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February 12, 2014

City Commission discusses B-4 zone changes


The Richmond City Commission heard first reading Tuesday evening of an ordinance that would allow churches and government offices to rent space in districts now zoned only for retail shopping.

If passed on second reading, the ordinance would allow the city’s board of adjustments to grant leasing privileges in areas zoned B-4 to churches and offices on a case-by-case basis.

Carriage Gate, the University Shopping Center and the Richmond Mall are all zoned B-4.

The ordinance states that, in cases where a church or government office wants to lease property, the adjustments board must take into account several different factors including:

• The primary use for B-4 districts is retail business

• What fraction of a property would be occupied by a church or offices

• Length of time the entity wants to remain in a B-4 district

• How long the space to be leased has been vacant.

Mayor Jim Barnes supported the change, but said the board of adjustments must be conscious of the loss of revenue the city could face in each case.

“The catch-22 is do we want (a B-4 district) to sit empty or do we want to put something in it?” Barnes said.

However, the mayor described the amendment as “a workable project” and a good compromise.

Madison Property Value Administrator Billy Ackerman said if a church leases land owned by a private individual or a for-profit company, the landowner does not qualify for any tax exemptions.

The issue arose in at a December 2013 planning and zoning board meeting. Since then, Crossroads Christian Church has been seeking to lease an empty space in the Carriage Gate Shopping Center, 857 Eastern Bypass, between Hobby Lobby and Office Depot.

Barnes said he has a conference call scheduled with the owners of Carriage Gate, who are from Texas, to discuss their thoughts on the conditional permits.

The adjustments board approved the church’s plans, but made the decision contingent upon the city commission approving the zoning amendment.

There are existing cases of churches and government offices leasing property in a B-4 zone in the city, such as the The Vineyard Community Church in the Richmond Mall. If the amendment does not pass, the city will need to review its records to find out why and how such entities were approved for their nonconforming use, Planning and Zoning Director Jason Hart said.

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