Neighbors Want More Information on Who Would Stay at Proposed Rectory
Sunset Hills aldermen asked Gateway House of Prayer to speak with neighbors about their intention to house staff and 'clergy in training' in the old firehouse at Lindbergh Boulevard and Sappington Barracks Road.
Neighbors who spoke against a request by a Sunset Hills ministry to renovate Mehlville Fire Protection District’s former firehouse and use it as a living quarters for its staff would like to see more rigid guidelines set for the project if approved by aldermen.
Gateway House of Prayer (GHOP), located at 4646 Lindbergh Blvd., purchased MFPD’s old House 3 in August. Pastor Jeff Riddering and his wife, Tammy, would like to use the facility to house some of its full-time and temporary staff.
Riddering said he believe the majority of the occupants will be clergy staff, but also some ‘clergy in training,’ who would participate in the prayer ministry’s six-month internships. Some participants live in the St. Louis area and commute to the ministry’s Sunset Hills campus, he said, but those in need of board have been staying with the Riddering family.
A neighbor to the firehouse doesn’t believe a rectory fits in the residential area. Kimberly Bordeaux is concerned the rectory could enforce existing traffic problems, and doesn’t think the proposal is specific enough about how many and what type of occupants could reside there. [Read a letter submitted by Bordeaux to the Board of Aldermen.]
The firehouse included 24 beds, but Riddering said they plan to renovate the space into larger, more private rooms and don’t anticipate that many guests at once. (The Ridderings believe the building would house five or six individuals to start, adding that their ‘maximum number’ would also depend on fire code regulations.) Community outreach efforts wouldn’t come back to the rectory, he said.
Lois Feicht, who also lives near the firehouse, is worried that visitors seeking counseling or help from staff members will affect the character of the neighborhood.
In addition to clarifying occupancy guidelines, residents suggested the ministry close off the parking lot’s access points to Sappington Barracks Road if the project is recommended.
Sunset Hills aldermen encouraged the church to solidify their occupancy estimates, and reach out to residents in the meantime to introduce their project.
Tammy Riddering, who serves as the ministry’s director, said they wouldn’t take the selection process lightly for clergy in traiing. While some applicants would have formal training, Jeff Riddering said they would also rely on pastoral recommendations, character references, and in-person interviews.
The board will review GHOP’s request at next month’s meeting.