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Church expansion plans get P&Z nod but stage element rejected

By Staff | Apr 4, 2013

The city’s planning commission voted Wednesday to recommend allowing a church to further develop its property, minus a proposed stage.

Cape Christian Fellowship is asking for an amendment to its planned development project, including a special exemption that would allow for a “religious facility” in an area now zoned as single-family residential.

It proposes building a covered sound stage, youth recreation area, food services building and covered pavilions and needs the exemption to do so.

The 3,000-square-foot stage would face northwest, located about 80 feet west of Chiquita Boulevard South, according to a report from city staff.

On Wednesday, the Cape Coral Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval of proposed Ordinance 21-13, without the stage.

“After quite a bit of discussion, a motion was made by one of the planning commissioners to recommend approval of the application, with the exception of the sound stage,” commission Chairperson Patti Martin said Thursday.

“The sound stage was the big item,” she said.

Commissioner Dan Read made the motion with the stage element removed.

“I felt that it was too large of a commercial impact on the area residences and an inadequacy of parking, even after they built out their master plan,” he said Thursday.

The motion also included having the church pave its parking lots.

“They need to supply adequate parking for any event that they have there because, at this time, they’re all parking on the grass,” Read said.

Martin cast one of the dissenting votes on the motion.

“I thought this was a perfect example of a public-private partnership,” she said of the church’s proposed plans for development, including the stage. “I really felt the church had done enough protective measures that would have protected the surrounding residents from the sound of the sound stage.”

She called the passing of the motion without the stage “a shame,” and noted that city staff supported approving the ordinance, with certain conditions.

Staff recommended limiting the stage’s hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It also suggested holding the church to the existing noise control ordinance.

In the report, staff also recommended that the church be limited to 15 “special event” permits per year, with no more than two events per month. The permits are required for events anticipated to attract 500 or more.

Conditions regarding lighting levels were also suggested by city staff.

“I think the few surrounding neighbors could have been adequately protected and would be,” Martin said.

On Wednesday, supporters and critics of the church’s plans spoke out.

“I think it was about a 50/50 split,” Read said of the attendees.

“I think the impact of the stage was their downfall,” he said of the church, which had staffers and parishioners speak in favor of the sound stage.

Critics of the stage expressed concern over property values.

“I didn’t think it was going to harm those residents as much as they claimed,” Martin said.

She added that the church, with its 13 acres, would “not necessarily set the precedent for every other church in town” by constructing a sound stage.

“Most churches are smaller than that,” Martin said.

The Cape Coral City Council will have the final vote on the ordinance.

“The council will take the entire case under consideration,” Martin said. “They will also take our recommendation under consideration.”

Council can approve, reject or amend the ordinance as it sees fit.

Cape Christian Fellowship is at 2110 Chiquita Blvd. S.