Church searches for greener pastures locally

Ridge won't proceed with development near wetlands in Greenfield

Feb. 21, 2012

Greenfield - A last-minute hitch derailed plans by the Ridge Community Church to build a sanctuary in the 9500/9700 block of Layton Avenue, Greenfield officials learned last week, but the church already has an alternate location in mind.

It too is in the Greenfield area, said the Rev. Mark Weigt, lead pastor, but the church is only in the beginning stages of negotiating for the property. Overall, the church also is open to renovating an existing building, he added.

The congregation now meets at Whitnall High School and wants to stay in the general area.

"The Ridge is connecting with people that live in a wide geographic area. Greenfield is a good central location," Weigt said. "Plus, we feel very at home in the Greenfield community and believe we can help meet some of the needs in that community."

Development cost factor

The hitch with the 12 acres the church wanted to buy on Layton Avenue involved higher than expected development costs, Weigt said. The site would not have been the easiest to develop because it contains wetlands.

"We were disappointed because we loved the location and the possibilities," he said.

The city granted a rezoning for the church proposal that envisioned a church that at first would accommodate up to 700 people but which could be expanded to a 1,200-seat facility. A church fits in with the city's comprehensive plan for the area, said Chuck Erickson, director of economic development and planning.

The site consists of seven lots. All have been owned by a real estate company for up to five years, Erickson said.

Now the city is in the process of returning zoning to residential. A hearing will likely be held in the next couple of months.

Lost opportunity

Mayor Michael Neitzke had welcomed the church proposal partly because city officials very much want to see the land put to use.

Neitzke saw a church as a good use because he doubted that single-family homes would be built there. Because of the wetlands, developers would likely favor multifamily development, he said, and a church would have had less impact than multifamily.

In fact, the site almost had both in 2010 when a different church proposed not only a church but four 22-unit apartment buildings.

Still at Whitnall

Meanwhile, the congregation will continue to lease space at Whitnall High. The church is very happy to be there, Weigt said.

"The Whitnall community has been amazing to work with," he said.

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