Churches to be allowed in shopping centers in the city

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By Patrick Yost

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The Madison Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday paved the way to allow churches to locate in shopping centers.

At its regular monthly meeting, the commission approved a request by Lakepoint Community Church for a text amendment to city zoning ordinances that would include neighborhood churches as acceptable uses in shopping centers.

Daniel Harrell, acting as a representative for the church, said the church currently rents space from the James Madison Inn Conference Center but is seeking a space that would serve the church’s growth. Harrell said the church started with approximately  30 members in 2014 and has grown to an average Sunday attendance of 150 members. He also said more than half of the congregation is under 18–years–old. “Our primary reason to leaving the (James Madison Conference Center) property is  we are limited to just Sunday morning,” he said.

Harrell said the church was considering space in the Rock Wash shopping center on Atlanta Highway.

Commission Member Sherry Terrell–Alexander made a motion to approve the request. The motion was seconded by Commission Member Herb Anderson and it passed unanimously.

The Madison Planning and Zoning Commission is a recommendation body. A final decision will be made by the Madison City Council. Consequent to a text amendment change allowing neighborhood churches in shopping center areas, a church would also have to request a conditional use permit to be approved.

The planning and zoning commission also approved a conditional used request by Michael Ghioto, co–owner of 441 Pawn Shop, Eatonton Road, that will allow the business to buy and sell motorized vehicles.

Ghioto told the commission that the business frequently purchases a vehicle, boat or all terrain vehicle and would only keep the vehicle on site for the amount of time it would take to ship it to storage. Ghioto said this typically takes less than a day. He said the business may make five to six purchases a year. Ghioto said even one purchase of a vehicle by the pawn shop without a dealership license is in violation of state law. “This is more of a request to comply with state law,” he said.

The commission approved the request with several conditions, including a limit of three parking spaces to be used for purchased vehicles and that a single vehicle could stay in the parking lot for no more than 48 hours. Ghioto said he didn’t have any problem with the conditions.

“During the course of the year we may buy or sell six (vehicles),” he said. “We never store anything on site. We always move it to another location.”

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