Neighbors Want Niowave Tax Break Blocked

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

There's no denying the Niowave expansion on Walnut Street is hard to miss, and neighbors have a name for it.

"The pole barn," Mary Elaine Kiener said.

She lives just three houses away from what has become a 14,000-square-foot thorn in the community's side. They've been battling with Niowave over the design for months, asking for improvements since they weren't involved in the construction in the first place. Folks said it's not just an eye sore, it's hurting property values.

"We have real estate agents saying, 'We're not going to show people properties in the area,'" Kiener said.

Niowave said it's tried to be a good neighbor and offer landscaping ideas that the community has shot down. Now it wants a $550,000 tax exemption on equipment investments over the next six years, while adding 25 jobs by 2016.

"At the end of the day we're looking at a very important business partner here for the city of Lansing, and in an important neighborhood," Lansing Director of Planning and Neighborhood Development said. "In the middle, there has to be a compromise, and I think that - I believe very strongly - that's what Niowave has brought forward."

That's not the way the neighborhood sees it. They called the tax abatement request "ridiculous" at Monday's City Council meeting, where multiple people spoke out against it.

"This issue has kind of taken on a citywide flavor," Lansing City Council At Large Member Brian Jeffries said. "We've had a lot of other neighborhood organizations from East Side, South Side, contacting us, saying, 'Hey, we don't want this happening in our neighborhood.'"

Those neighborhoods have even coined a new catch phrase for their troubles.

"Every time there's a new development or something new coming through, people say, 'Oh, we don't want to get Niowaved,'" Kiener said.

Niowave has offered $100,000 worth in landscaping, but people say it's not enough. They want guarantees.

"They have not been good neighbors," Kiener said.

A public hearing for Niowave's requested tax exemption is set for March 11.

There's also an amendment on the table for the Special Land Use permit to prevent situations like this in other neighborhoods in the future.


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