The meeting started with a prayer and soon enough had some testifying. In both cases, two groups, albeit on different sides, were preaching to their own choirs.
On Tuesday, four Columbia County Commission members raised their hands, giving their blessing on a site plan for a church relocation to Halali Farm Road.
The rezoning proposal at issue at Tuesday night's county commission meeting was for Westside Christian Church concerning a 9.9-acre tract on Halali Farm north of Washington Road, which had been zoned residential but was changed to a special zoning to allow a church Tuesday night.
The rezoning came after presentations for and against the rezoning. Dr. Richard White, a member of Westside Christian, which is on Columbia Road in Martinez, told the commission he sees nothing wrong in a church moving to the Halali Farm site. He added that, as a resident of nearby Hardy McManus Road, he would prefer to have a church near his home instead of a residential neighborhood or multifamily development because it could serve as a buffer.
"I assure you I would never support anything that would add to the traffic burden to Halali Farm Road,'' he said" ... I believe having a church on Halali Farm would actually benefit the residents of Halali Farm ... I can't think of anything that would bring less change to Halali Farm Road.''
But some residents of the road disagreed, telling the commission they are worried that a church on the road could bring noise issues and added traffic concerns.
"We, the property owners have nothing against this church,'' said Halali Farm resident Scott Badgley. " ... Our focus is strictly on the use of this land, and we believe it should remain residential.''
The commission was then told by its attorney that a 2000 federal religious land use act would make it difficult for the county to deny the rezoning to the church. Commissioner Steve Brown said he was against the rezoning, but he voted in favor of it after hearing about the 2000 act.
"I have a problem with that,'' he said. "But I took my office not to break the law.''
Commissioner Diane Ford was the lone commissioner who voted against the rezoning.
"For the record, I am not against this church,'' she said. "I am just totally opposed to the location.''
The commission were told that the church is relocating because it has outgrown its current site.
The church's plan includes two phases: one that involves the construction of a worship center, parking and recreation area; and a second that involves the construction of a recreation area and an education wing building.
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