Southeast YMCA plan rejected

8:25 AM, Jun 26, 2013   |    comments
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A sketch of the proposed YMCA at Leonard Street and Crahen Avenue NE.

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- A controversial plan to build a new 118,000 sq. ft, $24 million YMCA at the corner of Leonard Street and Crahen Avenue was rejected by Grand Rapids Township leaders Tuesday night.

The 'Y' wanted to build the new Southeast facility on 28 acres of land gifted by the Meijer Foundation.

The Grand Rapids Township Hall was overflowing with supporters and opponents of the plan. More than 1,000 supporters signed a petition before the meeting, but in the end it did not convince the planning commission it was a good idea. They rejected a land use permit.

Many residents went before the commission, urging members to approve the proposed YMCA. Some complained about the condition of the current Southeast Y on Forest Hills Avenue, saying it is not adequate.

"The new Y would be further from our house actually, but the facilities they have proposed are so much greater," said Trisha Nelson. Others countered, saying approving the plan would hurt property values and increase traffic congestion.

The YMCA's CEO, Ron Nelson countered their arguments and tried to convince the township board that of the 43 locations they've explored, only the Leonard and Crahen location is the right spot for their project.

But while the land is empty, you can tell by listening, the streets there, are not.

"Three weeks ago, guess what happened, three accidents," said Hank Fuhs. "Involving two with buses. God forbid, I don't want one kid to get killed."

Fuhs is a passionate opponent of the YMCA proposal. He has his own protest signs along the land site. An estimated 9,000 cars already pass through this area every day, but Nelson says the proposal included a plan to prevent traffic congestion.

"We will have a deceleration lane as you come in from Beltline on to Leonard and we've added a left turn lane on Crahen if you're coming down from say the Fulton Street area all the way down. Also, the corner of Crahen and Leonard will have no added traffic," he added.

Nelson also says they hired a private engineer to conduct a traffic study, and says they found no proof that a new facility would cause traffic backup.

"When kids dismiss from school is not a peak time for the YMCA. As a matter of fact, if there's a slower time that would be the slower time of the day."

He says based on their newest YMCA location, highest volume is from 5 to 6 a.m., and 5 to 6 p.m. "The busiest we've experienced is 350 cars in an hour."

They expected 4,000 households to join, which he says equals up to 10,000 people.

YMCA spokeswoman Tara Powers says moving forward, the YMCA will "convene our team to understand our options."

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