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County commissioners voted 5-0 Wednesday, Aug. 28, to deny Living Proof Ministries’ request to rezone its property.

PAOLA — A request to rezone the Living Proof Church property south of Paola from Countryside to Commercial (C-2) has been denied.

During their meeting Wednesday, Aug. 28, county commissioners voted 5-0 to accept the Miami County Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny the rezoning request, citing required infrastructure improvements for a C-2 property that the owner said would be too cost prohibitive. The Planning Commission took up the matter at its July meeting and again in August when it voted to recommend denial.

Planner Kenny Cook said staff also recommended denial.

Cook said the current water line would have to be upgraded to meet fire suppression regulations for a commercial business, and the road adjacent to the 15.75-acre property has to be 27-feet-wide pavement of collector road quality, with additional shoulder and right-of-way requirements beyond the 27-foot roadway surface.

“The average width (in front of the property) is 22 feet wide, and it’s pretty restrictive with regards to its ability to expand,” Cook said.

Cook said denial of the C-2 rezoning request would not impact Living Proof’s ability to operate as a church at the site, which is already an approved use under its current Conditional Use Permit. The church has indicated it intends to remain at the site, he said.

Commissioner Danny Gallagher asked church representative Gary Gerken if it was still the church’s position that it would be unable to make the road and water infrastructure improvements.

“I think all of us in this room know that would be an astronomical cost … we’re talking millions of dollars,” Gerken said.

Gerken asked if a big box store wanted to build on that location and would employ 500 people, how hard would commissioners work to make that happen.

“I think we would be willing to work with anybody that was willing to make the infrastructure improvements,” Commissioner Tyler Vaughan said. “The county doesn’t have $3 or $4 million to make the improvements.”

“Neither does the church,” Gerken said.

Gerken asked if the property could be rezoned C-2 under the condition that the property would remain a church, and if it changed hands then the zoning issue could be revisited.

Cook said conditions cannot be placed on a rezoning. He said if it’s rezoned C-2 then any permitted uses under C-2 would be allowed at that site.

Don Bucher, a resident on Harmony Road, urged commissioners to decline the rezoning application.

“The church doesn’t need this,” Bucher said. “It operates fine and is even prospering with the current CUP.”

Bucher said he didn’t have anything personally against the church but said if the C-2 zoning was approved it could harm neighborhood property values because any business allowed under a C-2 could operate at the site. He used a hog rendering plant as one example.

Bucher said allowing the property to be C-2 instead of Countryside would create a “spot zoning” situation that would not benefit the public.

Gerken noted the tough requirements of the current CUP, and said it seems like every time a neighbor complains the church is asked to do something else.

With regard to a church operating at the site, Commissioner Rob Roberts told those in attendance that the issue has already been decided and he urged everyone to come to terms with the fact Living Proof Church will be allowed to operate at the site under the confines of the CUP. He added that the commission listened to neighbors’ concerns when the CUP was being drafted.

Roberts said he had hoped this matter would have been resolved at the last CUP hearing and said the church benefits the community.

“Sometimes they are going to get loud, sometimes they are going to park on the road, sometimes they are going to have fun over there,” Roberts said. “It’s a church.”

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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