking lot expansion
  • Is the Township and the Muslim Unity Center putting ONLY the parking lot on the agenda now, and will they submit the BUILDING ADDITION as a future agenda item again?   It appears...yes.

  •  From the April 2, 2014 Design Review Board:

  • Look at the last sentence above:  "..... and expanding an existing NON-CONFORMING site."
What is the INTENT of the zoning law that permits a place to worship to exist on a residential lot?
May the building expand with additions on that RESIDENTIAL LOT ? 
Should the township permit a 302 car parking lot on a residential lot? ... Before any additions are approved or denied?

  • Yet... a report being used for this agenda item says: "Traffic Impact Study for the proposed Muslim Unity Center Addition"  (emphasis added by me)

  • Here is how the Township is presenting the REVISED  (ie: parking lot only)  issue to the Planning Commission Board:
From the Planning Commission Planning Packet  8/18/14

  • On May 5, 2014 at a Planning Commission meeting  TABLED  the additions and parking lot expansion.
  • On June 18, 2014 The Muslim Unity Center requested SPECIAL EVENTS  @ Design Review Board meeting.

This is the MOTION made and passed at that 6/18/14 meeting of just the  THREE PEOPLE on the Design Review Board...


  • In the Planning Packet on pp. 61-62 out of 237 total pages  is a chart from a homeowner explaining issues they have with this proposed parking lot expansion.   I recommend reading these two pages as well as the other 188 pages.
  • I used some information in the planning packet for help with the following comments:

There apparently was a previous agreement in 1993 stating the purpose and use of this property by the Muslim Unity Center (MUC).   Have the uses of this agreement changed since then? Was there a deed restriction attached with that agreement?  Are there more activities and programs and uses (that are typically found in commercial zones)  now reportedly being held at the MUC?  Has this property become more than a place to worship? Is there a COPY of that AGREEMENT?

The residential subdivision neighbors want that 1993 agreement and the stated uses and limits to the property in that agreement upheld.  Which was reported to be only 100 parking spaces...not 302 spaces.  

The residential neighbors (for the most part) don't disagree that the MUC has the legal right to be in a zoned residential area as a religious place of worship.  This property was a former school.  A building used for religious purposes is a special use permitted in residential zoning.  What the residents seem to object to is the increased use of the facility for more than religious services and the increased membership and parking spaces needed beyond what was originally approved.

Has the possible lack of township oversight over the years allowed (knowingly or not)  this property to perhaps expand their activities beyond what is permitted in a residential zoned neighborhood?

Perhaps what MUC should consider is locating the non-religious activities to a new facility in a properly zoned commercial/business area.  Is it  the responsibility of the township leadership to enforce the laws and ordinances concerning the uses of a building?   Yes.   Is it the responsibility of any organization to realize when they have outgrown their current building?  Yes.   Should a religious organization be permitted to build ADDITIONS on the residential property?  My opinion: NO... but they are not asking for that tonight.

That said, it appears that the uses of the buildings owned by all faiths have changed over the decades. A place of worship located in a residential neighborhood used to be a minor traffic issue to that neighborhood just for the scheduled religious services on Sunday mornings.  Now, added traffic to residential neighborhoods happen every day due to extra building uses such as: daycare,  pre-school, elementary school, meeting rooms, exercise classes, banquet facility for weddings/funerals, cafe/food service, homeless shelter, etc. 
In many RESIDENTIAL neighborhoods, excess traffic and parking has become a problem when the residential lot is being used as a "special" use.  What is the solution?

Is finding the solution the job of the Planning Commission?  These are citizens appointed to the position by the Township Board.  They are just a RECOMMENDING BOARD, and cannot make final decisions.  They will hear the issues and make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees.  Those 7 people then make the final decision.  However, attending the PLANNING COMMISSION meeting is important !

Here are some things to consider:
  • There are signed petitions and letters as part of this Planning Packet from people that use the MUC that live both in the township and outside of the township borders.   People that use the MUC want to park in a parking lot close to the building. 
  • People that live in the surrounding homes and subdivisions don't want to see a paved parking lot for 302 cars nor have those cars parked along their subdivision roads in front of their houses.  They want the 1993 agreement upheld.
  • This is a residential zoned area.   Think about this: there are several schools in Bloomfield Hills School District that are vacant and in residential neighborhoods.    Will those buildings be sold? Torn down?   If the building is sold or leased... there are many "special uses"  permitted in that building.  What will be "permitted" in those old school building?  The township MAY face issues such as this one on other sites in the future in your subdivision.
  • Should the township tell the subdivision neighborhoods that it is not illegal to park on their streets and to just deal with it? FYI:  BHHS, restricts parking for the students in the parking lots on their property.  Some families permit their child to drive to school anyway and those without the permit park their cars on adjacent streets, in front of residential homes for the duration of the school day.  Those homeowners have objected to the cars sitting outside their windows parked all day along the curb, but were told by the township and the police that it is not illegal for the students to park on their subdivision roads. 
  • Or will the township enforce the uses permitted or enforce the 1993 agreement with the MUC? "Agreements"  can be made... and also broken.  Recently, a 50 year "legal" agreement with a strip mall at Maple/Telegraph and the adjacent neighborhood was recently broken by our township leadership to accommodate the commercial needs.
  • Will the township deny a 302 car parking lot in the residential zoning?

 If YOU don't express your opinion at public meetings such as this one... or attend meetings provided to discuss the future use of buildings, or go and vote on issues on ballots... Others will make decisions for you.

Back to the parking lot expansion.... 
So.... how would you vote?  What would you recommend?