Church zoning amendment passes commission

Shelby County residents packed the commission chambers Monday morning as the county’s elected officials determined the future of local churches.

Following the comments of about 50 county residents, the commission voted 6-3 in favor of making nonresidential uses such as churches in residential areas conditional upon meeting certain requirements.

Churches, schools and other nonresidential uses must meet these requirements when they choose to locate in neighborhood areas that are zoned R-1 and R-2, both single family districts and E-1 and E-2, both single family estate districts.

Requirements include approval by the Planning Commission based on certain criteria such as completing a site plan, meeting the standards outlined in Shelby County’s zoning ordinance and submitting to a public hearing.

Commissioners Larry Dillard, Billy Thompson and Ted Crockett voted against the measure, while commissioners Lindsey Allison, Don Armstrong, Dan Acker, Jimmy Bice, Joel Bearden and George Dailey voted for the amendment.

Dillard read from a letter addressed to his fellow commissioners.

&uot;More than likely, the Planning Commission will rule against a church,&uot; he said. &uot;It may not come in my lifetime, but it will come, and that will be a very sad day in Shelby County.&uot;

Dillard noted there were other options available to meet the need of the adjoining residents’ wishes to be involved in the process of church growth.

&uot;The Planning Commission offered only one solution to solve a dilemma to which other options are available,&uot; he said.

Commissioner Crockett agreed.

&uot;Voting for this resolution will place churches in jeopardy,&uot; he said. &uot;This state and county will not be fit to live in without the Baptists and other churches. I am a Godly man and I am married to a Godly woman.

&uot;I am a Crockett and I am not going to vote to restrict churches,&uot; Crockett said.

Commissioner Bice said there was merit on both sides of the issue.

&uot;But there’s been a lot of misinformation put out there. There is a misconception that whatever we do here today will affect every Shelby County church forever,&uot; Bice said. &uot;This amendment will not affect churches inside the city limits. It will not affect churches in unincorporated, unzoned areas of Shelby County.

&uot;The only churches affected will be those in zoned residential beats.&uot;

Commissioner Allison said she had come to her decision after much soul-searching and seeking the opinions of many county residents.

&uot;Beat 12 was a remarkable example of show we’ve figured out how to live together,&uot; she said. &uot;Heardmont Park is another one. We went to each neighbor and listened to their concerns. Then we did our best to accomodate them.

&uot;It was communication that made those events come together. I compliment Valleydale (Baptist Church, which has held numerous meetings with the adjoining neighborhood), but I can’t be sure everyone will (communicate as well),&uot; Allison said. &uot;I’m going to support this amendment because I know then people will come together to discuss the issues.&uot;