By Mike Kruzman & Jon King /

Residents against a proposed chapel and sanctuary space in Genoa Township showed up en masse Monday night, causing the adjournment of the meeting due to pandemic restrictions.

With a space allowing for 18 members of the public in the Genoa Township Hall, and roughly 3 times that number showing up for the meeting, the Board of Trustees was forced to call off their meeting before they could conduct business. Under current health department orders, capacity is limited to 50% of normal room capacity, but social distance space must still be accounted for. Supervisor Bill Rogers said he was shocked when he pulled out the measuring tape and started distancing chairs to find that so few could fit in their space.

The meeting follows last week’s decision by the Livingston County Board of Commissioners to rescind a local State of Emergency that would have granted municipalities the ability to continue meeting online. The decision left local governments with the choice to either pass their own emergency resolutions to continue online meetings, create a hybrid system allowing a mix of online and in-person attendance, or attempt to meet entirely in person. Meanwhile, COVID case counts are surging across Michigan and in Livingston County. reported that Monday was the 23rd straight day that seven-day average of new cases in Michigan increased, and the fourth straight day the average was more than 5,000. It is also the highest seven-day average since Dec. 9. Livingston County reported 217 new cases on Monday.

What drew residents out was an agenda item where the Board would be considering approval of a special land use permit for the Missouri-based Catholic Healthcare International (CHI).

CHI is proposing a 6,090 square-foot chapel with accessory outdoor uses including a wall mural and Stations of the Cross walkway on a 40-acre property off Chilson Road, south of Crooked Lake Road. Their website also provides a vision for a replica of St. Padre Pio’s Home for the Relief of Suffering hospital, a medical school, and a Terry Schaivo Home for the Brain Injured. The site currently does not have the needed infrastructure for these facilities and representatives have stated during Planning Commission meetings that they don’t want to build them on that site, but potentially somewhere else in the township.

Last month they were granted a recommendation of a required special land use permit by the Genoa Township Planning Commission by a 4-3 vote. On Monday, they were set to go before the Board of Trustees for their ultimate decision.

The project has drawn sustained criticism from residents, many of whom are okay with the idea of the project but don’t feel it is appropriate at that location. Traffic, noise, and disruptions from potential pilgrims have been stated concerns. Residents also feel the project is a detriment to the rural area and goes against the master plan. Many also feel the messaging is mixed between what CHI is telling the township versus what is on their website and what they are telling parishioners.

Bob Legana told WHMI, “They have one message to their parishioners and one message to the council. And the message to the council is a minimization of the footprint that this project will cause. And the message they give the parishioners is an expanded view of all the ‘wonderful things that are going to be here.’ And it’s good. It’s a wonderful thing. But not in the middle of a farmland.”

Rogers said they are considering larger venues like Crystal Gardens or the Johnson Center at Cleary University for a rescheduling of the agenda item. They hope to bring it back either April 19th or May 3rd. In talking with CHI representatives after the adjournment, he said that a “worst-case scenario is voting on the emergency clause and going by Zoom” to give them a decision, but that is not his preference.

Residents, afterward, found the adjournment encouraging for the reasons of it giving them additional time to interest more of their neighbors and for formulating plans.