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Thursday, April 24, 2014

A hot potato for council

Posted Thursday, January 7, 2010, at 1:26 PM

The recommendation by the city's planning and zoning commission to deny a conditional use permit for an expansion of the Catholic Church complex in downtown Mountain Home is going to put the city council on the hot seat.

The church no longer owns Good Counsel Hall, which at one time had been the site of many of its major functions, as well as other community activities. In fact, before the church sold it to the hospital (which wants the land for future expansion), the building itself had suffered from some issues that had severely limited its use.

So the local parish embarked on a plan to expand near the church in town. It bought the land. The businesses there were moved out, and the parish moved forward with getting a conditional use permit to build a complex near the church itself.

All of which came to a crashing halt Monday night when P&Z, on a split vote, said no.

The issue has to do with parking. City ordinances establish certain standards for the number of parking spaces for new construction, based on the size of the project, and the church's proposal was well below the city standards. Ridiculously below those standards. So P&Z said no.

Unfortunately, the land acquired by the church, combined with its current structural plans, really doesn't give it much of an ability to expand the parking area to any significant degree.

It had hoped to get a waiver of the city standards, and if it had even been reasonably close, P&Z might have recommended the plan.

But P&Z doesn't have the final say. The matter will eventually wind up in the lap of the city council. It will be interesting to see how much political pressure is put on the council to reverse the P&Z vote -- and how the council will respond to that pressure.

On the one hand, the parish can argue that its members have always been able to find parking for its weekend services at the church, on the street and in nearby business parking lots. Their current proposal would actually add to the ability to handle the parking needs of its parishoners.

On the other hand, most of those needs occur on the weekends when many businesses are closed, but a replacement for Good Counsel Hall could expand significantly the number of days in which there is a large parking demand. And of course, there's the fact that the proposal doesn't come close to meeting the city standards for parking.

Those standards could be waived by the council, but it has stuck to its guns on parking standards for other proposals that came before it, so doing so would be difficult. Not impossible, but difficult. It would take a pretty creative argument to work around it.

At the same time, the council is, by its very nature, a political animal, and the Catholic community in this area is large and, in the rare cases that it wants to be, powerful.

It's been a tough few months for the council when it comes to churches, having turned down only a few months ago a request by the Nazarene Church for an extension of city services to its new church site just outside of town. No politician likes to mess with a church, especially two that have the respect in the community that these two have earned over the years, and which both have large, voting, congregations.

The inevitable appeal of the P&Z decision is going to be very difficult for the council to handle. The council either needs to either find some way to work a compromise, or stick to its guns on its standards, or cave in to the significant political pressure the councilmembers are going to face.

But then, that's why they pay them the big bucks.


Comments
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Here's something for everyone to think about. I have lived here since '98, and don't why parking is such an issue in the downtown area. There are not enough businesses in the downtown area. If you shop at Ace Hardware/NAPA Autoparts/Paul's Market/Great American Video and surrounding area you're going to park in the Paul's Parking lot. If your at the other end of town, more likely you're parking in the lot where Radio Shack is located. And with the amount of on-street and smaller parking lots available throughout the downtown I don't understand why parking is such an issue.

Has anyone taken into consideration the Morman Center currently being built off of Hasket, behind McDonald's. Obivously, no one has throught of the increase in vehicle traffic the center is going to create. Exiting the "required" parking lot, directly into a residital area. Then onto Airbase Road, via an intersection with no traffic light, just a stop sign on Haskett. Maybe the City Council and P&Z can get together and have another traffic light installed on Airbase Road.

I also like the attention that the Catholic Church is getting just because the parish wants to improve themselves and consolicate their operations. They've done the right thing by getting the community involved. But no one from the Morman community solitated any community input when they wanted to built the center off of Haskett.

Like previous blogs have said, the standard/rules should be for everyone to follow. In my opinion, the City Council and P&Z appear to be pro-Morman, and anti-everything else. As an elected public offical, your religious belief must not be an issue when making community desicions. If it is, change your job.

-- Posted by GFYS69 on Wed, Jan 13, 2010, at 12:30 AM

JYKD,

For your map try city hall or the county tax assessor. You might have to pay for one but if you want one those would be the places to start.

-- Posted by Old guy on Tue, Jan 12, 2010, at 9:49 PM

OG,

Thank you for your clues. My initial entry on this subject was meant to convey my opinion that rules will never be absolute; that they change as soon as the people with authority to change them are convinced that it is in their, or the public's interest to do so. Yesterday's dogma is today's lesson in absurdity.

It was my mistaken belief that a reference to legal rules about slavery or women's rights, having undergone dynamic change, would serve as support for that opinion.

I don't have a dog in the "church vs P&Z parking rules" fight; so I don't really care what happens as long as it doesn't cost me more money, or make the summer breeze smell like manure. In any event, I'd still like to see a map defining the city limits. Can you direct me towards one?

Perhaps it changes with the rules?

-- Posted by junkyard dog on Tue, Jan 12, 2010, at 8:30 PM

MsM,

The Fire Department and Ambulance have a much larger area to cover than MHPD. The Fire Department responds to calls both in the city and county. The same thing for the ambulance. MHPD will only respond to call within city limits unless they are requested to provide aide outside the city limits. The Sheriff's Office responds to calls county wide including within city limits if need be.

-- Posted by Old guy on Tue, Jan 12, 2010, at 4:45 AM

Old Guy

I live on the out skirts of town and we are county however city and county come out here too. Ambulance and fire department come out here as well as the sheriff's.

