By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – The City Council did not approve a developer’s preliminary site plan to convert the former St. Elizabeth school building into an indoor storage facility at its Sept. 28 meeting.
The motion failed on a 3-3 vote, with Council members Robert Alderman, Chris Calvin and Megan Maiani in favor, and Leonard Sabuda, Don Schultz and Mayor Pro Tem Robert DeSana opposed.
The Planning Commission, which met Sept. 17, denied the plans to renovate the building, which has been vacant for seven years, on the grounds that it was not consistent with the city’s master plan for future land use.
The site, at 136 Goodell, 141 Goodell and 1203 2nd St., between 1st and 2nd streets, is owned by Mooney Real Estate Holdings of Detroit. It was originally zoned for institutional use.
The property has been rezoned “planned development” to encourage a wider range of potential developers, but there have been no outside proposals to convert the building to a church, school, community center or residential use.
Developer Salvatore (“Sam”) Vitale of Wyandotte sought to renovate the building into an indoor storage facility.
The planning commission felt that the proposed storage units are an industrial use, and felt it was incompatible with the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Mooney Real Estate Holdings contends that, despite its active promotion of the site, only one other offer for the site has been received in the last seven years, and it was withdrawn because of a zoning conflict.
Architect Thomas Roberts, who spoke to the city council Sept. 28 on Vitale’s behalf, said the proposed indoor storage facility would be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and would not have nighttime access.
He said there would be no large semi-trucks, but smaller rental trucks, with FedEx and UPS delivery trucks as well.
Vitale said that one of his current tenants, who would utilize the facility, wishes to store classic Corvette parts in it.
He said that the parking lot would only be used for employee vehicles, and not for outdoor storage.
Roberts said there are basically only three other options for the site: Tear down the building, convert it to residential units, or repurpose it into a school or church again, none of which are financially appealing to investors. He said the cost of demolishing the building is a major disincentive to clearing the site for a new project.
“I think there are three options,” Roberts said. “You can tear it down, but then someone has to spend $200,000 to $300,000 to do that, and what are you going to put there – single family homes, or a new multi-family building?
“The second option is to convert it to adaptive use, like you are proposing for McKinley or St. Helena, and it becomes residential, but there is a challenge with that as well, and then the third option is it becomes a school or church again, but that’s probably not likely, so, it’s a tough one.”
Greg and Jeanne Mosczynski, who live near the vacant building, addressed resident worries in a letter to the planning commission and city council, outlining numerous concerns, from a feared increase in truck traffic near a neighborhood park, to the apprehension that the building would continue to be an eyesore if it were to be repurposed as a storage facility.
They called upon the city to raze the building, to make the site attractive to residential development, which they contend is more compatible with the city’s master plan.