Elkhart Board of Zoning Appeals rejects request for church coffee shop

Numerous concerns aired before board voted 4-0 against the proposal for church on East Bristol Street.

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 8:47 p.m.

ELKHART — A request to operate a coffee shop and drive-through out of a church in Elkhart was stymied by the city board of zoning appeals Thursday night, July 10.

A proposal by the Elkhart campus of Granger Community Church, 2701 E. Bristol St., for a use variance to operate a commercial enterprise was defeated by a 4 to 0 vote.

The request attracted a sizeable crowd of supporters and others at the hearing in City Hall, who argued it would not be appropriate.

The Bristol & Bay Brew would have provided indoor seating and a drive-through and would have been a way to engage the local community, as well as provide more money for church endeavors, said campus pastor Gene Troyer.

Community outreach is intended to improve the quality of life and can help stem violence, Troyer said, alluding to recent criminal activities that have made headlines in the past seven months.

“We all know that when you build relationships, violence tends to be reduced,” Troyer added.

“We’re already doing lots of things in the community and we’d like to do more. This would provide a way to fund additional ministry in the community,” Troyer told the board.

But opponents seized on various issues. They voiced concerns about traffic, as well as the appropriateness of a church running a commercial business.

Church officials said they had hoped to lure some of the estimated 19,000 motorists who travel Bristol Street each day.

Troyer said they had hoped to attract just three percent of that traffic.

But a woman pointed out that would generate upward of 500 cars entering into the church property.

Several opponents said they didn’t like the idea of a not-for-profit entity competing with commercial businesses and the lack of tax revenues that would be derived.

The church is located in a residentially-zoned area, and much of the opposition was based on worries that it could adversely hurt property values of nearby homes.

Store hours would have been from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, with reduced hours on the weekend.

Church officials said the corridor along Bristol lacks a coffee shop with a drive through, but that was challenged by some who said Martin’s Super Market nearby had a nice coffee shop area.

Staff of the planning and zoning department also formally opposed the plan in prepared comments that were read aloud.

Among the concerns voiced in staff comments was that “a place of worship should not be the location to fill such a commercial void, if indeed there is one.”

"Staff members oppose commercial activity at this place of worship," the analysis concluded.


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