Letter to the Editor: Postpone Action on Church's Request to Convert Firehouse Into Rectory
One Sunset Hills resident would like the opportunity to let neighbors know about Gateway House of Prayer’s plan to renovate the former Mehlville firehouse before aldermen vote on the church's request.
[Editor's note: The following letter was sent to aldermen Tuesday morning. Tonight's items related to this topic are scheduled for both public hearing and first reading. One request will add rectories to the list of conditional uses in that zoning district. The second is a request by Gateway House of Prayer for a conditional use permit to convert the their new property into a rectory.]
Dear Aldermen & Alderwomen of Sunset Hills,
I am writing you to present the case of the residents from my neighborhood. While myself and others do plan to speak tonight, I wanted to give you time to better consider our case by sending this now.
When we first heard that our former firehouse (at 11625 Sappington Barracks) was likely to become a rectory, we were satisfied with this outcome. However after the press bringing to light some details about the "rectory" and looking into the Gateway House of Prayer (http://www.ihopstl.com/) we are gravely concerned with the potential for this happening.
We ask that you please reject this conditional use permit. At the very least, please attempt to amend the permit to ensure that this property and it's use remains acceptable for our residential neighborhood. Below are a list of concerns we have in detail for your consideration:
1.) Traffic issues - We already have huge issues with people using our street as cut-through from Lindbergh Blvd. We ask that the GHOP be made to close the property drive ways to either Lindbergh or Sappington Barracks. I know from talking to many neighbors they prefer that it be closed off from Sappington Barracks. The driveway extending from Lindbergh onto Sappington Barracks was a special circumstance for the fire department, and we feel anyone granted a conditional use permit should have to close it. It is a constant safety concern for us. We even had a police chase run through it a couple of months ago.
If the permit granted to GHOP is going to allow for church meetings or public visitors requiring counseling, we feel strongly it should be closed off from Sappington Barracks and allowing their traffic to only come and go from Lindbergh.
2.) There is no limit to the number of families that can occupy the property.
Since many of us would consider a rectory a place to only house clergy, ministers, etc. We found it alarming that it is actually going to hold their entire families, "ministers in training", and custodial staff. We would at least like to limit this property to two families at the most. This is a reasonable request that could make the property residential neighborhood friendly.
This church is focused on aggressive growth, and will have constant housing issues for the many new recruits. We feel it is absolutely necessary to set parameters for who will be housed at this site and how many before granting such a permit.
3.) We are concerned over who will live in the building and visit regularly for "church business" both now and in the future.
None of us signed up to be across the street from a place where an evangelical church could house numerous people they consider staff and "ministers in training." We think that the permit would need to be more specific as to who will be living there by limiting it to ministers and their immediate families. We also ask that the permit state that church services (including counseling) will not be rendered in the building. Since the church ministers to many homeless and criminals, I think you should understand why we do not feel that our neighborhood is right for these services to be performed on premise.
4.) GHOP already has run-down property issues with their existing property.
If you take a drive to the back of the GHOP church parking lot, you will see that their existing rectory home is run down. They also have a few derelict vehicles in the back parking lot. The parking lot is also in need of repaving. Before granting them a conditional use permit for the old firehouse, we feel that they should have to clean-up their existing property. The permit should also be revokable if they repeatedly violate any codes our city has for upkeep of property.
5.) Property values will decrease.
Given how undesirable this GHOP "rectory" could be, nearby homes would see lower sale prices. And even further price drops would occur if they maintain it the way that they maintain their existing property. This would be a reduction in tax revenue and create a blighted, depressed area of the city that could spread south.