A new theater hoping to open in Brighton is looking into other communities after the city's Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied its request to open in a building at 301 Appian Way.
More than 20 people showed up at the ZBA meeting Thursday night in support of the Dionysus Theatre, a professional live theater group, but the ZBA voted 3-2 to uphold a zoning ordinance.
The ordinance states the district is for light industrial use, and that commercial businesses are not permitted. Dionysus Theatre representatives argued that a theatre was a special circumstance as it is not necessarily industrial or commercial.
While theater was not defined as a commercial business in the ordinance, recreation or amusement enterprise is, according to Vice Chairperson Gino Conedera.
"I think we can all agree that theater is entertainment and amusement," he said.
Brighton resident Shelley Walker said she thought the ZBA's decision was "completely ridiculous."
Walker is a theater director and is also involved in the production of Brighton High School musicals. Walker said that business increased during the weekends the musical was running because of the crowds it brought to the area.
"The impact that (theater) has on young people and their ability to speak, their ability to interact with people of different ages is truly impressive," she said. "That opportunity alone is just phenomenal."
This was Dionysus Theatre's second time before the ZBA and DeBruyne said he was very surprised with the decision and that he thought it was going to go better.
"We've looked at other spaces in Brighton that do allow theater by their definition and they may allow theater, but they don't work for theater. I've worked in theater for over 10 years and those spaces aren't right for theater. Whether it's allowed or not -- the business won't work there."
DeBruyne said that he does not know what the next step is at this point, but did mention he had looked at a space in Howell and the city was very welcoming.
"I understand their (the ZBA's) decision, but it's like when someone stood up (during the public hearing) and said creative thinking," DeBruyne said. "Creative thinking could have had a theater in Brighton. And I think in order to find a building that's going to work in this type of business, we can't stay in Brighton. I hope we can, I think Brighton is a perfect community for this -- obviously with the support of the community that was here, I just think it's a shame. It's a real big shame."
Many residents shouted out after the vote questioning the zoning ordinance's rule about no commercial businesses when Michelle's Academy of Dance and Performing Arts Center is located in the same complex.
Attorney for the City of Brighton Brad Maynes said the city was not investigating misuse of land use at this time.