07/29/08 — Planning Commission rejects plan for church downtown

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Planning Commission rejects plan for church downtown

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on July 29, 2008 1:42 PM

The Goldsboro Planning Commis-sion doesn't want to see another church in the downtown area.

A proposed church, which didn't submit its name, requested approval of a church distance modification as required in the city's unified development ordinance. The ordinance states that all churches must be 100 feet apart in that area.

The proposed church would be on West Walnut Street and would only be 72 feet from another church.

Commission members were in opposition of the site plan that would allow another church because many felt the existence of too many churches would hurt the status of the overall downtown area.

They unanimously denied the plan.

"(Churches) are killing the tax base downtown. I mean they aren't contributing anything to the tax base, and they have a tax exempt environment," Chairman Chris Boyette said.

"They sure don't (contribute to the downtown tax base)," member Carroll Overton said.

Member Hal Keck was also against another church downtown.

"I've seen enough churches downtown," Keck said.

"That's enough," Overton agreed.

Churches occupying downtown storefronts have become an issue in many cities and towns in North Carolina. Whereas religious leaders see the vacant buildings as opportunities for spiritual growth, many public boards fear they deter business development in a key commercial area. Churches pay no property taxes.

The final decision will be made by the City Council.

In other business, the planning commission also denied a site and landscape plan for apartments on the west side of South William Street between Elm and Pine streets.

There is an existing dwelling on the lot that was once used as two separate units, but the owner would like to transform the building into three units. The piece of land is in the central business district and the historic downtown district, and would also require the Historic Commission's approval before moving forward.

But planning commission members unanimously denied the plan because they said, the city is trying to get away from having multi-family units downtown in order to preserve the historic character of the area.

"Has the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. or the Historic Commission said anything about it?" Boyette asked.

Planning Director Randy Guthrie said that DGDC staff did look at it and didn't make any comments, but the Historic Commission hasn't yet looked at the plan.

"What does (city planning) staff think?" Keck asked.

"The historic downtown district is in place to preserve the character of the area," Guthrie said. "And we discourage switching from single-family uses to multi-family uses and back."

Keck said he wasn't in favor of the plan.

"I'm not very keen about this, very truthfully," he said.

And with all the modifications requested, including decreasing the drive-out area in front of the dwelling from 20 feet to 10 feet, decreasing the setback of the dwelling from the road from 20 feet to 6 feet, decreasing the side yard setback from another residence from 20 feet to 11 feet and decreasing the buffer area from 20 feet around the dwelling to 5 feet around the parking area and zero feet around the rest of the area due to the drive-out area, Boyette wasn't so sure about the plan either.

"You'd have to give away the farm to allow it," he said.

The planning commission also approved items from two public hearings held at the July 21 City Council meeting, including a rezoning request to change property located on the north side of East Ash Street between Ridgewood Drive and Spence Avenue from shopping center to general business.

The second issue dealt with a conditional use permit to allow the operation of a used car lot on the west side of South George Street between Pine Street and Spruce Street.

Members also approved site and landscape plans for the operation of furniture and retail stores on Royall Avenue between Clingman Street and Evans Street as well as plans for an increase of paved area in the rear of Goldsboro Honda dealership on the northeast side of U.S. 70 West off of Grantham Street service road.