Albertville City Council members rejected a proposed church building request in a highly commercial zone Monday night, turning back Pastor Jeremiah Curran and Westbridge Community Church’s 17,000-square-foot building at the corner of Wright County Highway 19 and 53rd Avenue Northeast.
By a split, 3-2 vote, Westbridge was denied the zoning request it needed to purchase Outlout A in the Heuring Meadows development, a 11.5 acre lot that the city has planned for commercial development.
At the heart of the matter was the loss in tax dollars the proposed rezoning would have created. If a commercial developer were to take ownership of the lot, the land could raise more than $133,000 annually for the City of Albertville. As a church, which is exempt from paying in property tax, it would raise none.
Curran attempted to counter that Monday night with statistics that showed the potential revenue the church might bring the city. Through shopping, eating and dining out, more than $160,000 in funds could be raised by the church. He also said the church would work with the city to offset some of that lost revenue, saying the Westbridge community could pitch in with various events, fundraisers and more.
It was enough to win the support of Albertville Mayor Jillian Hendrickson and new council member Walter Hudson, who both said the land, just south of an area where Albertville leaders sacrificed commercial land for a housing development along 57th Street and County 19, had sat vacant for more than a decade, and is, as agriculture land, only bringing city coffers about $4,000 per year.
“We’re focusing on potential,” Hudson said as the city discussed the lost commercial tax revenue, saying not only had Outlot A been skipped over for development, but much of the land around it over the last 15 years.
In his presentation to the city council, planning consultant Al Brixius recommended the city reject the proposal because of long-range plans that show County 19 as a vibrant commercial corridor through Albertville’s city limits. Both the 2012 Comprehensive Plan and the Albertville 2030 Vision Study – plans created by city leaders and elected officials along with members of the Albertville Planning Commission – the corridor is continuous through the community.
“In isolating that commercial parcel [through a rezoning], the zoning would negatively impact the future redevelopment of this parcel,” Brixius stated.
City staff also worried about the precedent rezoning a Commercial B-2 property could set for future requests of the Planning Commission.
The commission had recommended the council approve, however, stating the potential revenue of the church offset any potential tax revenue. Former Mayor Ron Klecker, who sits on that board, said even though the plan was for commercial development there, the church seemed to fit the mold, and changed his mind after voicing concerns at the outset of discussion during the February meeting.
That didn’t sway council members Larry Sorensen, Rob Olson and John Vetsch, who cast their votes against the proposal.
In a letter to the Westbridge community, Curran said the proposal was “one step” in the process of finding Westbridge, which meets at the St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West Auditorium, a new home.
“How we handle ourselves when things don’t go as we would have liked says a lot about how we reflect the love of Jesus in our community,” Curran said.
In a conversation with NWCToday earlier this year, Curran said he wouldn’t fight the City of Albertville, legally, and would be willing to abide by the government process.
“That’s not how you make a good neighbor,” he said. “The cities and the school district have been great to work with, and helped us since we started here many years ago,” Curran said. “Our church is our people. And we all live here and work here.”