Asking to be an exception to the rule is not uncommon. Granting an exception can be dicey, because where do you draw the line without offending others who want the same sort of exception for their business or project?
Recently, the from setting up on Mack Avenue, south of Moross in the former Shelby Paint store front. At first blush I was upset. As a resident I would welcome the Thrift Shop for a number of reasons.
First, it’s part of Grosse Pointe history. My mother-in-law’s mother used to shop there. That says something about how well the is run, that it has been around for decades.
Second, I have found some amazing bargains at the Thrift Shop. In my closet now I have a pair of beautiful Italian-made sandals that were never worn before they were dropped off at the Thrift Shop. I bought them for $8 last year and continue to get compliments on them. I have purchased other clothing items--Pyrex dishes to use in the microwave, picture frames and other sundries, all for a song. Just last year I found an oversized blue button down shirt for my son to wear when his fourth grade class went to Greenfield Village--all of them dressing as if it was the late 1800s. That shirt was, I believe, $3.
Third, I was looking forward being able to walk up the shop. For me, proximity is everything. If it’s close, I’ll go there; if I have to deal with traffic, I’ll think twice. Of course, the Shop’s former location on Waterloo and St. Clair was close enough.
Taking all of these points into consideration, the Thrift Shop is an important part of our community and needs to find a proper home. Unfortunately, the spot on Mack was not right for a number of reasons. Councilwoman Lisa Pinkos Howle, while in favor of challenging the status quo on many issues, said that it was incumbent upon the Thrift Shop to make a strong case for allowing the variance. That did not happen. Instead, the Shop requested a hearing and lost, not having brought strong reasons for why it should be allowed.
“We were reviewing a Use Variance and the standards that apply,” Pinkos Howle stated. “The standards are not new and required by law. We need to make findings of fact with respect to each and every standard and could not get past even the first one which essentially requires us to find that the building cannot be used for any purpose under the current zoning which is commercial.” Obviously, the store front can be used for commercial, because it had been until recently.
Pinkos Howle asked to explore the “spot zoning” of the location to allow this exception, but the City Attorney flatly denied this. While the issue may not be dead, it’s not likely that the Thrift Shop will move into the Woods neighborhood. I’m disappointed in the decision, but just as disappointed that the Shop couldn’t have made a stronger case.
Despite the initial response, Pinkos Howle said she hasn’t given up hope for the former Shelby Paint location to house the Thrift Shop. And she is calling on the creativity of the Thrift Shop and the City of Grosse Pointe Woods to help make this happen.
“If anyone has any suggestions, I'd like to find a way to allow the Neighborhood Club Thrift Shop to use the store,” she said.
I couldn’t agree more.