LETTERS: More parking will only exaserbate the traffic and congestion problems on Square Lake. It's a RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD and it would be nice if the Board of Trustees treated it as such.
Letters written to the Board of Trustees from Neighbors impacted by the "commercialization" of the neighborhood. (750 person Banquet Hall). Providing
another 94 parking spaces will only make it worse for neighbors with respect to traffic and round the clock activity. MORE SPACES = MORE MEMBERS = MORE ACTIVITIES.
It would be nice if the board would listen to the needs of residents.
Dear Bloomfield Township Officials,
I’d like to express my thoughts and concerns regarding the expansion of the Muslim Unity Center on Square Lake Road. This has become an emotional issue for all involved. On one side there are a group of individuals (many who may be residents) who need space to gather, worship and park their vehicles. On the other are tax paying residents of Bloomfield Township who wish to preserve their neighborhoods’ quiet, safe, and uncongested qualities.
The convenient location of churches, mosques, temples, etc., is very important to communities. We respect the right to gather, freedom of religion, and encourage appropriate places of worship.
As decision makers and policy makers for our Township, I ask that you put emotion aside in your resolution of the issues. Please focus on the laws and agreements that were put in place to protect the sanctity and privilege of living in Bloomfield Township. We are fortunate to live in an area of natural beauty with lakes, mature trees, wildlife, and large lots for our residential areas. We are close enough to major cities for shopping, entertainment, etc., yet far enough to preserve and enjoy the tranquility and diversity in our residential areas.
It is my understanding that the Unity Center was given a “special use permit” when they purchased the former school property. As a condition of the “special use” there were a number of restrictions. Limits on capacity, parking, and other commercial activity. These types of restrictions and limitations insure that property use does not evolve beyond the intended place of worship. They restrict commercial activity to appropriately zoned areas. If these ordinances are ignored in this circumstance, it sets a precedent for additional non-residential use of properties. This would change the entire character of our Township.
I’ve listened to the testimony of the members of the Muslim Unity Center and understand how one might think allowing more room for parking, etc. would be a simple solution. It appears that the membership and attendance has grown substantially in recent years. Some of the amenities that are offered (despite zoning restrictions) has likely facilitated this growth. This is a good thing for the Center and its members, but it is not good for the residents of the Township in the surrounding area. The Unity Center use has grown beyond the capacity allowed in the “special use” conditions of this property. This growth has taken place intentionally, with knowledge of the restrictions on capacity. Therefore, the leadership of the Unity Center either has plans to acquire different property to accommodate growing membership, or they have planned to ignore agreements, ordinances, and anything that would restrict their desire to expand.
The threat of expansion is the only issue I have with the Muslim Unity Center. During my 13 years in Upper Long Lake Estates, I have only experienced traffic congestion (going to/from the Center) on a couple of occasions. However, twice, I had a “near collision” when a car pulled out in front of me from the parking lot on to Square Lake Road. There may be a “blind spot” that prevents drivers in the lot from seeing cars coming from the West. That issue should be resolved with trimming trees, changing the angle of the driveway approach, or whatever is necessary.
The following are three potential solutions to the current situation:
1) Enforce the conditions and limitations of use for all properties in Bloomfield Township. This includes restricting use of the Muslim Unity Center to a place for worship, and parking to the number of slots in the original agreement. The Center could use their funds for expansion to acquire a facility located in a commercially zoned area (hopefully in Bloomfield Township). There is plenty of room for worship services in their current Center. The Center should encourage members to minimize vehicles by ride sharing with neighbors and friends to services. Overflow parking may require purchase or rental of appropriately zoned property and shuttle service.
2) Allow only the expansion that has already taken place (despite the conditions for “special use”). Manage future requests from this Center and other Commercial or Religious use requests as they arise with the acknowledgement that higher legal fees to defend our ordinances will be inevitable due to this precedent.
3) Allow the Center to expand their facilities without limitations as set forth in the conditions granted. This will increase traffic on Square Lake Road and effectively put a commercial operation in the center of residential neighborhoods. It will require one or more traffic lights, decrease the property values of all the surrounding neighborhoods, and result in tax paying residents leaving Bloomfield Township. These residents will find an area with similar tranquility that enforces ordinances to preserve residential property. Similar to option #2, it will result in higher legal fees to defend against other Commercial use requests and potentially invalidate other conditions of use agreements.
As a tax paying homeowner in Bloomfield Township, I can only support option #1.
Please preserve our residential community and the rights of the tax paying and voting residents of Bloomfield Township.
Muslim Unity Center
I have lived within a few miles of the Muslim Unity Center on Square Lake Road for over 25 years... I have witnessed first hand the transformation of the once empty school into a full-blown commercial enterprise open nearly 24 hours a day. The parking is the most obvious issue. When it is time for their prayer service, traffic laws are flagrantly disregarded as the drivers race into the parking lot, back up traffic on Square Lake Road, and carelessly park up and down Hamilton and Maplewood and on any vacant piece of land they can find.
