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Great legal editorial in the paper today by a Jewish attorney documenting how the variance granting business and multifamily residential uses of our church is UNLAWFUL.
‘Use-variance’ shouldn’t apply in this case
Post and Courier, Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The Board of Zoning Appeals granted a “use-variance” for the historic church building at 43 Wentworth Street at the request of a prospective purchaser.
It allows the church to be converted into multiple residential and office uses. Many have voiced opposition to this decision, motivating me to comment on how it violates longstanding legal precedent.
The law allows a variance (basically, an exception) from zoning regulations if they cause an “unnecessary hardship.”
More than half a century ago, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that granting a variance is an “exceptional power which should be sparingly exercised,” and the court has since adopted rules limiting variances.
One such rule disqualifies a property owner if he purchased the property after the complained-of zoning was in effect.
This rule makes sense. One cannot claim unnecessary hardship if the claimed hardship is self-created and could have been avoided.
Forty-three Wentworth Street’s use-variance violates this rule. The current owner acquired the property in 2009. Used as a church for generations, the property’s zoning prohibited more intensive residential and office uses.
It makes no difference that a prospective buyer is the applicant since the zoning exists before her purchase as well.
The unnecessary hardship is self-created and can be avoided.
The owner does not have to sell to someone intending to convert the church to several residences and businesses.
Nothing in the board’s decision states that this is the only marketable use for the property.
In fact, the church worshiping there now may be interested in purchasing and carrying on church activities for years to come.
There are several other reasons, in my view, why the board’s decision was incorrect, but space is limited.
Fortunately, the City Council has the power to reverse the board’s decision on July 17.
Ross Appel Ashley Avenue Charleston
July 6, 2012
I am appalled by the Board of Zoning Appeals decision to permit the sale of St. Andrews Lutheran Church at 143 Went-worth St.
The beautiful altar with the painting of the risen Christ above, the mahogany pews, the small graveyard with tombs dating back 150 years, including the graves of the daughters of Admiral de Grasse, this is to be a residence? I urge the BZA to rescind its vote.
Kathryn K. Matthew St. Michaels Alley Charleston
Save the church July 1, 2012
I am not a parishioner ofSt. AndrewsLutheranChurch, formerly at at43 Wentworth St. I am not a parishioner of Redeemer Presbyterian, now worshiping there. However, as a member of several historic organizations, I think preserving the integrity of our culture and heritage is of the utmost importance. It is what makesCharlestonappealing to locals and visitors.
It concerns me that an individual can purchase a historic church like this, which is being used for its original intent as a house of worship, and convert it into a home. Destroying the interiors of any churches for remodeling into private residences is really appalling.
It is fortunate that years ago when theHuguenotChurchwas inactive, no one had the desire to “save” the building by turning it into a private residence. It is now a thriving church, and a piece of history has been preserved for future generations.
Cheryl Coleman Bampfield Drive Mount Pleasant
Real meaning of being the ‘Holy City’
The Rev. Dr. Moore concluded with comments about the negotiating process and impending sale and said: “Even when they want it for ostensibly good purposes, it does not justify the loss of a beautiful church building filled with eager worshipers who – given time and patience – might well have raised the funds needed to ensure its vibrancy for generations to come.” Again, the situation forces us to focus upon what the city’s zoning board shall consider a priority. Only engaged citizens can direct the path of progress and make certain it honors the real meaning of being the Holy City.
Whether we stay or move, we hate to see this wonderful pre-civil war church–which provides not only a Gospel presence, but meets many other needs within the community–be privatized and no longer a public house of worship. After our first offer was declined, the private buyer said they were signing a contract within the week, so made a second offer to match their purchase price of $1.6 million, with a 90-120 day period to allow us to secure funding, some of which would have to come from outside our immediate congregation. The Lutherans declined to accept our offer and our request to meet with them to discuss how we might make something work. We still have a three day right of first refusal, just before the property sells.
So, unless something changes, if we are to purchase and preserve this church, we will need to quickly raise funds to pay for it. We know that because of the younger age of our members, some of the funding must come from outside of our immediate congregation. If you are interested in working on a team to help raise funds, please contact Beth Plante.
We are confident in the Lord’s provision for our congregation and are content to move or stay, whatever He wills.
Please keep this issue in your prayers.
Our church has been worshiping in its current location of 43 Wentworth St. for over five years, thanks to the generosity of the aging congregation of St. Andrews Lutheran Church who vacated the building to join a West Ashley congregation.
They have been actively looking for someone to purchase the property, planning to use the proceeds of the sale to support additions at their new church. For over five years, the sale price of the church has been over $4 million. We were not interested in purchasing at that price. We learned very recently that the price has been dropped dramatically to a price that, with donations and creative financing, we believe we can afford. We learned of the price drop after a potential buyer made her intentions known to purchase the church. Her plans are to make the sanctuary into her private residence and carve out two residences and two businesses in the educational building.
Whether we stay or move, we hate to see this wonderful church–which provides not only a Gospel presence but meets many other needs within the community–be privatized and no longer a public house of worship. Therefore, we made an offer to the St. Andrews congregation to purchase the church. We are waiting to hear back from them. If the Lutherans accept our offer, we will need to quickly raise funds to pay for it. Because of the younger age of our members, some of the funding must come from outside of our immediate congregation. We have been much encouraged by several devoted former St. Andrews Lutheran members and other Christians downtown, who also wish to see a Gospel presence remain in these wonderful old church buildings. We are confident in the Lord’s provision for our congregation and are content to move or to stay, whatever He wills.
To get more information or make a donation, contact Beth Plante.