The Sisters of St. Francis and Lourdes University will move forward with plans to use the former Franciscan Academy site for higher education.
Sylvania City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved the rezoning request for approximately 10 acres of land at 5335 Silica Dr., the site of the former Catholic grade school. Councilman Todd Milner abstained from voting because of a conflict of interest and Councilman Mark Luetke was absent.
Operated by Lourdes University on property owned by the Sisters of St. Francis, the Franciscan Academy was closed at the end of the 2013-2014 school year because officials said it was not economically viable. The closing angered many school parents.
In July the Sisters submitted a rezoning request to change the property from a R-2 residential small lot, to R-1 residential large lot, which would allow the existing building to be used for secondary education, consistent with zoning of the Motherhouse Grounds where Lourdes is located on Convent Boulevard.
On Tuesday night Michael Killian, retired Lourdes vice president and consultant for the Sisters, said 75 percent of the 36,600-square-foot building would be dedicated to classroom and university activity, including graduate classes and fine arts programming. The university plans to have the building operational by the spring of 2015. Preparations will include some upgrades inside the building and the addition of about 170 parking spaces on the southern end of the property.
In addition, the former school will house some services of Sophia Center, also located on the Sisters’ Motherhouse Grounds. The counseling center is a part of Sylvania Franciscan Health, sponsored by the sisters.
At a public hearing held before the rezoning vote, several residents voiced concerns that the new use would disrupt the nearby neighborhoods, specifically the homes on Eagle Ridge Lane, bordering the facility on the western end.
Resident John Machcinski said parking lot lights for evening classes could annoy neighbors.
Councilman Doug Haynam responded that Sylvania is an “urban community” and lights would be required to meet city codes to balance needs of both businesses and residents.
“This is a super use as opposed to the property sitting vacant and un-usuable” as it is currently, he said, adding that Lourdes is one of the city’s largest employers.
City Service Director Kevin Aller said that parking lot plans would be subjected to a site plan review and approval.
Lindsay Samuelson said that young residents have marked a trail cutting through her yard and the Sister’s property to the sidewalk on Silica to reach Northview High School, which borders the property to the north.
Mr. Killian said the city would examine the path once the design plans for the parking lot are solidified. He addressed her concerns regarding trees and shrubs being cut down, saying some were removed in order to survey the land. It has plans to maintain the appropriate setback with trees, brush, and shrubs, he said.