General Lansing Development

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  • edited September 2018

    The federal Office of Management and Budget annually revises the definitions of metropolitan areas in the United States. There hasn't been any big changes to the definition of metropolitan Lansing (Clinton, Eaton and Ingham) since Ionia County was removed from the definition in 1973. Anyway, the new definitions delineations were released on September 14, and Shiawassee County has been pulled into the metropolitan area. Shiawasse county has already been in the combined statistical area, which are grouping of metropolitan areas with significant commuter interchange (15% of workers of more), but lower than the threshold of being considered a metropolitan county (25% of workers or more). So, what it appears is that they must have found that communting to Lansing from Shiawassee has picked up enough to have it added to the metropolitan area as an outlying county to the three central counties. Because of how Lansing is wedged in between various other metropolitan areas, Shiawassee County is the only one that was ever going to potentially join with Lansing.

    In any case, this means the 2017 estimated population of the metropolitan area is what the old combined statistical area was, 546,102, instead of the 477,656 for the old metropolitan statistical area. Aside from bragging rights and increased marketing, these definitions are also used in allocating federal funds. The larger the population, the more money we get.

    Long story short: Lansing can now say it's home to over half-a-million people in its "new" four-county area, and get federal funding that reflects that. The only bad thing from a marketing perspective is that while all three counties of the previous metropolitan area were growing counties, Shiawasssee County has been bleeding population for some years now. So it's going to end up lowering the overally growth rate of the area, making the area appear slower growing than it is in its core. I guess the good thing in this is that maybe this will spur the tri-county area to look to ways to get Shiawassee growing again.

  • Wow this is very insightful. I didn't know about all of these different data points. Thanks for sharing these when you come across them :)

  • edited September 2018

    Forgot to mention that I finally got word back from the BWL about what is wrong with the North Lansing Dam. As I'd described before, the water level between the two dams has been below average for well over a year. Well, apparently, the "gate seals" at the North Lansing dam are defective. I'm not exactly sure where these are located on the dam, but the name seems fairly self-explanatory. Sounds like water is leaking through the seals on the gates. Anyway, they said that they are coming up with a plan to fix this, but this likely wouldn't even get started until next year.

    I'm just glad to know their is some reason for this.

    BTW, minutes are up for this month's Planning Board meeting. We find out that the planning office is trying to make the Form-Based Code happened, again, announcing that since changes were made since it was originally introduced that they will re-introduce it. I want you to remember these names and these organizations:

    https://lansingmi.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Minutes/_09042018-2291

    Read Items 5 & 9 and the sometimes crazy discussion around each of these items.

    Know that Ms. Miles is at every Planning Board meeting and opposes literally everything and that most development has nothing to do with her purview of South Lansing. Know that Mr. Shaski sits on the Planning Board, itself, but is thankfully among the minority opinion on the board.

    These are the kind of people we're up against and the kind of people who attend these meetings. It's why I ask that like myself, if you can't make these meetings to at least email in support of the things that will make the city a better place to live. Ms. Miles' opinion of the Form-Base Code is, quite frankly, either completely ignorant of what it actually is, or she's purposefully misrepresenting it because she's a NIMBY who doesn't want more walkable and urban development in town. You know, because the city doesn't have enough surface parking lots sprawled out in front of run-down businesses, right? That said, don't read too much into it; every public body has its gadflies, and in the case of this particular meeting, two of the more knowledgable board members were absent, so they couldn't push back against this ignorance.

    But this is really just a warning to never assume that people aren't actively working against the good in the background and that good people are always present to advocate on behalf of the good.

  • I was going to ask if anyone on here actually is ever able to make the meetings because you're absolutely right. If we want things to move in a positive direction we need to be heard as well. I hadn't thought about emailing our comments in order to be heard though; good call.

    I couldn't believe her comment regarding limited parking. The only place I've ever had trouble parking is near the stadium and given that massive lot being build I don't think it will be an issue for long. Even when I say it's difficult it just means I have to walk a block or two, which is by no means an issue. I wish some Lansing residents would get out of this suburban mindset that parking must be available right next to the entrance. As someone in architecture with an M.Arch I can't tell you how often parking counts drive the site design which results in some hideous, over paved, empty parking lots.

    Like @MichMatters mentioned, there are so many run down businesses with massive, poorly maintained parking lots around the city. Churches also seem to be some of the worst simply because the parking requirements are ridiculous, especially considering it's mainly for one day a week! That's why often you'll see a church put in a massive lot only to maintain half of it resulting in an eye sore. The church on St. Joseph in the MLK median comes to mind. It doesn't make sense for any organization to spend the money maintaining something that isn't used. I'll admit that downtown it makes sense, but they really shouldn't be lots (as I'm sure we all agree), they should be garages, but that's another rant.

    While projects can seek variances, and often do, they shouldn't need to so frequently, especially when it comes to urban settings. While I don't have a lot of experience with form based zoning, I definitely like the sound of it and think it's the right direction. The way it currently stands, for many areas, is just so restrictive and a suburban mindset.

  • edited September 2018

    I'm so glad you brought up Union Missionary Baptist Church in the median of MLK. The entire "front" section of the parking lot fronting St. Joseph is no longer even useable, not that it was ever used to begin with. The only part of that entire site ever regularly used in full for parking is the triangle shaped piece closest to the church, the rest of the useable space is rarely used and only for overflow, and as I said, the part right of St. Joseph is literally not able to be used.