-- Posted by MsMarylin on Mon, Jan 11, 2010, at 10:19 PM

Junk yard dog,

Here is a clue to you that Wal-mart is in the city limits. MHPD responds to any all calls at Wal-Mart. Look at the blog and see Police Chief Walters comments as to why the road was closed this past Saturday. There is proof for you.

As for your comment "Unless, perhaps you were a slave in the 19th century, or a woman in the 20th century." You brought up this use of words no on else did. Is this an attempt by you to derail the topic at hand? That is how I see it.

The bottom line is that the Church FAILED to meet the standards and regulations as they were set forth for them.

-- Posted by Old guy on Mon, Jan 11, 2010, at 9:51 PM

I believe walmart is in the city.

It's strange the way city and county lines weave in and out in Mountain Home. I live off Air Base Road where just down the street from me the houses are in the city but I am in the county. If you drive down south 5th, city and county weave in and out along there. It used to make it hard for emergency respondents to know who should respond city or county. It would be interesting to know if this still is a problem or if it has now been fixed.

-- Posted by MsMarylin on Mon, Jan 11, 2010, at 7:55 PM

OG,

I wasn't referencing slavery, my comments were directed towards your and OM's "rules are rules" position.

As far as checking out facts, it doesn't bother me to be corrected; but, could you, as a courtesy to my ignorant self, provide a bonafide reference to your correction? I've looked; but I can't locate any map that puts WalMart within the city limits.

-- Posted by junkyard dog on Mon, Jan 11, 2010, at 7:43 PM

JYD,

I will bow to you since you have lived longer than me. As for the slave comment, way off topic. Other have built in this area and have meet all the requirements.

As for Wal-Mart, I never knew that this area was outside of the city limits. Since I have been here (99) city emergency services (MHPD and FD) have responded to all emergencies in this area and that was BEFORE Wal-Mart was built. Before you state stuff as facts you might want to check them out. The area where Wal-Mart is built has been in the jurisdiction of the city since I arrived here in 99. Before that I cannot answer but they built WITHIN city limits and thus meet CITY requirements.

The ball is back in your court to respond.

-- Posted by Old guy on Sun, Jan 10, 2010, at 10:07 PM

Mountain Home ceased having a vibrant business sector the day after the concrete on I-84 solidified. Such is life all over these United States.

That fact is that a lot of property value in this town would increase if the original standing structures were torn down.

"Rules are rules regardless of who/what wants to change them." Unless, perhaps you were a slave in the 19th century, or a woman in the 20th century.

"If it was a business and not a church, it would not have made news at all." You're right, I don't recall any business being denied a permit to expand in town because it didn't properly follow P&Z directives for Parking spaces.

I lived here in the early 70's...don't remember K-Mart being uphill from town. From '76 through '99 I galivanted around the planet. When I returned, the word was out that Wal-Mart had singled us out for attention in their quest to dominate the world. The City resisted mightily; so Wally World did the same as K-Mart...they built outside the jurisdiction of Mountain Home and its associtive rules.

None of this has anything to do with the Church. "Resisting Change at all Costs" may not be the City Council's battle cry; but, it may be its epitaph.

-- Posted by junkyard dog on Sun, Jan 10, 2010, at 9:33 PM

I've lived in Mtn since 78 and it will be sad to see those buildings torn down to make way for a parking lot. I know change is good, but not everything is good. I'm going to get some pictures taken before they come down, so at least I will still have my old memories of how Mountain Home used to look......

-- Posted by MsMarylin on Sun, Jan 10, 2010, at 7:41 PM

OG, you said it well as always. Rules are rules regardless of who/what wants to change them. For the businesses downtown that pay sky high rent---they deserve to be protected. If you cannot find a parking space you are not likely to shop there or hike so that you can shop there. I also thought they made a good decision and believe the mayor and CC will do the same thing.

Most of the "folding lawnchairs" are reserved for those who rule the county. County rules are made to be broken or at least redone to allow for whatever.

Stand your ground City! Maybe some of your moxie will rub off on the county folks (doubt it but I hold out some hope anyway).

-- Posted by OpinionMissy on Sun, Jan 10, 2010, at 6:56 PM

So what are you trying to say Junkyard Dog? That the rules that everyone else have to follow should only apply in certain cases? I applaud the P&Z for the decision. If it was a business and not a church, it would have not made the news at all.

As I sit here trying to understand some of the logic of others a thought comes to mind. When Wal-Mart was built they did not need to big such a large parking lot. Those that wanted to shop there could have just parked at the old K-Mart across the street since there was plenty of parking there. Oh and the mini-malls that went in near Wal-Mart did not to build any parking since there was Wal-Mart that partons could park at. See how others can use this logic if the MHCC overrides the wonderful P&Z decision?

-- Posted by Old guy on Sun, Jan 10, 2010, at 5:47 PM

Having had considerable experience with Catholics, I recommend P&Z pay close attention to the figure hanging on the wall above Catholic beds, altars, and cash registers. These folks play serious.

All kidding aside, what I learned in Sunday school was this...if you want to defeat your demons, become a bigger demon.

P&Z, watch "The Exorcist."

-- Posted by junkyard dog on Sun, Jan 10, 2010, at 5:38 PM

I say the standards are the standards and if the church cannot or will not meet them, then uphold the decision by the P&Z. These standards are not new and the church should have tried harder to meet them. If the council overturns the decision by the P&Z, they set the precedent for other organizations to ask for the same thing and cry foul if they are denied. That is just my opinion.

-- Posted by Old guy on Sat, Jan 9, 2010, at 10:16 PM


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