Racine's City Plan Commission has voted to deny the New Life Christian Fellowship Church a conditional use permit; a move that, if approved by the full city council, would force the church to relocate from their present location.
As readers are certainly aware, cities accross the country have zoning laws. These laws are intended to allow cities the ability to designate certain areas for certain purposes. Racine has such laws on the books. However, a few years ago, under the leadership of former Mayor Becker, Racine passed a law requiring that businesses, churches, etc... get a conditional use permit. The full city council ultimately decides the issue.
The problem with the conditional use permit requirement is that in effect nullifies existing zoning law, at least that is how I see it, though I am not a lawyer. Alderman Helding more or less acknowledges as much. How so? Well, the City Plan Comission also recommends a "120 day moratorium on any new occupancy permits requested by noncommercial uses in commercially zoned areas," a move that would allow the city to "tune up" city zoning laws, according to Alderman Helding. Tuning up a law is just another way of saying that they intend to change the zoning law that presently exists so that the New Life Christian Church may be legally denied the use of their property.
I placed a call to the city attorneys office, hoping to learn whether the location in question is presently zoned for churches. No answer and I left no message but I will keep trying.
If anyone wishes to weigh in on this subject, you may do so tommorrow at city hall at 7 pm.
UPDATE: I talked to Matt Sadowski at the City Development Office today. If I understood him correctly, the city passed an ordinance pertaining to many of Racine's business districts, including the one in question. Under the ordinance, any change of use of a property could trigger the requirement of a conditional use permit. From the sounds of it, the ordinance transfers considerable power to the city development director Brian O'Connell, who may also waive the requirement.
My opinion is that this ordinance allows the city to repeal or enforce zoning laws arbitrarily. One reason to have laws is so that people can reasonably expect consistent treatment. So now, in addition to business plans, rental agreements and so on, add political favor to the list of requirements to opening a business. This ordinance needs to be repealed.