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JCC Supes Vote to Change Zoning Ordinance; Churches No Longer Allowed in Industrial Areas

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The Board of Supervisors meeting room was filled with citizens opposed to zoning changes that would prevent churches in James City County industrial districts. (Photo by Brittany Voll/WYDaily)

The Board of Supervisors meeting room was filled  Tuesday with citizens opposed to zoning changes that would prevent churches in James City County industrial districts. (Photo by Brittany Voll/WYDaily)

Following a Tuesday public hearing with 19 speakers supporting a Newport News church’s plan to expand onto a piece of James City County industrial land, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted to change a set of ordinances that will prevent the church from building without rezoning the property.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of the changes, with Supervisors Mary Jones (Berkeley) and Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) opposed.

In May, a set of proposed changes to several of the county’s areas began making their way through the county’s legislative process. The biggest set of proposed changes was to the county’s industrial district, where about 40 uses were to be removed and about 20 uses to be added following what county staff said was an inadvertent errors and omissions made in January 2012.

The changes were proposed to focus on the industrial uses and remove anything that would be incompatible, such commercial uses that would attract public visitors.

The Peninsula Pentecostals, a Newport News church in the process of expanding, signed a contract to purchase property in the county’s industrial land on Pocahontas Trail in the Grove area in March, approached the county with its plans in April, and was later informed churches were by-right uses in the industrial zone. Because churches and daycares were listed as by-right uses, the church would not have to seek rezoning or a special use permit to build.

County staff said the church’s application prompted their realization churches and daycares had been included as by-right uses in industrial districts in error, so they began making changes to the zoning ordinance. Those changes went before the board at its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday, where the meeting room was packed with citizens who opposed the changes so the church could build on the property off Pocahontas Trail.

Twenty speakers came forward to voice their opinions on the changes, 19 of whom opposed the proposal. The one speaker who supported the changes, Ed Oyer, was concerned about the original intention of the industrial district — to allow industrial businesses a place to call home — and the conditions of Pocahontas Trail.

“No more development on Route 60 of any kind until that road is fixed,” Oyer said.

The other 19 speakers each had a story about how the church had touched them or helped them grow; all asked the board to allow the church to continue with its plan to build.

One woman told the board if they did not allow the church in the county’s industrial area, she would go home and cry. Having the church close to her home in Grove was something she said would greatly help her family.

“I believe that a place of worship is, by far, the highest and best use of any piece of land,” said John McSharry, the church’s administrator.

As the public hearing ended, board members took turns expressing their opinions.

Jones said she did not approve of the manner in which the county handled the mistakes once county staff realized some uses were allowed in the industrial district that should not have been; she said the county was not putting citizens first.

“My interest is to work with the church. They have already gotten into a contract…,” Jones said. She continued to say churches are the highest and best use of land because they are an investment in people and the community.

Jones said she could support changing the ordinance without removing churches from the list of uses for the industrial district. The Planning Commission voted 4-2 in July to recommend the board approve the changes but keep churches as an allowed use.

Kennedy echoed Jones’ opinion on how the county handled communicating with the church, and added he would be supportive of rezoning the acreage the church is contracted to purchase, saying it’s been for sale for 30 years and the county isn’t attracting many industrial businesses.

“We’re not exactly a young community and we don’t have a lot of workforce here,” Kennedy said.

Standing on the other side of the issue, John McGlennon (Roberts), Jim Icenhour (Jamestown) and Andy Bradshaw (Powhatan) viewed the issue as land-use only.

Bradshaw, who is an attorney, quoted the saying, “Hard cases make bad law.” He said sometimes when someone has a result they’re trying to reach, some fundamental rules are changed to fit that one goal, which then compromises the functionality of the law in the future.

“If we were to change the [industrial] zone so that churches continue as a by-right use, that’s really bad law,” he said.

Bradshaw said the question was not regarding the one tract of land the church had been eyeing, but instead the entire industrial district. If churches were allowed on one piece of industrial land by the zoning ordinance, they would be allowed on all of it.

