Dexter United Methodist Church (DUMC) has submitted plans to the Webster Township Planning Commission to get approval for building an addition and remodeling their current campus. At Wednesday night’s meeting, the Commissioners discussed the submitted plans with representatives from the church. And as can be expected in such processes, there were a few speed bumps.
Dexter United Methodist is requesting permits to build a recreational facility that includes two basketball courts, a coffee house style lounge, a new commercial kitchen, as well as remodeling what will be transitional space between the current facility and the proposed addition.
The Commissioners had questions about a number of areas in the plan. The submitted request didn’t clearly address parking, specific usage of the facility, hours of operation and drainage. Other items such as lighting, traffic flow, and landscaping were brought up as well.
As an example, assumptions could be easily made about what the church and its recreational facility will be used for or the times of the week when people will be there. Everybody knows what a church is used for and when it will be used, but the plan was simply lacking those details specifically and accurately in writing. The plan listed the church being closed at 4pm on weekdays and no hours listed for Saturdays. It was simply an oversight that needed to be amended in the plan.
Commissioner Paul Zalucha questioned parking. “I drive by the Dexter Mill Sunday mornings and see you are using a shuttle for overflow parking,” he said. “Does that mean you are already beyond capacity?” The plan called for the addition of only two more parking spaces to accommodate the new facilities.
Tom Snyder of DUMC explained that they are not at capacity. Their aim at using the shuttle is to keep parking on site under 80% of capacity. Studies show that when parking exceeds 80% of available parking, it is a deterrent to visitors wanting to come and attend church. Parking has to be easy.
This was the vein of conversation for the Commissioners’ questions. There seemed to be two primary reasons for the confusion: 1) There was a lack of specific details in the church’s request regarding some items such as facility usage and hours of operation, and 2) DUMC was relying on a master site plan which had been approved by the Webster Planning Commission in 2006. The current Planning Commissioners had no knowledge of the prior plan or its approval. A copy would be looked up for reference.
Commissioner John Westman explained to church representatives that the Planning Commission respects and even supports what DUMC is trying to achieve in their service to the community. But he pointed out to the church that there was “a disconnect between what you are asking for and what you are applying for.” In other words, the Webster Planning Commission wants the facility to match the ministry taking place on the proposed campus.
Speaking for the Planning Commission, Westman added “I have no disagreements with anything you’re trying to do here. In fact I’m in favor of it.” He went on to explain that as Commissioners, they need the plan to exactly match what is taking place on the property. It’s a matter of having an accurate written public record for future reference.
The motion was passed by the Planning Commission to delay consideration for Dexter United Methodist’s request until more detailed information is received. The Commissioners gave the church a list of specific items to revise and then resubmit their plans.
When asked if he was disappointed by the night’s proceedings, one church member replied, “No, not at all. The Commissioners made it clear they wanted to work with us. They’re helping us to sharpen our stewardship to this community in ways we missed. I’m excited.”