By Jessica Mathews /

Although it wasn’t on the agenda, around 20 residents spoke out against a proposed chapel and religious sanctuary space at Monday’s virtual meeting of the Genoa Township board.

Missouri-based Catholic Healthcare International is proposing a 6,090-square-foot church proposed 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. It’s currently zoned agriculture/country estates. The Planning Commission recently recommended approval of a special land use permit for the project in a 4-3 vote. It was noted by some commissioners that property owners have rights and most everything requested to be addressed from previous meetings had been done with the applicants jumping through a lot of hoops. Others felt the use didn’t mesh with the township master plan and future vision.

The item is expected to be on the township board’s April 15th agenda but that didn’t stop those opposed from speaking out at Monday’s meeting during call to the public. Residents voiced the same arguments that were heard during the four-hour Planning Commission meeting last week. However, this time many requested the board postpone action and reschedule the next meeting because they want to have an in-person meeting. Residents allege those behind the project are not being truthful and are pitching a tiny chapel, wall mural and walking trails but really have much larger plans to expand on the 40-acre site.

As of Thursday, CHI’s website states the planned “Casa USA” campus project will include a replica of St. Padre Pio’s famous “Home for the Relief of Suffering” hospital in Italy, as well as an adoration chapel, medical school and the Terri Schiavo Home for the Brain Injured.

Residents maintain it’s a great project but not the right place, as the marketing campaign has been about an international pilgrimage that they allege will draw hundreds of thousands of visitors or “pilgrims” to the area.
Residents have also raised concerns about a temporary structure for the wall mural or “grotto” that was put up on the site without township approval and they claim is not safe.

Jacob Bogan said the site is in the middle of a residential area near a school that already sees a lot of traffic. He said they don’t trust the people behind the project for many good reasons as everything they say and do is a contradiction. Bogan said they keep promising it’s just a prayer center and there’s no intention for other phases but their website refers to three phases and there are free brochure advertisements on trees at the site. He said the brochures note the land was donated by Bishop Boyea and asks for tax deductible donations to complete different phases – which is yet more lies.

Township Manager Mike Archinal reiterated that the item was not on the agenda and therefore would not be deliberated but said it was good to see the neighbors make contact and encouraged them to send correspondence or emails for the board to consider.

A resident provided WHMI with a photo of the brochure.