Joyful Jungle rezoning request tabled by St. Clair Shores City Council


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May 31, 2023

Joyful Jungle rezoning request tabled by St. Clair Shores City Council

A rezoning request from the Joyful Jungle Christian Learning Center that would

A rezoning request from the Joyful Jungle Christian Learning Center that would have allowed a parcel currently zoned RM-1 multiple family residential to be changed to B-1 local business district was tabled by St. Clair Shores City Council at its June 5 meeting.

Joyful Jungle currently owns both the parcel where the learning center building is located as well as the landlocked vacant parcel where the playground is planned. The rezoning is necessary so they are able to use it as a play area.

"This vacant parcel is landlocked, so by doing this it would become a single parcel and would be able to be used by Joyful Jungle," said St. Clair Shores Planning Director Liz Koto.

With the current zoning, she said the business would be required to construct a 6-foot tall concrete wall between the parcel where the learning center stands and the vacant lot which would divide the building from the state-required play area for children. The rezoning would allow for that wall to move to the west side of the vacant lot, thus not dividing the two parcels.

Joyful Jungle, which is located on Little Mack Avenue near 12 Mile Road, has also asked for a variance to construct a 6-foot privacy fence instead of a concrete wall in order to preserve trees that are located on the property lines where the wall would be constructed.

"We are suggesting a fence instead of a wall so that we can leave the existing trees undisturbed," said Andy Wakeland of GIffels Webster civil engineering firm, speaking on behalf of Joyful Jungle during the meeting. "This area was planned to be a recreation area from day one and we just want to reiterate that is what it is going to be."

The zoning board must approve the variance for the privacy fence.

"If they do not receive the variance, the rezoning would not go through," said Koto. "The wall as it would be required now would block off the play area."

Council members agreed the playground was a good use of the property and were not opposed to Joyful Jungle's request, but expressed concern for the future should the facility close or change locations. A rezoning to B-1 would allow the parcel currently zoned MR-1 to be used in ways neighboring residents might oppose.

The city council voted to table the item to determine what language could be put into place that would safeguard against legal but unwanted uses of the property.

"I want this to happen because I favor the idea of keeping the tree canopy, but if Joyful Jungle left and say an excavating company came in, could we not then enforce the ordinance requiring the cement wall?" said Councilman Chris VItale. "I just always think ahead to ‘what if’ and the worst case scenario."

Wakeland said Joyful Jungle is an established business that has been in existence for 11 years.

Vitale said he supports the business but does not want to tie the city's hands should something unpredictable happen in the future.

"You just don't know what can happen," said Vitale. "We could have something come in that is a much more intensive usage and we would not be able to enforce the same rules that we do on other businesses.

"If there were a way to tie the variance to ownership of the property I would be all for it."

City attorney Robert Ihrie said variances are always attached to the property itself and typically cannot legally be tied to ownership of the property.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie suggested keeping the zoning as RM-1 and granting a special land use for the playground.

"I am in favor of giving your office and the city attorney more time to come up with a solution that works for everyone," said Rusie.

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