Sunday, August 15, 2004

Timeline: Whatever Happened to Making Ann Arbor Famous for Conservative Catholicism?

Back in 1999, Mr. Monaghan was quoted all over the place as hoping, and inspiring others to hope in, a vision of creating a Catholic Mecca in right in Ann Arbor. The cites and quotes were all over the news. For instance, the Detroit News said, "They promise to make Ann Arbor as famous for conservative Catholicism as it is for the joint-smoking, run-naked liberalism of the University of Michigan."

The same article said, "I have to be careful. Schools are expensive. We want elementary schools, construction costs are high. We're applying to the state for four-year college status for Ave Maria Institute, and we'll build a campus for that."

And then, consistent with that publicly stated vision, we heard about the law school formation in the news as well.

Year 2000. Colleges are bought and merged. Things are moving for the fledgling undergrad and expansion is afoot. Monaghan Merges Two Schools.

Then, something changed over time. Allegations were cast in Ann Arbor papers that Tom Monaghan was trying to buy out part of the land use board in order to make a board more friendly to development. See Monaghan denies role in election.

or see Monaghan May Affect Primary Click here.

Then, after the election, in early 2001, we saw these headlines: Monaghan Plans to Move Ave Maria (moving campus to Ann Arbor. That should increase undergrad to 1000 students and 500 graduate students).

So, everyone at this point could see that we were still looking for that Ann Arbor Catholic Mecca.

Meanwhile, the law school was pulling its own weight and holding up the model of excellence when it was dedicated by Cardinal George.

2002. The college was then slated to have a campus on Domino's Farms in Ann Arbor Township. However, could it have been a ploy? Is it possible that a proposed plan was meant to fail? Nearly immediately the plans were focused on the 250-foot crucifix, which would require a variance from the height restrictions.

The eventual zoning board recommendation denying the development plan was focused on the 25-story crucifix.

The March 30, 2002 news included a hint of looking elsewhere. The dreams of working through Ann Arbor were dashed. Note, again, that the focus of public criticism was on the 25 story crucifix.

Later, after the plans were rejected, Mr. Monaghan said he didn't understand to the Detroit News. Note, however, that the news was mixed with news of the Law School graduation.

I am all for the Crucifix and believe it ought to be proudly displayed at any Catholic institution, home, or place. That is a unique sign of our faith in a God become man. But, insisting on the variance to the detriment of the overall plan may have been the straw that broke the zoning board's back. After all, there aren't many tall edifices protruding into the wide Ann Arbor sky, and I can't blame people for being a little edgy about that. Couldn't the school plan have worked on a more scaled and step-wise plan?

Or, perhaps, the failure to secure a friendly development board preceded the submission of the plan? That is a question for the ages of ages, to be reviewed at the close of time. For now, all we know is that the press constantly harped not on the building of a Catholic Campus, but on the inclusion of a 25-story crucifix in a township that has 5 story buildings. Surely, somebody thought of that beforehand, or then again, maybe they didn't. Either way, this author hasn't seen a 25-story crucifix in the mix for the Florida campus, so it is a wonderment at exactly what the purpose of insisting on it truly was.

For most of us, it would seem that bargaining would have been in the mix, "OK, OK, 25 stories was a bit much, but can I build a campus here?"

UPDATE (7/25/06): Torgo finds the addition of the Googleplex (1000+ ppl) right across the street and the other new office buildings in the area to point to the real problem with the campus plans having been that Monaghan inadequately planned to assist in the area impact. While others have helped the US 23 exit at Plymouth Rd be updated, and had their plans approved, the campus plan had none.

UPDATE (3/30/06): Many of the links now point to articles hidden in a subscription based archive area. The link shows the date of the paper, so if you want to see the article, write down the date and go to a nearby library with microfiche of the Detroit News and Ann Arbor News newspapers. Perhaps some kind soul can forward images of the articles to Torgo to include here.


At 9:43 AM, July 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A change in zoning from office park to residential educational site was reportedly denied for very specific reasons: 1) too much increase in road traffic; 2) introduction of a rowdy college population into a quiet suburb; and 3) larger drain of commmunity resources by a tax exempt entity.

At 10:13 AM, July 26, 2006, Anonymous Juxtapose said...

Each of those area impact points were/are addressable by a typical developer. The point is that Mr. Monaghan didn't include any plans for area impact and thus, it failed.

There were other very nearby sites ready willing and able, in fact anxious, to accept the university and those were shot down in favor of developing swamp land in a far away state.

At 9:55 PM, August 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Each of those points are addressable? How do you address the "rowdy college kids" opposition from locals who don't want them? How do you address the fact that a college is a tax-exempt organization and the township stands to lose a huge cash register if they approve the zoning change? Do you think the local residents, most of whom are liberal Ann Arborites, were willing to increase their property taxes to offset the loss of revenue, all in the name of supporting Tom's vision of a new Catholic college? As I lived in Ann Arbor Township at the time and had my car peppered with pro-AMC leaflets weekly for about a year, it's hard to accept the revisionist history that Tom wanted to fail.


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