ZBA Approves Church Youth Center Permit

April 24, 2015

The West U Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday unanimously approved a permit — with special conditions — that would allow West University Baptist Church to build a new Youth Center on Milton St.

The church — along with its co-applicant the city of West University Place — sought the “special exception” to build a new 7,000-square foot youth ministry building on land at 3826 Milton St. That site is currently owned by the city, which uses it for the Public Works Maintenance facility.

The church and the city are involved in real estate negotiations that involve the possible transfer of land that would allow the city to proceed with a long-range Master Plan for Municipal Facilities. The land swap includes the transfer of city-owned land on Milton for church-owned land on Amherst.

Because of that possible real estate deal, the church on Thursday withdrew its “special exception” request to build 45 new parking spaces in the 3800 block of Amherst.

West U resident David Kuykendahl opposed the construction of the new Youth Center and was represented by his attorney Brennan Reilly. Reilly,  a candidate for the West U City Council in the upcoming May 9 municipal election, opposes the city’s long-term Master Plan for Municipal Facilities.

Reilly continued to express concern over whether there would be adequate parking to accommodate the new Youth Center, since a traffic study done by the church was based on the assumption that 197 parking spaces would be available in the area of the new building.

Representatives of the church and the city indicated that future “shared parking” agreements between the city and the church would provide adequate parking.

““What I had understood was that the parking on Amherst was going to reduce the on-street parking problems. It was 45 spaces,” Reilly said. He contended that the board was relying on a “made-up number” of parking spaces in order to approve the permit.

West U Baptist Church Pastor Roger Patterson said that the city code only requires the church to provide 28 additional spaces.

“He’s never going to be satisfied,” Patterson said, referring to Reilly. “His narrative here is inconsistent. What we are trying to further development here is (provide) additional parking.”

The ZBA unanimously approved the permit for the Youth Center, with a list of conditions.

The approval is also contingent upon the city of West University Place submitting a signed request for the specific use permit. That document was never been submitted by the city, although an attorney for the city confirmed that West U is “a co-applicant” for the permit.

The ZBA’s official findings are that the proposed special exception will not:

*Cause any significant increase in on-street parking;

*Cause any substantial traffic congestion;

*Cause any substantial increase in traffic or an unreasonable burden upon utility systems, or any other public facility or public service, and;

*Will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the zoning ordinance.

The conditions for the special exceptions include a requirement that the church submit its official site plan to the city; take steps to encourage pedestrian and bicycle access to the facility; build a screening wall of trees along the entire north property line; provide privacy protection for single family residences from any elevated views in the Youth Center; submit a “written plan” for pedestrian and vehicular circulation during peak occupancy times; take reasonable steps to encourage visitors to the new Youth Center from parking on public streets, and provide a minimum of 197 off-street parking spaces.