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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

It Was NOT the 250 Foot Crucifix. Monaghan Didn't Want to Dot his I's

I was fairly satisfied with the Washington Monthly article Pie in the Sky save for the fact that it bought one piece of propaganda lock, stock, and barrel. Namely, on web page 3 of the article, the following horse crap is regurgitated:
By early 2002, Monaghan had three promising schools—Ave Maria College, St. Mary’s, and Ave Maria School of Law—but they were scattered across Michigan. In the hopes of bringing them together on a single campus, he submitted plans to build a new Ave Maria University at Domino’s Farms. The proposal might have sailed through unnoticed if it weren’t for one detail: a 250-foot crucifix. That’s taller than the old General Motors building and almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty. The idea touched off a firestorm in Ann Arbor Township, a wealthy rural community with roughly 5,000 residents near the city of Ann Arbor.

I don't blame them, because I don't expect them to scour the Planning Commission's records, however, I am going to put all of the links to the public record here so that all of you can speak the truth about what happened.

First, the Zoning plan failed in 2001. 2001. 2001. Get the date. 2001. Think about the law school development. If memory serves, Monagahan was already making trips to Florida on and off in 2001. The amendments and petitions to amend the 1983 approved plan for Domino's Farms were deficient.

You can access all of the Ann Arbor Township Planning Commission minutes and agendas for 2001 and 2002 online.

On October 11, 2001, The Commission had a Public hearing on the "DOMINOS FARMS - PHASE 6, "AVE MARIA UNIVERSITY" Public Hearing on ZC-4-01, SP-222-01, NF-3-01, and WP-4-01"

Sidetrack for a moment, note that in September of that year, the Ave Maria Golf project was intended to be approved, wetlands permit and all. And again, a week later, but still before Ave University, on September 17, the alphabet soup of demands and conditions were tediously met and discussed and agreed upon with Monaghan for the golf course.

Just like court cases, those letters mean something in the docket for the public hearing. The golf course was able to handle the ZC (zoning change), WP (wetland permit), NF (natural features), and SP (Site Plan). AMU had those things on the docket.

The minutes of the planning commission October 2001 meeting
discuss a two hour presentation by professional agencies for the ave maria university plan, however had several deficiencies from the first presentation: notably:
The applicant [Monaghan] has petitioned for seven changes in the text and seven changes in the area plan. Schmult also pointed out that the 1983 approved area plan contains five elements which have been omitted from the current area plan proposal for seven changes, as follows:

1) the farm character emphasized in the third paragraph, page 32
2) provision of the Whitehall Blvd. connection
3) the farm, as described in #4, page 36
4) the open space, rural quality image expressed in the third bullet item, page 40
5) reduced need for police and fire protection as a benefit to the Township, page 41

and this omission from the approved area plan must also be reviewed.

He also pointed out that a petition for a text amendment is required to include a description of the reasons for the proposed changes and that this has not been done as well as other standards in the Zoning Ordinance which are listed in Section 25.05 for rezoning petitions in general and Section 10.05-1c for OP district amendments in particular.

Those appear to be reasonable concerns. Moreover, compare those concerns with the onerous and tedious negotiations of the golf course plan.

Two months later, the Gabriel Richard plan sails through the planning commission. For the folks who are unaware, Gabriel Richard High School is a massive development that abuts Domino's Farms, and was created across the rural street and by clearing a woodland. So, let's not be deluded into believing that the Planning Commission was unreasonable. Monaghan managed to get two other projects, one more highly contested than the university, through the commission adjacent to the university plan.

Three months of so after the public hearing wherein the AMU zoning plans were tabled, the item was placed back on the agenda for the February 4, 2002 planning commission meeting.
The Minutes for the meeting indicate that the Crucifix had nothing to do with the proposed zoning change:
B. Domino's Farms - Phase 6 - "Ave Maria University". Barry Murray of SmithGroup JJR gave an overview and clarification of the recent submittals. Schmult referred to his review of January 24, 2002. Moran indicated that he could not support this zoning amendment and distributed a proposed resolution to deny. He also indicated that the issue of the crucifix was not a consideration in this decision as it is a site plan issue. Moran had Attorney Sorini prepare a Resolution to Approve the Zoning Ordinance Amendment which was distributed. Further discussion followed concerning the Office Park Zoning at the Domino's Farms complex. Moran moved to approve the Resolution Recommending Denial of the Zoning Ordinance Amendment and Wetland Use Permit and Denial of the Preliminary Site Plan and Natural Features Setback Use Permit as premature as set forth in the attached Resolution. O'Connell seconded and Motion was approved 6-0.

I can find no further planning commission activity on the university after that point. I can however, find two other Domino's Farms projects that sailed through the commission, one at the office complex, and the other being additional parking for Christ the King church on the June 3, 2002 agenda. Christ the King's submittal was approved later in September, and passed a final vote in October.

Let's look at those dates again. The Zoning Meeting occurred on February 4, 2002. The Detroit News first broke the story of the 250-foot (25 story) Crucifix on February 1, 2002.

In its March 5 Weekly Review spot, Harper's said the "Controversy was raging in Michigan over plans by the founder of Domino's Pizza to nail a 40-foot Jesus to a 250-foot crucifix in a suburb of Ann Arbor"

I think, and thought at the time, that Monaghan's 25 story crucifix was a ruse to make a public spectacle apart from his real motive: killing the University. Realize that this is my opinion based on the dates of things, the other planning activities, and my impressions at the time. Monaghan already had dollar signs in his eyes and needed a way to get public sympathy to favor the move to Florida. I can't prove it, and I have no actual knowledge of what was in Mongahan's head, but I think that's the only reasonable inference of the facts.

I just wish that people would stop blaming the Crucifix for the move. Monaghan, if he was really so bent on the idea, would build a 25 story one in Florida. But he's only building a 60 foot one there. (see Naples News) (see also that the 60 foot crucifix has grown to 65, and it is being delayed, also in Naples News) Just one guy's opinion, but the literal public record says the Crucifix had nothing to do with the zoning change failure, the only one who made a spectacle of it was Monaghan. So why'd he do it?

Also check out Uncle Tom's money quote in that last link, "Anything we do, we’ve got to get a donor for." He didn't think that way in Michigan.