Commission Denies Permit for Family Ministry Use

Post a Comment » Written on June 27th, 2007     
Filed under: News
SHEBOYGAN, WI (June 27, 2007) – Zion Covenant Church will continue to seek opportunities to use a house it owns for “missional purposes,” although the city’s Plan Commission again denied the congregation’s request for a conditional use permit due to neighborhood opposition.

The church had hoped to allow Family Resource Centers (FRC) to use the three-story house. Family Resource Centers is a countywide nonprofit agency that promotes families through many programs, including parent education, drug prevention and support of military families.

House“They’re highly respected around the state,” says Andy Hopp, Zion’s director of Christian formation. He noted that the organization has a $500,000 budget funded largely through state and federal grants. The organization is seeking a new home because the local hospital, which owns the building leased by FRC, is tearing down the structure for expansion.

On Tuesday night, roughly 50 people representing both sides of the issue crammed into a small bedroom-size meeting room to comment on the issue. After two hours, the commission rejected the request for the second time in five weeks.

“It’s really frustrating for us,” Hopp says.

The opposition submitted a petition with more than 100 signatures, but Hopp says organizers had misrepresented the church’s intentions. Opponents complained that approval of the permit and development of the property would lead to excessive noise and traffic.

Hopp called the argument “disingenuous.” Most of the organization’s activities are held offsite, and what activities it does host – such as the parent training classes – are relatively small. The real reason for the opposition, he believes, is that neighbors were angry the church had torn down another old house adjacent to the church so that the congregation could expand parking.

Hopp said that old house was in disrepair and would have cost the congregation $200,000 to fix it up. The old house was located between the church building and the house for which the church had sought the permit.

For the past 35 years, the current house was used as a home for girls who were ordered there by the court rather than have them incarcerated in juvenile detention. Although the building was “locked down,” problems often occurred in the neighborhood, Hopp says.

Zion, along with another church, had made the house available for that special purpose. When the state decided to no longer use the building, Zion bought out the other church’s half-interest for $130,000.

He says the church will not seek legal action. Instead, a church committee will continue seeking a way to use the house for ministry.

“We are totally committed to missional use,” Hopp says.

The church met for six months with various ministries and social service agencies interested in using the home prior to their decision to provide space for FRC, Hopp says. They may now revisit a proposal from a prison ministry that wanted to use the home for transitional housing, as well as other possibilities.

Zion was welcomed into the Evangelical Covenant Church last week during the 122nd Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.

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