    I harp so often on the FBC because at the very least it encourages pushing surface lots to the back or sides of a property; even that would be a big deal in terms of the appearance of the commercial corridors of the city. The new code also allows for more shared parking, makes it far more difficult to demolish buildings for unnecessary parking, and I'll have to go check it out, again, but I believe it sets parking maximums instead of just minimums.

    And, yes, the biggest thing is that you won't have to request variances just to build stuff that respects the existing surroundings, and you won't have to get so many Special Land Use permits that take up so much extra time because more uses will be by-right uses.

    I may have given this example earlier, but say you want to build some infill single-family homes on say, East Kalamazoo. As the current code stands, you'd have to have a 20-foot front yard setback from the property line. There's not a single home anywhere in that area setback that far from its front property line. You'd have to go the Board of Zoning appeals just to build a house that fits in with the existing housing. I believe in the new code they'll keep the set-backs, but they'll be "build-to" lines, meanings that they won't be minimums, and more than that, it'd be that you have to build to the "build-to" line or to the existing blockface for blocks with existing housing already on them.

    Until I really started getting into the city's zoning code, I had no idea how difficult it was by right to develop urban-minded stuff in the city. Yes, most variances are granted, but you shouldn't need to do that for something simple as building a house on a regular city lot.

  • edited September 2018

    I don't know why I didn't realize this building had emptied out, already. The old Plymouth Congregational Church building at Grand River and Foster in Lansing Township will become a private school. It's apparently been vacant since November of last year when Plymouth Congregational moved to share space with Pilgrim Congregational on Pennsylvania a block south of Michigan.

    20-student Martin Luther High School buys former church for $2.1 million

    LANSING TWP. - A small Lutheran high school finally has a building all its own, with plenty of room to grow.

    Martin Luther High School, which has held classes in local churches since its inception five years ago, bought the Plymouth Congregational Church building in Lansing Township for $2.1 million earlier this month.

  • I live in a building built in 1964 and across the street from one built in 1924 they both front the street our's with a fountain, and have parking in the rear. It is not impossible and I would think sighting buildings on the street front with a sidewalk and parking in the rear that offers two storefronts could be good for business.
    The churches they knocked down for the new "Logan" boulevard were sighted next to the street. They had small lots in the back and I think many people walked to church back then. Are you saying that this church required to have that many parking spaces? The church at Moores River and S. Washington has a huge lot across the street on Baker that used to be employee parking for REO, I have only noticed it being used one time, here as well it's just a big ugly parking creator.

  • edited September 2018

    GB,

    Here are the parking requirements for churches:

    Church, temple or synagogue. One for each three seats or six linear feet of pews in the main unit of worship;

    On it's face, it doesn't seem excessive, but the bigger the church the more ridiculous the requirement gets, of course.

    The other thing about the code is that it's pretty strict about granting variances for reducing the parking requirements. There are only two factors which can be used to consider granting a reduction of parking spaces:

    (a) More than one type of use operates out of one structure, or more than one structure jointly uses the same off-street parking facility.

    (b) The peak operating hours of each use do not overlap.

    In other words, just to be considered for a variances, the property has to be mixed use. So it's really tough. I know in Detroit in certain zoning districts they allow parking requirement reductions if a use is so many feet from a public transit line. Lansing should consider small things like this.

    Lansing isn't completely bad when it comes to parking requirements, though. Those areas zoned G-1 in downtown - which is most of downtown - are exempt from the parking minimums. Also, in 2010, I believe, four commercial were granted 80% reductions in the parking minimums: Old Town, REO Town, East Michigan Avenue and West Saginaw.

    So, things have moved in the right direction, it's just not been fast enough and the city not bold enough, particularly when you consider the kinds of places Lansing is competing against. A city like Lansing has to be twice as good just to be seen as competitive.

  • I think you've interpreted that ordinance in the wrong direction. 700 members, if half can fit would be 350. But the ordinance says "one for every three seats in the pew" so that would be close to 116 parking spaces, not 1000+.
  • edited September 2018

    Ooops, yes, major brain fart. lol Removed that. I was thinking that number looked huge even given the area.

    Even given all that, I'm still advocating parking maximums be added. The parking mimums are really too much, but maybe people aren't ready to lower them. Developers should be barred from building excess parking without a variance; the FBC would do that. When you think of the space a car takes up relative to a person, this area used for parking starts to add up exponentially.

    Things really get crazy with the code when you then add in the lot coverage restrictions for residential zones (largely where churches are allowed by condition), which force a builder to waste even more space on top of the space wasted for excessive parking. For instance, even for the highest density residential in Lansing, the total lot coverage (structures but parking) is capped at 75% of the total area of the lot, and only 50% of the lot can actually be covered by structures. And most churches are located on some of the lowest density residential zones where total coverage is capped at 55% of total lot area, and 40% for structures.

    So, like, even in the best case scenario only half of the lot a church is going to sit on can actually be covered by the church and accessory buildings. The whole rest of it has to be dedicated to parking and open space. Again, things are rarely built to the code without variances, but builders shouldn't have to get a variance to buildings buildings to fit into the character of their surrounding neighborhoods.

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