GOSHEN — A Goshen church hoping to expand cleared its first hurdle with the removal of zoning conditions imposed nine years ago.
The Goshen Board of Zoning Appeals voted Tuesday to remove the conditions that were placed on The Vine Church when it originally wanted to meet in the Mega Plaza at 2616 Peddlers Village Road. The conditions, which the BZA set in a 2010 variance, include capping the number of parishioners at 150 and limiting service hours to Wednesday evening and Sunday morning and evening.
A site plan limiting church space to 5,500 square feet in the rear of the building had also been approved. Church leaders would like to renovate the building to allow up to 450 parishioners and have the constraints on operating hours removed so they can meet at other times.
“We want to make that building look good. We want to help out the community there,” Pastor Bill Rice said. “We have our construction team looking at it right now, so we’re gonna make the front of it look good, make the inside look good. It’ll increase property values.”
City planning staff consider the original conditions ill-advised, according to Assistant Planning and Zoning Administrator Rossa Deegan. The limits on space, service hours and number of parishioners were based on the description given at the time, he told the board.
He noted that such constraints aren’t placed on churches when they are approved administratively as a conditional land use. In the case of The Vine, one of the conditions is that a church must be 50 feet from residential areas, which it will be able to meet after the renovation moves the location of the Sunday-school room.
But parking remained a sticking point during discussion ahead of the vote. It was a concern raised by Phillip Straw, who owns much of the property in the Peddlers Village shopping center, who said he’s worried about enough spaces being available outside of Sunday mornings.
He noted that Planet Fitness needs 100 spaces and the event center in the plaza can have 300 to 400 people attending a Saturday wedding reception or cincoañera.
“That would be reasonable, to have growth with a church, (but) I just don’t know how to put everything together so it works,” he said. “Maybe we need to have a discussion on that and see if we can work something out. I’m just not sure.”
Rice said church leaders are working on agreements over parking with the other businesses nearby. They’re also looking at where they could add more parking, though it’s not part of their immediate plans.
“We’re willing to work with whoever we need to, maybe we could get some of your spaces over there and borrow some of those on a Sunday morning if we need to,” he said. “If we need to add parking spots, we’ll look at that further down the road.”
Deegan reminded the board that parking is something the city will have to approve later when the church presents its interior plans.
“If they cannot meet the parking requirements, then we will not grant it. That’s something that is handled administratively,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be the discussion as part of this variance. This variance is merely to remove a couple of conditions based on a previous variance that had already been approved.”