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Decision to Not Rezone Land Keeps Church Out of Greenfield

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had hoped to build a church at 35th Street and Barnard Avenue.

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 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. The 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  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.”

4 Greenfield August 17, 2011 at 05:42 PM
I believe the Greenfield School District sold this patch of land to a developer so that the profit from the sale could be used for capital improvements at the middle school and, more importantly, so that the land and future residential properties could be a new source of tax revenue. I have nothing against the church, but they would not be obligated to keep their promise of proposed improvements and could become a drain on city services. I hope the common council keeps sight of the original intention of putting this property on the market!
Derek August 17, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Just so I have this straight. These people seriously considered putting in a giant PAWN SHOP on 76th Street but they denied a CHURCH!?!?!?!
Richard Bybee August 18, 2011 at 02:31 PM
It appears to me that the information regarding increased traffic presented to the City Council/Zoning Commission was inaccurate. The traffic generated by the new Church building would be during evenings and Sundays, when the school is not in session. If the Church officials said that the Church would install improvements on the property, such as sidewalks, beautiful landscaping and any other improvements required by the City, the Church would do it. The Church has never backed away from its commitments. Also, property values have historically increased around our Church buildings, a fact that should make the neighbors happy. I'm convinced that the decision of the Council was emotionally charged, and may have been grounded in religions prejudice against our Church. I urge the Council to reconsider its decision.
Luis Reyes September 08, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Derek, in order to get it straight, you really have to know all the facts. I really have no input on the whole 'Pawn Shop' thing, however, theres a lot of factors involved in not wanting to build a church at this specific location.
Luis Reyes September 08, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Richard, I understand your passion and devotion in wanting to have your Church built at this location. I get it. It seem's like a very simple solution and with really no downside and really a lot of pluses for the community. Unfortunetly, you don't live there in order to really understand the impact. Weather the numbers are off or not by a few cars, it's still a problem. The fact remains that with the current traffic flow it's challenging! And really, it's not fair to say that there would never be any Church activities besides only evening and Sundays. That's just not realistic. And even IF that was to be true, the school and other community functions run at that location every evening of the week and all day on weekends. So there is alway a constant flow of traffic. I personally have no prejudcie regarding the Church, it's not a religious issue. It's an issue that living directly acorss the street, it would effect my daily way of life in a negative way. It would effect my family and it would effect the way that I would actually view the Church and probably make me resent your Church. I would feel invaded in my neighboorhood, I would feel added stress with having to deal with the added traffic of the Church, let alone dealing with the building of the facility it's self. I would feel a since of loss of why I moved to this location in the 1st place. I really do hope your Church can find a good location, I'm just satisfied that it's not in front of my house. Thank you GCC.
Classic She September 09, 2011 at 08:06 PM
I hope this property stays off the market - developing it removes one of the last public open spaces in the City and reduces land which soaks up rainwater, reducing flooding and replenishing the acquifer. There is no reason to develop every piece of land in the City. If you want lower taxes, I suggest you sell and move out to the exurbs.
4 Greenfield September 09, 2011 at 08:14 PM
This property has already been sold to a developer, so unless Classic She wants to buy them out, there is little chance that this piece of property will be left vacant. Also, Barnard Park, which is next to this property provides much undeveloped space as well as the rest of the middle school property, which is mostly open land.

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