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Jehovah's Witness worship center zoning rejected

Andy Ouriel • Sep 12, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Perkins Township trustees rejected a proposed zoning change that would have ushered in the construction of a Jehovah’s Witness worship center at 1804 Hull Road.

In reaching their 3-0 decision, trustees largely depended upon input from dozens of residents fiercely opposed to a $750,000 church in a neighborhood behind Meijer.

The vote also upheld an earlier ruling by the Perkins zoning appeals board.

“Residents in our community have resoundingly told me they are opposed to the rezoning of this parcel of land,” trustee Tim Coleman said. “I myself have no leanings (either way), but I have to listen to what my electors have told me.”

Hull Road residents Denny and Connie Link were among those who offered opinions influencing Coleman and fellow trustees Jeff Ferrell and Mike Printy.

The Links, two of about 75 people at Tuesday’s public forum at Township Hall, bought their “dream house” about a month ago so their four children can visit and impending grandchildren can play. But immediately after signing a deed, they discovered plans for a Jehovah’s Witness church, at 1804 Hull Road, abutting their property.

Denny, visibly distraught when talking to trustees about the possible zoning change, opposed the plans mainly because of noise, traffic and flooding concerns resulting from a church.

He also said if the church somehow goes under, prospective homeowners wouldn’t buy the 3-acre church property, and nearby property values would nosedive.

Denny echoed many of the main talking points concerning area residents.

“Both me and my wife are very happy,” Denny said after the forum. “We can live in peace now and not have to worry about getting hit by the extra traffic.”

Of those voicing opposition against the church’s building plans, not a single person slammed Jehovah’s Witness religious beliefs.

A contingent of Jehovah’s Witnesses gave an in-depth presentation explaining the benefits of their proposed worship center.The group was captained by elder C. David Dunn, who said other worshipers built a “Kingdom Hall” in an Oak Harbor neighborhood without any resistance.

That worship center helped raise area property values, thereby increasing the community’s tax base, and it has not caused any traffic problems, Dunn said.

Perkins residents, he said, could experience similar benefits.

Despite blessings from Erie County’s planning and engineer’s offices, trustees — the highest authority in allowing a proposed zoning change in the township — decided to halt any church building plans on Hull Road.

“We are disappointed,” Dunn said. “We appreciate you hearing us and our presentation and we respect the comments that were made by everyone here, even those who did not support what we are interested in.”

Township officials said they’re willing to help area Jehovah’s Witnesses find land properly zoned for a worship facility, possibly somewhere on Strub Road or on an agricultural plot.

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