Religious School Submits Revised Plans To Move Into Church
September 5, 2017
A religious school that’s been locked in a legal battle with Genoa Township has submitted revised plans to locate in the same church that spawned the dispute.
Livingston Christian Schools submitted new plans last week and a public hearing is scheduled during a Planning Commission meeting in October. The school filed suit in 2015 against Genoa Township for its refusal to grant a special use permit that would have allowed the school to relocate to the Brighton Church of the Nazarene. The board cited traffic concerns, the school’s failure to follow the proper approval process and incompatibility with the township master plan among other reasons. Neighbors opposed to the project echoed those concerns and raised a myriad of others at multiple meetings.
The case was tossed out of court after a federal judge ruled the claims had no merit. The school appealed that to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which upheld the judgment. LCS has been leasing space from Whitmore Lake Public Schools and is again trying to relocate to the Nazarene. Plans show the school is anticipating 280 students by the year 2020.
As part of the revised plans, the school plans to stagger start and stop times to fall between the peak traffic of the nearby schools which includes Brighton High School, Maltby Middle School and Hornung Elementary. Additionally, LCS provided a traffic study that shows the church driveway should be widened to provide a longer left turn lane to ensure site safety. They are asking that the township defer that requirement until the student count exceeds 190 students.
Township consultants and the Brighton Area Fire Department will now review the submitted plans. Based on their responses, the school will then need to make a second submittal. A second review will follow before a presentation and public hearing at the October 10th Planning Commission meeting. The Commission will make a recommendation to the township board, which will make any final decision.
Meanwhile as for the lawsuit, there has been no word of any appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Appellate counsel for LCS previously told WHMI they were hopeful something could be worked out between the parties.
When the permit was denied, there was an outcry from officials and parents from both LCA and Light of the World Academy (LOTWA), a formerly private religious-based Montessori school that obtained authorization to re-open as a public charter school. The academy planned to move into the old LCS facility once that school moved to Brighton Church of the Nazarene. LSC ultimately sold its Pinckney building and property to LOTWA, and ended up leasing space from the Whitmore Lake Schools district.
In its previous dismissal of the appeal, the 6th U.S. Circuit panel said the school was not substantially burdened within the meaning of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act despite the fact that LOTWA now occupies LCS’s former Pinckney property, thus preventing the school from returning. It said any argument along those lines had no merit because LCS leased the building only after the special use permit application was denied and litigation commenced.
LOTWA purchased the building last year. The opinion added that the fact LCS cannot use the property is due to its own actions and the evidence about the Academy’s decision to become a publicly funded charter school is insufficient because it does not explain the reason for LCS’s financial difficulties. It was also noted that LOTWA became a charter school because it was having a difficult time keeping enrollment numbers up at a tuition based school. (JM)