Church expansion, apartment conversion OK’d

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Planning Commission last week approved plans for a major expansion of Cornerstone Foursquare Church and the conversion of another building from commercial to residential usage.

Commissioners voted 5-0 for Cornerstone Foursquare Church, 1234 Long St., to build a 2,810-square-foot addition. They voted 3-2 to allow Dave Aronson to convert commercial space on the first floor of the building at 925 Long St. into three one-bedroom apartments.

Aronson’s proposal was for the two-story building that formerly housed a Department of Human Services office and Specialty Bookkeeping. It also included six apartments, the maximum allowed outright for the property, which is located in a central commercial zone. Aronson requested a variance to convert the two ground-level commercial office spaces into three new apartments.

Without converting the units into apartments, Aronson said, he is barely making loan and tax payments.

Neighbors opposed Aronson’s proposal over concerns about parking. Although the parking may be sufficient for nine units now, they were concerned about the future, with a different landlord who might allow larger families to live in the apartments. The parking lot includes 12 spaces plus six garage spaces, which are primarily storage right now.

Aronson told the commission that he had three elderly ladies waiting to rent there, and he expected it would create less vehicle and foot traffic at the property than it has had in the past.

With clients coming and going all day, the parking and traffic were busy, Aronson said.

It sounds like the ladies who are planning to rent there are not the kind of people to have an extra pickup, said neighbor Bill Lewis, but that could change in the future with a different landlord.

The original structure, built by Aronson, required more parking than what is normally required for nine residential units, said Carol Lewis, who is contracted by they city for planning services, in the findings of fact.

Neighbors also expressed concerns that the apartment building had limited space in back. It is less than 50 feet of Ames Creek.

At the time it was constructed, regulations required Aronson to build at least 25 feet from the creek, Lewis told the commission. Since then, the regulation has changed to 50 feet from the high-water mark.

“Inherently, I don’t have a problem with putting more units in there on the ground level,” Commissioner Eva Jurney said. “But we can’t tell them what to put in their leases. It doesn’t really consider the possibilities for the future.”

“I’m concerned about the parking issue,” Commissioner Greg Stephens said, not now but in the future. If the building is sold and the tenants change, the whole parking situation could change.

“Personally, I’m not concerned with the parking,” Commissioner James Goble said, noting that the building has two spaces per unit. “I don’t really have any negative issues.”

Chairman Henry Wolthuis said the building seems tight for the lot, and the garage space is used for storage. He suggested a larger apartment downstairs instead of three small apartments.

“The proposed apartments are also very, very small,” Wolthuis said.

Voting yes on the variance were Goble, Jurney and Anay Hausner. Wolthuis and Stephens voted no. Lance Gatchell was absent.

Foursquare, represented by Pastor Rick Ellingson, sought a conditional use permit to build a two-story addition to Cornerstone that provides a youth center for junior high and high school students and a new fellowship hall with a kitchen.

The church has a growing youth group, Ellingson said, prompting the proposal.

The structure will be built out to the edge of the alley, filling the property completely, which is permitted in downtown commercial zones.

Churches are conditional uses in the central commercial zone and must be approved by the Planning Commission.

In other business, the commission denied a request for a conditional use permit from Brady and Jodie Pickle to allow them to live in a 2004 Sprinter travel trailer at their residence in the 3800 block of Long Street.

Their grandchildren are living in the home since they travel frequently. They had hoped to stay in the trailer during those times they return to Sweet Home, usually for a couple of weeks or less.

Voting to deny the request were Stephens, Wolthuis, Hausner and Jurney. Goble voted no on the denial.