Onaway church seeks approval to move into former grocery store

ONAWAY – A church will be able to move into a downtown Onaway building, pending planning commission approval.

At their meeting Monday, Onaway city commissioners unanimously approved two variances needed for the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ to use 20508 State Street, formerly Tom’s IGA, as a church. The lot width and overall size do not conform to zoning requirements for churches, so city commissioners acted as a zoning board of appeals, City Manager Joe Hefele said in his report. The church still needs a special use permit from the city’s planning commission, which met late Tuesday afternoon.

During a public hearing on the variances, city officials heard varying opinions on whether it should allow the church to use the building, Hefele said. After telling commissioners and members of the public his thoughts, commissioners heard from one resident who was concerned about the loss of tax revenue. Two others spoke on behalf of the church, answering some of the other concerns residents had.

“There was another resident in there (who) was concerned about a potential shortage of parking if the church were to grow,” Hefele said. “The folks from the church indicated that right now they have 62 members, and if they were to grow substantially, they would have to consider selling the building and getting something bigger.”

Since churches are tax-exempt, allowing Remnant Church of Jesus Christ to locate in the downtown building would cost the city about $1,000 of tax revenues, Hefele said. With the city strapped for cash as it is, he sees this as a negative effect of approving the variances.

However, Hefele and city commissioners agreed the positives trumped tax revenue and parking concerns, he said. By allowing the church to move in downtown, its members could eat and shop at Onaway businesses, boosting the local economy. The church also would make improvements to what is now a vacant building, helping to beautify the downtown.

The variances were necessary because Onaway zoning laws require a church to have a lot width of 150 feet, and an area of two acres, Hefele said. The former Tom’s IGA is on a lot that is slightly too narrow, at 132 feet, and considerably too small at six-tenths of an acre.

“The biggest concern would be the parking, but that’s actually an issue that most of the churches in town face,” he said.

Before the church can continue, it needs a special use permit from the city planning commission, Hefele said. The commission met Tuesday, and Hefele said he was all but certain the commission would approve the permit.

In other business:

  • commissioners agreed to sell the city’s police car to the Presque Isle County Sheriff Department for $4,500, Hefele said. The car is no longer in use since the city eliminated its police department.
  • the city will spend $9,750 to bring in engineers from Gourdie-Frasier to conduct a water system features and reliability study, as required by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Hefele said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.