When I owned a home on Hamilton, I had to go around cars on a blind curve into oncoming traffic to get to my house only to find cars with their tires parked on my lawn. Several times I would ask police officers if it was right that we should have to allow them to park on our lawns. Their response was always we are not going to make them move now but will try to get them to obey the traffic laws in the future.
Once prayer services are over, the cars leave the parking lot without caution when turning on Square Lake Road. I have had to slam on my brakes and use my horn more times then I can count. I have instructed my kids to always yield to every driver in the vicinity because of the rampant disregard for common traffic laws by the drivers from the Unity Center. The yield sign on Maplewood is constantly disregarded and as a driver on Hamilton we have to always slow and yield to the Maplewood traffic or risk being hit.
During EID services they contract with various lots and get shuttle vans to handle the excessive cars but if you go to the lots you find them empty and the shuttle van drivers sitting with the vans empty. When they rented space from Forest Lake Country Club I would play tennis for 90 minutes and never see one car park or the shuttle van move once. Then driving by the Unity Center you see once again the over abundance of cars parked everywhere within the vicinity of the center. When they have services in the summer late at night, many times young children are left outside in their cars. They run in and out of cars and from between the cars. It is horrifying to see these kids unattended at night and put in such danger. As a driver, it is beyond nerve racking to think a child might jump out in the dark from any of the hundreds of parked cars up and down our neighborhood streets.
The Muslim Unity Center...has illegally been allowed to evolve into a commercial restaurant, a private school, a work out facility, a baby-sitting service, and a full blown banquet facility advertising seating for 750! That is double the allowable maximum occupancy of the property. It is a safety hazard to those in and around the building. The original use intent has been egregiously violated and allowed to go on without consequence for far too many years. How can the [Special Land Use Agreement] violating owners of the Unity Center be protected and even allowed to ask to further violate their use agreement and the tax paying citizens of the surrounding neighborhoods have their rights ignored as they are continuously violated?
Not only should the request for additional parking be denied but also the immediate end to all commercial enterprise occurring on the property that is so egregiously impacting the surrounding neighborhoods and putting everyone’s safety and well being in jeopardy.
The Board is once again being asked to give in to the MUC's egregious request for yet another variance. The additional parking spaces will not alleviate the problem, nor satisfy their plans to grow even larger. MUC has exponentially outgrown their facility on this small parcel of land situated in multiple residential neighborhoods. Traffic, noise, and congestion are a serious problem on Square Lake Rd., in addition to being a continuous problem for the surrounding neighborhoods. This won't be alleviated with or without the additional parking spaces. More spaces merely give more opportunity for increasing these problems.
Clearly, in past Board meetings the attendees of MUC have stated that they travel from surrounding counties to attend the MUC. The added parking spaces, sadly, will not meet their needs, or resolve the encroachment by the MUC into the residential areas impacted.
Exiting onto Square Lake Road, from the intersection of Hamilton Drive and Maplewood is treacherous on Fridays when the MUC holds their regular service. The situation is unbearable during their extended holidays where functions are held into the wee hours of the morning. This is not rhetoric or hysteria. It is a fact of life for anyone traveling on Square Lake Road and residents of these neighborhoods.
Where does this end? How many times do we have to plead our case before the Township? The MUC wants to establish a bigger presence than is reasonably feasible on this parcel of land. Our Township Board has to protect the integrity of our zoning laws and the rights of the taxpaying citizens. Many individuals who will attend the meeting tonight, and given a voice, are not Township residents who pay Township taxes.
PLEASE, VOTE NO and put an end to any expansion now, or in the future.
Obviously, I feel that we are entering this situation late because it has been allowed to grow since 1993 when the "Special Land Use Permit" was put into effect but not enforced and the Unity Center has been allowed to violate the terms of the agreement.
I understand that you are focusing on the traffic situation but my concern is for the overflow of runoff and contamination from The Unity Center having too small of septic system, and it flowing into our retention pond and then into Hammond Lake....this cannot happen. Our retention pond is already at capacity, and when it overflows....which it does several times a year it flows into Hammond Lake. My neighbors get the runoff from Square Lake and Beechview and as a result had to reconfigure his driveway, because he had constant flooding and muck, resulting in grading his property and putting in a French Drain. Our property on Hammond Lake is very low and is constantly flooded and saturated with water. IN FACTwe still havent dried out from this winter weather. The ducks and geese think our property is sometimes a pond and swim in the constant puddles we have.
I have real big concerns and want an environmental study to be done and to double check on the septic field that the Unity Center has....back in 1993 it was not large enough to handle any additional business other than what the lease agreement stated.
HAMMOND LAKE is the pride of the Rouge River...in fact we are the top lake of the Rouge River Watershed...all lakes begin at Hammond Lake...we cannot not afford to take any chances...I take pride in having the cleanest lake in Oakland County.