Thursday, December 31, 2009
City pushes projects forward
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen authorized a loan agreement for $638,000 with Rural Development/USDA that will extend community water to the area of Marianna Road.
City leaders, during their December 15 meeting, also approved advertising for pole lights that will go up on Mary Rahe Drive and West Boundary Extended, bringing the new streets in the Holly Springs Commons area closer to completion.
A natural gas project, that extends gas to subdivisions and homes in the Hernando Road, Gardner Road, Hughes Road, South Red Banks Road and Leewood under the bypass to Brisco Road, McAlexander Road and tying back in at U.S. 78, was also approved. Phase II of the natural gas project authorized the expenditure of $1.565 million to bring natural gas to rural homes outside Holly Springs.
Aldermen, Mayor Andre’ DeBerry and public works director Don Hollingsworth went into executive session to discuss repair of natural gas lines in the Cedar Hills and Lemac Avenue areas. Hollingsworth said the old metal lines are leaking at the joints and there is carbon buildup. The board approved $61,305 to replace four-inch lines in the area.
Hollingsworth announced a
rollback of utility rates to go into effect January 1. Residential
customers will see a 1.8 percent decrease in cost of electricity while
general power customers will see a 1.4 percent rollback. The rates are
the result of a savings in the cost of fuel to power generators across
the Tennessee Valley Authority system.
Following these items, Pastor Actavatis Allen, of New Dimensions Salt and Light Ministries, approached the board asking for a special exception to build a church at 565 Neely Street which is zoned commercial. His church has about 130 members and has held services in the McAlexander Road area for 12 years, he said.
Allen said he feels he is called to move his congregation’s service to the area near South Chesterman to become an outreach church. He said the Lord spoke to him while he was driving through the area and told him “to put the church in this community.”
Shortly thereafter, Allen said he saw a for sale sign on a commercial property and began to inquire. Then he visited zoning to see the requirements. Allen said he has spent quite a bit of money to develop a blueprint for the church to “bring integrity back to the community.”
Allen obtained the required signatures of approval from the would-be church’s neighbors, but then the planning commission required he change the design of his church to allow for brick or stucco facade. The planning commission required that he go back to the community for signatures because his blueprint was labeled for a multipurpose center originally, he said.
While awaiting the completion of his blueprint, some members, who had signed off as approving the church initially, withdrew their signatures as rumors were spread about the community, Allen said. He was one signature short of the 60 percent needed for his permit from the planning commission on the second go around, he said.
Some prior board actions were revisited during the discussion, including the fact the city had placed a moratorium on any new churches, had denied a new church be built in a B4 zone that is rapidly expanding commercially on the south side of town, and had reset requirements that planning would require 60 percent of property owners within 1,300 feet from the church approve of the permit, rather than the former ordinance that required a 50 percent plus one of signatures.
DeBerry argued that the planning commission was using “a flawed formula” in looking for 60 percent approval.
“To me, that was a skewed rate,” he said. “I think this board needs to clarify that.”
He said the previous board had wanted to discourage the opening of store-front churches.
He said Pastor Allen’s church would be permitted on the basis of appeal while other uses are permitted. He said he thinks the planning commission “kicked the ball back to the board.”
“We need to address this and to make sure we are not trying to stop churches,” he said, adding that some people in the past have claimed their property as a church use to avoid paying property taxes “with no intention of putting a church on it.”
“I know we need a lot of Jesus, but...,” the mayor said.
Zoning administrator Felicia Autry explained the planning commission had tabled Allen’s permit request to make sure standards (building codes) were met.
Allen said he had gotten the signatures but had not turned them in initially because he wanted to meet zoning requirements.
Alderman Garrie Colhoun reminded the board that a battle was fought over putting a church in a B4 zone last year.
“This should not be any different,” he said. “If you hold folks to standards on Heritage (Drive) it is no different than holding standards on Neely (Avenue).”
“We fought that battle,” DeBerry said. “The board did not make a definitive statement but raised the threshold people would have to meet. We were in opposition to them placing (a church) in a particular spot that would affect other (prime commercial) development.”
Alderman Russell Johnson clarified that the discussion was trying to deal with regulations instead of Allen’s appeal. He asked alderman Harvey Payne for comments since the church would go in his ward.
“This is the first I’ve heard about it,” Payne said. “I heard it was a multi-purpose building.”
Allen said he had listed it as a multi-purpose building, but in reality it would be a church with a steeple.
Autry clarified that the plan was written up for a multi-purpose building, meaning a family life center such as churches build with their sanctuary.
“Why can’t you call it a church?” said Johnson.
“This will be our church,” said Allen.
Johnson said those in the community should have an opportunity to have their say since Pastor Allen had mentioned names several times throughout the discussion.
“We go into the community to see what type of help we can offer the community,” he said.
He has been pursuing the building permit since March 2009, he said. He had revised his name of the building and drawn up blueprints which he offered for the board to inspect. He said he would put up a fence line and buffer of trees if the neighbors wanted it.
“We do not want a hostile situation,” he said.
Johnson asked to table the matter until the January 5 board meeting.
Allen remarked that if the building had not been designated for church use, he would not have had to appeal to the board of aldermen for a permit.
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