The board voted 3-2 to approve changes to the zoning ordinance as proposed. All five board members said they would be supportive of at least hearing a case for rezoning. McGlennon said he was not sure he would support a rezoning application, but would remain open. The church can apply for the property to be rezoned at any time.

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Posted by on August 14, 2013. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

10 Responses to JCC Supes Vote to Change Zoning Ordinance; Churches No Longer Allowed in Industrial Areas

  1. Bob R. Reply

    August 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Evidently the Church did not make large enough campaign contributions to avoid needing to rezone as was the case for another property that was approved when the Republicans ruled. Or perhaps the Democrats can’t have their votes bought.

    • Proof Reply

      August 17, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Do you have any proof a crime like bribery has occurred? Since you have made a definitive statement, you and the WYDaily should have to pony up the proof. If you don’t have any actual real proof, not some made up story, you should be brought up for libel. You continue to be the bitter man that jousts with windmills.

      The church apparently had zoning in place, and the property was zoned for it since 2012, under a democratic rule and action. It is too bad facts get in the way of all these stories. The people of the church had their rights trampled and taken away by the long arm of the local democratic party, no property rights. I could only imagine if this happened to you and your boarding house application. You didn’t have zoning in place and you still didn’t like the outcome, imagine how these people feel. The cost to a church that does great community work is incredible, the County made the mistakes and/or took draconian actions, and the County just walks away. I imagine in your world , and other’s, this action is perfectly reasonable, after all trees have rights, the unborn don’t in your world!

      • Bob R. Reply

        August 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm

        Have I EVER said a crime had occurred? EVER??

        Boarding House, what Boarding House? What is your “Proof”, or are you just slanderous and disgruntled for being called out on the carpet for your own unethical behavior? For that matter, what is your name and why do you seem to have to hide your identity, conflicted are you?

        You want to read my side of the story about unethical and unacceptable behavior that I protest, click on my name in this post.

        If you take your emotion out of the Church situation, and actually listen to what the County Attorney and Independent Andy Bradshaw had to say, you might very well understand that the decision reached was the appropriate decision. This was simply a housekeeping issue that was required to address earlier mistakes, it was not a hearing on the Church situation. Too bad the R’s on the Board can’t keep their house clean, instead pandering to emotion to gain votes.

  2. wallermillmom Reply

    August 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

    once again Mary stands up for the individuals in the county. Thank you Mary! Even if zoning is changed, this church should be allowed because it came in under the current law.

  3. Citi-Zen Reply

    August 14, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Industrial land provides a tax base and jobs. Churches are not taxable and do not provide much in the way of jobs. Allowing churches on industrial land eliminates a significant part of the of the tax base. To say that a church is the highest and best use of any piece of land is a troubling statement for a supervisor to make. It is a statement of faith, and not a basis for sound policy.

    • just curious Reply

      August 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Do you feel the same way about gov’t schools?

      The are several distinct similarities and differences worthy of note:
      Both are institutions where varied topics are taught to those attending
      Some even feel that certain topics being taught at both are “controversial”

      However

      Churches do NOT saddle taxpayer with $billion$ for their protected privileges
      (Well protected everywhere but under the current regime in JCC apparently)

      Funny how churches allow for freedom of choice and do not force people to attend or pay for their entirety (taxes, buildings, salaries, pensions) whether you agree or even utilize their facilities at all

      I’ve always heard investing in people is best investment that could be made

    • JSmith Reply

      August 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      I believe it was someone from the church staff that made that statement.

      Also…
      I also think it is a long shot to think that area would attract heavy industrial. It is to far from the Interstate, rail stations (freight), and the ports.

      The church would be a good use of the lot they are considering and they should apply for rezoning. It looks like the rest of the tract/industrial park is on the opposite side of the road from the lot they are considering.

  4. Pearl Reply

    August 14, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Ok so now lets bring some businesses to that area that pay a LIVING wage to the residents of our city and county!

  5. Bruce G Reply

    August 14, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I find Bradshaw’s comment that church supporters want “fundamental rules be changed to fit one goal” disingenuous since it was clear these zoning changes were rushed through to prevent this church from building on the Grove site.

    • birther Reply

      August 14, 2013 at 11:24 am

      Reform Gubmint Now! LOL 2 U!

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