Worthington City Council tables Ethiopian Orthodox decision

WORTHINGTON - The Worthington City Council on Monday tabled a decision regarding a conditional use permit for a church in the Glenwood Heights area on Crailsheim Road, instead asking if they could help the church members look into a more appropriate setting for the building.

In what was basically a repeat of the March Planning Commission meeting, members of the church and those against its proposed location packed the City Hall Council Chambers. The Planning Commission approved recommending the conditional use permit on a vote of 4-1,moving the decision to the council.

At issue from those against the location of the church were concerns about property values, noise, traffic and safety. Residents of the Glenwood Heights area also said they felt the land should remain residential, especially with the lack of housing in Worthington. One resident, Dennis Rick, told the council a church would ruin the integrity of the neighborhood.

Ethiopian Orthodox member Abebe Abetew said if they were allowed to build the church, people would believe they were included, and would be empowered, as well as more productive for the city. There would be an impact on social development for his people, he said, and a church would provide a bridge between members and the city.

"We need our kids to grow up with discipline, with a doctrine," Abetew stated. "They are our future. We want them sitting right here."

Kelly Meyer, a Glenwood Heights resident, said his concern was for the health and safety of current residents, with the increased traffic a church would bring.

"It frustrates me that the opposition thinks this is racially driven," he said. "It's not. There are 34 lots out there, and 24 percent of them are owned by people who are not Caucasian."

Several council members reported getting numerous letter, calls, emails and online messages regarding placement of the church, with Councilor Chad Cummings stating some of it had been ugly. He reminded the council he had been fairly vocal about developing that neighborhood, and asked if the council could have more time to help the church find a more suitable location.

Councilor Al Oberloh pointed out that a church would be 16 times larger than the average home, which would make a significant impact. He offered up a possible solution of selling the city-owned property across from Shine Brothers, asking City Administrator Steve Robinson if a church was permitted in that area.

Robinson believes the area is not currently zoned, but the property is appraised at $35,000 an acre. The church is looking for at least 4 acres.

Mayor Mike Kuhle agreed with tabling the CUP request while the city worked with the church members to find a solution. He also reminded those present that there was an issue with putting the church in the Glenwood Height area, as the county had already said they would not allow a drive onto Crailsheim Road.

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