By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The site of the former St. Bernadette Catholic Church, 2600 Saulino Court, recently used to house Angel House, has been rezoned to allow for its use a medical office building.
The second and final reading of the ordinance occurred during the Feb. 9 city council meeting, where it was unanimously approved.
St. Bernadette, which opened in 1943, closed in 1998, after which the building housed Angel House, a multicultural organization which provided services to the immigrant community.
The zoning request was for a change from Single Family Residential District to Community Business District and Single-Family Residential District.
On the east side of the 2.4-acre parcel, a 30-foot section would remain zoned residential, while the existing two-story, 8,000-square-foot building could be developed as medical office space.
Council President Susan Dabaja said the Planning Department noted that, while the proposed rezoning does not align with the future land use designated by the master plan, it is consistent with the continued trend of developing the Dix corridor for commercial users.
“With the exception of a few other properties, this property is one of the last remaining parcels on Dix without commercial frontage,” she said. “The petitioner is imposing on himself that 30 feet of the site will remain residential A, to provide an additional buffer to any of the residents that abut the parcel.”
Senior Planner Kaileigh Bianchini said the easements that run through the property restrict the development to the corner of Dix Avenue and Saulino Court, as opposed to Roulo Street, and there is not a specific site plan being considered, and no permanent structure can be built over an easement.
“What I can say is that, based on the way the easement is oriented, it would be very challenging to locate the building,” she said. “So really, by design, this is going to shift the development up towards Dix, because of the way the easement runs, as well as shifting it more towards the corner of Saulino and Dix.”
Bianchini emphasized that the first step is strictly for the property rezoning.
In answer to a question from a resident, Dabaja said that rezoning is not based on a demonstrated need for a particular type of development.
“The reality is that property owners are free to open up a business or rent space to a business, as long as it is within the zoning,” she said. “As long as it is allowable, there is not much we can do, as long as they meet certain rules.”
Dabaja said that while commercial diversity is a positive thing, it is not a development requirement.
Councilwoman Leslie Herrick said the property’s easement limits how much may be built on the property, and how far back away from Dix that a building could be situated, to avoid encroaching into the neighborhood.
“So, that is something that I take into consideration, as we look at this,” Herrick said.