By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The City Council vacated an alley parallel to and north of Dix Avenue, and rezoned residential property to vehicular parking, to allow Roman Village Restaurant to expand its parking lot.
The two resolutions, which passed at the Feb. 23 council meeting, rezoned two properties, 2440 and 2506 Akron Street, from residential A, single family, to VP, vehicular parking district.
The alley being vacated, north of the restaurant, runs north of and parallel to Dix, between Akron and Saulino Court.
Council President Susan Dabaja said the city’s planning commission asked the council to be aware that the proposed rezoning does not align with the future land use designated by the city’s master plan, but that the master plan does not have a vehicular parking district designation.
It was also noted that a VP district provides off-street parking for an adjourning business, and is meant to supplement parking for businesses which currently do not have enough parking.
She said the planning commission noted that the rezoning will provide a buffer between the commercial and residential districts.
Dabaja acknowledged that nearby residents have spoken in opposition to Roman Village’s parking proposal in the past.
Councilwoman Leslie Herrick said Roman Village has been a strong supporter of the community over the years, but that the council’s decision cannot be made based on that recognition alone.
She said if Roman Village is able to use the two residential properties it has purchased to expand its parking lot, it will make the area safer and more appealing, and said she supports the resolution because it supports the business district.
Herrick said she believes the planning commission took into consideration the impact of the proposed change on the traffic on Akron Road, and how the parking lot traffic will affect the neighborhood, and noted that the restaurant is not expanding, so it is just creating more parking spots in its lot for its existing customers.
“It is easier to navigate, and I think safer in the long run,” she said. “I don’t think they will have additional traffic beyond what they have already had.”
Herrick said she appreciates Roman Village’s proposed buffer, with green space, between the parking lot and Akron and the property around it.
“I think that will make it more appealing for the neighborhood,” she said.
Dabaja said she wants to find a solution that will relieve residents’ concerns about the impact of traffic on Akron, such as restaurant patrons exiting the parking lot and driving north on Akron instead of exiting onto Dix, while allowing the restaurant to expand its parking.
Kaileigh Bianchini, Dearborn senior planner, noted that the alley north of Dix Avenue and west of Akron, which is not being vacated, will still have an impact on the residents of Akron from customers and suppliers of the businesses along it, which includes a butcher shop, a bakery and a small ethnic grocery store.
“What might be a possibility would be having a ‘left turn only’ sign at this point, but once again, to bring it into the larger context of what is happening here, that doesn’t also prevent vehicles from circulating onto Akron from this other part of the commercial alley,” she said.
Dabaja said she understands the needs of Roman Village, and she likes the fact that they are going to be investing in the parking lot.
“I am just trying to figure out a way that we can meet the needs of the business while also addressing the concerns of the residents,” she said.
It was noted that customers of the nearby Islamic Poultry market depend upon on-street parking along Akron, but that the city owns land zoned vehicular parking district behind the bakery and market which could be developed into parking, and which could relieve vehicular parking along Akron.
Dabaja said she believes that parking lots are safer than street parking, while Bianchini noted that traffic studies are not required when vacating an alley is considered.