By Jessica Mathews /

A church in a downtown neighborhood the City of Howell has plans to expand.

St. Joseph Catholic Church is looking to construct a building addition to the entry area of the main worship space and build a new rectory on a vacant lot at the end of East Washington Street that dead ends into the church parking lot. The parish owns the property, which is adjacent to the overall church parcel, and demolished an existing home on it in 2016. A 2,357-square foot addition is proposed at the main entrance and existing parking will be reconfigured. A memo states that will provide a better defined drop-off area, better access to barrier free parking, an expanded and renovated entrance and gathering space at the front of the church and new bathrooms for the congregation. At a recent meeting, the Planning Commission granted site plan and special land use approvals for the project.

Father David Speicher stated it’s essentially one big project with two pieces. Speicher said the house for the priest will be closer to the parish as opposed to a few blocks away currently. He said people are looking forward to having a larger space to gather and nice restrooms that will be ADA complaint and a covered drop-off – all without losing any needed parking.

It was noted there were a lot of things trying to be achieved in a very tight space while maintain parking but also making sure the building was aesthetically compatible and didn’t look drastically different from the existing campus.

Community Development Director Tim Schmitt commented that the proposed rectory lot cannot be separated from the overall church lot because then then wouldn’t meet standards related to size and setbacks. He said the project is fine and staff is happy as it meets ordinance requirements and the home to be constructed has nice architecture. Schmitt added if there’s going to be an addition to a neighborhood church, this is the exact way to do it – use existing space and don’t impact surrounding residents.