Faith Christian Church rezoning request fails at Board of Aldermen meeting

By T. Scott Boatright

No second, no go.

That was the way a controversial rezoning request for expansion by Faith Christian Church on La. Hwy. 167 ended Monday night as Ruston’s Board of Aldermen held its monthly meeting at City Hall.

According to parliamentary procedure, after a motion is proposed, if the motion requires a second and none is immediately offered, the chair of the body (or in this case Mayor Ronny Walker) will usually ask, “Is there a second?” If no second is obtained within a few moments of proposing the motion, then the motion is not considered by the assembly, and is treated as though it was never offered.

And that’s what happened Monday as no second to a motion to consider and vote on the matter was made, effectively killing it right then and there.

Ruston’s aldermen were considering an ordinance amending the Ruston 21 Comprehensive Play and Future Land Use Map. Ruston’s Planning and Zoning Commission last month endorsed the church’s request and approved an application to rezone the property. 

Faith Christian Church pastor Stan Pody said the designation change would make it easier for the church to handle the approval process from planned expansion of the church.

Pody said the church would like to enlarge its current building but that doing so would not involve any West Woodhaven Road property adjacent to the church other than extending fencing to handle 20-foot setback regulations. The church owns a residential home that sits next to the church.

Numerous neighborhood residences spoke during a public hearing on the matter, expressing concerns not only about noise from church gatherings that bothered some residents but that such rezoning could open a door setting things up for more issues in the future.

The concerns boiled down to the question of whether a growing church should have the right to have the adjacent property it owns rezoned to become available for its own non-residential use.

Gay Ingram, who lives on West Woodhaven Road, was one of those residents who were allowed two minutes to speak on the matter — only two minutes because so many people either in favor or against the proposal wanted a chance to have their say.

“My concern is not a personal thing with the church, it’s a thing with the law,” Ingram said during her two-minute turn at the microphone. And I am deeply concerned with the way the Planning and Zoning Council acted on this matter. I was told the church needed this land to grow, and that puzzled me, because I don’t think that’s a legal argument. I think that concern ought to be what does the law allow. What is good for most of us and not just the needs of the church?”

Numerous church members spoke in favor of the proposal, touting the good the church has done especially working with troubled youth and young adults in helping them turn their lives around by turning to religion.

Before a motion to consider the request was called for, Alderman Jim Pearce, whose the district the property is in, spoke on the matter.

“This is in my district and I’ve talked with residents and I’ve heard from Rev. Pody … and to hear these testimonies is very touching to me and inspiring. I am so excited that their church is growing and thriving, and if all of our churches in Ruston were doing that, we’d have a lot less problems.

“That being said, we set this Pines Parkway (where commercial use is allowed adjacent to Hwy. 167 only) because for years we would have somebody come and say, ‘Hey, we want to put an office building here.” We’d have to go through the rezoning process with that. We did them one at a time and I don’t know how many we did, but it was always a battle with the neighbors behind it. I think we all realize (Hwy.) 167 is a major thoroughfare and there’s going to be commercial property on it. So we try to put together a plan to make that happen along with a plan to put in screening behind such property between that and residential property. Hours of operation was part of that consideration, as was lighting, smells and traffic. All those things we restricted on the commercial end to protect the neighborhood.

“If you start moving into the neighborhood, which is what rezoning this lot would do, I have a problem with that. When you do that, what happens when John Doe’s business comes in and says they need space and are going to buy the first house behind their property because it was already done for the church. You open a precedent there that you can’t stop. And what happens if this church keeps growing to a point to at that point they have to move to a bigger location then? That creates other issues there as to what would take over the property then. … We have it set and I hope we will stay with that and keep it and not expand it into the neighborhood.”

At that point Mayor Ronny Walker, saying he is “all about compromise,” asked Pody if expansion might be able to be done without rezoning next-door residential property owned by the church.

“The bottom line is that we do own both properties,” Pody said. “The plans for that property is to remain as a rented, residential house that our church owns. We need the inclusion of the back property into commercial so that we wouldn’t encroach on the 20-foot setback. That’s what we need it for.”

Walker’s request for a motion to vote on the matter was made by Aldermen Bruce Siegmund, but when no second was made, the motion failed based on parliamentary procedure.

Even though that effectively killed the proposal, Ruston’s aldermen then still went ahead and considered an ordinance to amend Chapter 29 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Ruston by changing certain of the zoning district boundaries provided for therein.

Alderman Jedd Lewis made a motion to consider that but again no second was made, and the motion also quickly died, ending consideration of the matter.

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