The recent review of an application for a proposed new building on the existing Methodist Church site along Danville Boulevard in Alamo has developed into a controversy over the use of that building, which has become "commercial" within a "residential" neighborhood.
The county general plan and zoning for the existing site is "residential," which does generally allow for the placement of churches under what is called a "land use permit." However, the general plan specifically prohibits such nonresidential land use permits in the residentially zoned portions of Danville Boulevard in Alamo.
Also, the residential zoning designation does not permit a "commercial" use of the property. Here is how zoning ordinances are defined and work:
Definition of "zoning ordinance": Written regulations and laws that define how property in specific geographic zones can be used. Zoning ordinances specify whether zones can be used for residential or commercial purposes, and may also regulate lot size, placement, bulk (or density) and the height of structures. Zoning ordinances are lengthy documents describing not only the acceptable use for specified areas of land, but also the procedures for handling infractions (including any penalties), granting variances and hearing appeals.
Investopedia explains "zoning ordinance": Zoning consists of dividing a particular region of land into districts or zones and specifying the types of land uses that are allowed and prohibited for each zone. This is performed by a municipal corporation or county and is typically specific to certain city regions.
Zoning, in its basic form, attempts to separate residential property use from commercial property use.
The church has proposed to "rent" its new "recreational hall" to any organization they might choose to accept, presumably including renters from outside of Alamo, and has requested that the county, the Alamo Community and the surrounding residential areas support this usage Sunday-Thursday nights until 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.
The county planning department has recommended limiting the usage of the proposed new building to Sunday-Thursday nights to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday to 9 p.m., more reasonable hours for a residential setting, and also that the use of the new building be limited solely to the church's own activities.
As revealed in a recent county zoning meeting, the church objects to these limitations and has stated publicly that this means it will not be able to move forward on this project.
As an observer, one has to conclude that, although the church has stated that the building construction expenses are being donated by an unnamed source, the ongoing expenses are not and the church has to pay for the operation of the building through rental income from other organizations that will pay for the operation of the building.
This is now clearly an attempt by the church to establish a "commercial" enterprise in direct conflict with the zoning for their property.
This project is opposed by many residents located in neighborhoods immediately surrounding the church property because it will significantly impact the use of their properties by subjecting them to additional noise, light, activities and parking issues.
The church has two options; either accept the county's conditions for the operation of their proposed building so that it is not a "commercial" enterprise or locate this building elsewhere in a "commercial" zoned area that is meant to accept this type of use.
Roger Smith is president of the Alamo Improvement Association