Update on “Residents Say Enough Is Enough”: Residents Win!
The Planning and Zoning Code Ordinance itself again proved to be the best friend of the neighbors of Grace and Cohasset at the Planning Commission meeting last Thursday night.
This time they zeroed in on times when “Conditional Use” can be used to go around the code, and relied on this section of the Code 1162.02(c): "...the conditional use will not change the essential character of the general vicinity in which it is located."
It fell to the neighbors to prove to the Planning Commission that taking out half of a homes’ side yard, and removing an apartment building which they feel is a perfect buffer between residential and commercial DID NOT meet that criteria--that in fact, it would change the character of the neighborhood.
Mary Grodek, one the leaders of the Grace/Cohasset neighborhood called in after the four and a half hour meeting, so excited that it was hard to understand what she was saying, but I will let her speak for herself:
"We won last night at the City Planning Commission meeting about the Drug Mart encroachment. After an almost four and a half hour meeting the commission voted to DENY the conditional-use permit to Drug Mart for the two residential properties which were the apartment building and the thirteen and a half feet (which widened to 20 feet at the back) for the first residence, the 1899 house. So they cannot expand their commercial footprint there…
So we are completely thrilled and grateful that the Commission listened to all of the neighbors who showed up and spoke so eloquently..."
The meeting was well-attended, the fact that so many would stay for so long attests to the fact that many residents understood what the Grace/Cohasset neighbors pointed out from the beginning:
If this can happen to our streets, it can happen to yours, and suddenly the quiet, neighborly experience of living in your own neighborhood in Lakewood doesn’t exist for you anymore, especially if you live near any of our commercial streets.
Mary Grodek pointed out that it lowers the value of every home in the city if Lakewood becomes known for tearing down homes, churches, small local movie theaters... to put up CVS stores, Dollar Stores, McDonald’s.
What happens to our cool “best city to raise your family in” city then? How cool is our coolest suburb full of Dollar Stores, cell phone stores, and chain hamburger joints?
At times, according to resident and writer Michael Gill, the meeting became quite contentious, with members of our all-appointed all-volunteer citizen Planning Commission having to stand up heroically for the residents, as both Commission members and residents pointed to example after example that underlined the Planning and Zoning Code’s simple but strong statement:
The City acknowledges as a matter of public policy that the preservation and protection of residential neighborhoods is required for the health, safety and welfare of the people. Section1173.02(b)(4)
According to Gill, it was the City against the residents, with Planning Director Dru Siley “getting in the faces” of the Planning Commission, demanding that they give proof of how this development would hurt the neighborhood. Fortunately for the neighbors (and we are all neighbors) the Planning Commission does its homework, as did the residents and they could show that finally what boiled down to EIGHT PARKING SPOTS, wasn’t worth it. Without those spots, the Drug Mart lot will have 79 parking spots.
Finally the Planning Commission put its foot down. Harming the character of the neighborhood in terms of the peace and pleasantness of the streets, along with the safety issues, and finally the value of the homes themselves put a lot on the Grace/Cohasset neighbors’ side.
Again, the neighbors stressed that they are not anti-development and that they are all planning to hang in there for the Next Steps, which definitely include welcoming Drug Mart as a good neighbor if they can all continue to work together.
Everyone understands the need for development in Lakewood, and everyone has seen all of our empty car lots, which back in the day, were responsible for the destruction of so many one-of-a-kind homes and mansions on Detroit Ave. which might have made our city “even cooler” now, as a place to live and visit, IF a use could have been figured out for them.
Clearly balance is required. With this situation, a perfect marriage is possible, between residents who would like a nice, clean Drug Mart in their neighborhood, instead of an empty car-lot, if the Drug Mart will be a good neighbor in terms of how they fit themselves in. Because of the wisdom and the fortitude of the Planning Commission, it’s possible that we could see the best of both worlds.
The next meeting of interest is the July 12 Architectural Board of Review meeting, which is THIS Thursday, July 12, and is also a public meeting which will be well attended by the Grace and Cohasset neighbors and their fellow Lakewoodite supporters.
The Grace and Cohasset neighbors have been impressed with the Lakewood Planning Commission and the Architectural Board of Review from the beginning of this process. They would love it if fellow Lakewoodite neighbors would attend these meetings, and meet them, and learn about the process and how to WORK WITH the organizations that have already proven themselves to be responsible and accessible.
I quoted Mary Grodek on the Lakewood Observation Deck the day after the meeting, it seems appropriate to once again, let her end this article, with her words of encouragement to other residents, wise commission members and judicious city planners.
In the words of Mary Grodek, Hey Lakewood, “Rock on!”