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A local church may seek legal action after a request to rezone their property to residential is denied.
About 15 members of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Richmond attended the Council’s meeting Tuesday night to get answers from elected officials as to why the Richmond Planning and Zoning Board voted 6-0 to deny the request at a meeting on June 2.
The church is seeking the rezoning so they can convert the old church into a single family dwelling for the church’s pastor Nelson Holmes and his family.
Holmes’ wife Nancy told the council that only six to seven people would be living in the structure. According to the minutes from the meeting, Public Works, Police and Fire Departments were all notified and no objections were brought forward.
Nancy told the commission and the council the reason they want to convert the church is so they can move to Richmond from the Excelsior Springs area. She said the church has been doing mass distributions of Harvesters food items and living in Richmond would make it much easier on her husband who works full time for the postal service in addition to being the church’s pastor.
“I think that’s a big thing here,” Nancy said in speaking of the food distributions. “But how long can we keep this up if we can’t live here?” We try to help everyone in the community. At this time, won’t you please come in and help us?”
The Holmes said they were led to believe that the request would not be a problem and were unprepared for a battle when only Nancy showed up to the meeting on June 2. She said she thought she was going to the meeting to just answer questions and get approval.
Community Development Director Lisa Hastings denied telling the Holmes they would have no problems and said she told them the steps they would have to go through to receive the request.
Nancy said that everything appeared fine until Jill and Ray Noble spoke against the request at the June 2 meeting. The minutes say the Nobles said they did not believe the Holmes could make it look like a house and that it would cost too much money to fix.
Nancy said that professional contractors have committed to the project and that they have already put a lot of money into the church. She said it’s hard to keep up, however when the place is being vandalized on a regular basis.
“We can’t sell it,” she said. “We’ve got kids going in there smoking and tearing things up. The little bit we fix they go in there and tear up.”
The council voted 8-0 to deny the request. Councilman Roger Kepple said the city has to follow the recommendations.
“What you’re doing is most commendable, and your appeal is most commendable, but this council has to go by recommendations of planning and zoning,” Kepple said.
Councilman Dave Powell agreed with Kepple and told the Holmes it was not personal.
“It’s not a matter of us being for or against you,” he said. “We have to depend on the expertise of the presentation made to the planning and zoning committee or our inspector. The zoning was put into place for a purpose.”
Another issue against the building is the structural soundness of the building. The Holmes claim the structure is fine and invited the council to look. Hastings said she has never been in the building. Powell indicated on Thursday that he and other council members are interested in touring the building.
Nelson said on Thursday that the church may explore legal action.
Photo: The Lighthouse Baptist Church wants to turn their old building at 207 E. Buchanan St. into a parsonage for the church. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)