The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will not have a new home in Greenfield, at least not yet.
The Greenfield Common Council denied a request to rezone the property located at the southeast corner of South 35th Street and West Barnard Avenue from single family residential to institutional by a 3-2 vote at City Hall on Tuesday.
The denial shot down the church’s plans to build a 16,100-square-foot church on the 4.2-acre parcel.
But that doesn’t mean the church won’t stop looking for a Greenfield location that works.
“We’ll keep looking,” said Antone Bonner, Stake President of the Milwaukee Wisconsin South Stake of the LDS.
“We’ll keep seeing what our options are. I don’t know what that will lead to. This is a good area. Latter-Day Saints churches, the congregations, are essentially geographically located. They typically take in more than one community. … (Greenfield) would be a very nice, centrally located location. We’ll just have to see.”
The council listened to citizen comments for nearly 90 minutes during a public hearing. More than 50 people, many of them church members, registered to speak or to show support of the church.
Those who supported it discussed the humanitarian efforts the church would bring to the community and the benefits the church would have on local youths.
The area in question, located next to Greenfield Middle School, is a vacant field, something neighbors did not want to lose. Those who live in the area also had major concerns about the increase in traffic.
“Adding a church and its traffic is very challenging for us to accept,” said Luis Reyes, who lives on 35th Street directly across from where the proposed church would have been erected. “The traffic from the school already makes it very challenging to get in and out of my driveway.
“That’s not why I purchased my house. That’s not what I bought the property for. It was my dream house, with a white picket fence. You build something that massive there and that all goes away.”
Ellen Budny, Reyes’s neighbor, agreed, saying rezoning approval would eradicate the natural green space the area provides, turning it into a giant parking lot.
Bonner said he appreciated the environmental concerns but said the church and its landscaping would be well-maintained and a “beautiful property.”
In addition, rezoning the property would have taken it off the city’s tax roll because institutional properties are tax exempt. One church official, however, said in lieu of paying taxes the church would consider putting in sidewalks and cross walks to make the area, especially that leading to the middle school, safer.
Alderperson Karl Kastner was concerned with the traffic and the loss of opportunity for other families to build homes on the vacant land.
“Those lots are very desirable,” he said. “I’d love to live that close to a school. I think that’s a huge asset for our city.”
Said Bonner, “Obviously, we’re disappointed, but I chatted with the Common Council members (after the meeting) and it seems like the decision was based on the traffic that is on that road already. They’re concerned about adding to that. We don’t think it would be an extra burden because of the timing of when that traffic would occur. It really wouldn’t coincide with the busy times of every day life, but so be it.”