Officials seek resolution at church property in ‘disarray’

Warren city attorney to explore situation, spokesperson says church board will work to resolve issues

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 26, 2017

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WARREN — Responding to the persistent concerns of residents and their own visual observations, members of the Warren City Council have seemingly had enough of the unfinished construction on church property at the corner of Masonic and Schoenherr.

Earlier this month, the council voted unanimously to direct Warren’s legal department to initiate steps to force resolution on the site of an expansion at Life Application Ministries Christian Church.

The request was brought by District 4 Warren City Councilman Steven Warner, who represents residents in the surrounding neighborhood. Warner said he was joined in his concerns by at-large council members Scott Stevens and Kelly Colegio. The group voted unanimously to initiate litigation within seven days of the April 11 meeting, if all required avenues of administrative resolution were indeed exhausted.

Warner said the structure in question is the original expansion of the church, on the southwest corner of the intersection. The church later purchased the former St. Sharbel property to the immediate south, at which point Warner said the expansion that is being built “went into disarray.”

“A lot of people were very upset, because it was a shell of a building and it took a lot of coercion and calls to the Mayor’s Office to get this building with a facade on it of basically sheet metal that was just stapled on,” Warner said. “This building is very unstable.”

Warner said sheet metal panels blew off the building in at least two recent windstorms and that each time they took days to repair. At one point, he said, the building was marked with “yellow plastic police tape” that was “just thrown up there like graffiti.”

“The building was not secure. The panels lay on the ground, open to anybody,” Warner said. He added that a meeting in September focused on a new site plan and promised to correct any issues.

“It sounded good. It looked good, but it hit a brick wall and didn’t go anywhere,” Warner said. “We have no idea what’s going on with this building.

“This is an eyesore for the city and the residents, and I feel bad for the residents who live near there, because they just want something done.”

Stevens said he brought complaints about the building three times, including one centered on a potential electrical hazard. He said the structure is “an attractive nuisance” that has been left wide open.

“The whole place is in disarray. It’s an attractive nuisance, but more than that, the city knows about it,” Stevens said. “The city is actually allowing this. For us, think about a piece of sheet metal flying off the building and hitting somebody. It would cut them in half. The city knows about it, and I think we’re liable if we don’t act.”

Colegio said she attended a meeting of the Planning Commission, where residents expressed concerns about parking.

Councilman Keith Sadowski also called the property an “eyesore” and pressed for a vote to “move forward” as a means of forcing resolution. 

“We’ve talked enough about this,” Sadowski said. “Let’s put the action into motion then. Nothing moves someone faster than being pushed into this.” 

 On April 20, newly appointed City Attorney Ethan Vinson said he had scheduled a meeting to discuss the property and options for resolution.

“We’re having a meeting this afternoon to discuss it,” Vinson said. “Me being new to it, I understand this isn’t a situation that just popped up. It’s kind of been ongoing. I want to see what we’ve done on the city’s part. I want to make sure the church is afforded all due process that it’s entitled to before we move forward.”

Jocelyn Howard, the community liaison at Life Application Ministries, also serves as the chair of the Warren Planning Commission. She said she’d taken steps to recuse herself from voting on matters related to the church property and spoke April 20 on behalf of the church and not as a member of the commission.

“The board of directors of Life Application Ministries will be speaking with the city in regard to that building. Our intent for that building has not changed. Unfortunately, there have been some comments that were made that are just not factual,” Howard said. “Our board will be speaking with the city about our intent concerning that building, and I think all parties involved will be very happy with it.”

Howard said the site plan for the project remains the same and that development will adhere to all city and county requirements for construction, traffic and drainage. 

“I know the residents, what they want to see is a finished building,” Howard said. “Quite naturally, as a church, we want to see a finished project as well.”

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