Westminster moves to ease churches' parking crunch

March 28, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

With attendance growing at downtown churches, the Westminster Common Council proposed a zoning change last night that would allow the churches to build parking lots in residential areas.

"If there's a heart and soul to Westminster, it's its churches," said Thomas B. Beyard, director of planning and public works, in introducing the proposed amendment to the zoning law. "Many looked to moving to other places and many times affirmed their decision to remain in Westminster."

The city planning commission approved the proposal.

D. Miller Davis, representing the Church of the Brethren at Bond Street and Park Place, said attendance at the church has been growing by about 10 percent a year, with average Sunday attendance increasing from 200 to about 250.

Although the city has been accommodating about on-street parking, Davis said, the church purchased a nearby vacant lot in December in hopes of creating 45 to 50 more spaces.

The Rev. David Helfrich, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church on Carroll Street, said Sunday attendance has been averaging 600 to 650 -- with 710 last Sunday. He said he hopes it will grow to 1,000.

"We were looking at 30 acres just outside Westminster," Helfrich said, but "about a year ago, decided we wanted to stay [and] make downtown Westminster a better place to live."

He said Grace Lutheran has 100 to 125 parking spaces and had 280 people at its 9 a.m. service Sunday. The church has purchased two properties across the street.

"It's encouraging to know church attendance is increasing, as reported here this evening," Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said.

Councilman Gregory Pecoraro said additional church parking lots could benefit the city by providing more spaces downtown during the week.

The city will accept written comments on the proposed zoning change until the close of business Monday.

Also last night, New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. visited in his capacity as president of the Maryland Municipal League and to present an award to Councilman Kevin E. Dayhoff for his work on the league's General Assembly legislative committee.

The league's legislative priorities -- tax incentives for neighborhood revitalization and support of the governor's Smart Code policies -- have done well, said Gullo.

Next month, the league plans to release a full-color publication with two pages of photographs and a few paragraphs on each municipality. The publication costs $150,000 to produce.

Gullo planned to stop at the Union Bridge Town Council meeting last night and present awards to Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. and Councilwoman Karen Kotarski for their work for the league.

In other business, the Westminster council introduced a resolution to join in a new agreement with Prestige Communications of NC Inc., the county's cable franchise.

The proposed 10-year agreement will receive a public hearing at 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow at Linton Springs Elementary School, 375 Ronsdale Road.

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