On My Soapbox.
Despite still recovering a bit from all the activities of Thanksgiving week, I’ve still found space in my soul to be righteously indignant about the developing situation with Victory Christian Church. Someone haul out my soapbox and let’s break this situation down:
If you aren’t familiar, Victory Christian Church is located on Ballenger Lane on the north side of Columbia. I don’t go to church there or know anyone that does. So that said, my take on this situation is purely entrepreneurial.
From what I’ve read, Victory Christian Church has spent the last three years building a new church building. Literally building a new church. Because they couldn’t afford a contractor, they’ve managed the project themselves on what they deem a “shoestring” budget. So from the offset, that is pretty gutsy and I have tremendous respect for the amount of work (and anxiety) they’ve endured over the past 36 months. I’m a super fan of their decision to figure out how to make this new building exist, despite limited funds (and likely a lot of people telling them it wasn’t possible).
And so, the new building is apparently all ready to go. It just needs an occupancy permit, which the city won’t grant because the church is required to build a 1,500 foot concrete sidewalk in front of their church that connects to NOTHING because there is nothing else on Ballenger Lane on either side of the church to connect to. I’m sorry, what? Really?
REALLY. And here is the thing - the only way the city would approve the plans to build originally was if the plans included a sidewalk. That said, the church was advised that a variance would likely be granted for the project. Turns out, the variance was denied. Though, the planning and zoning commission did offer the church a deal - the church could buy out the right to build the sidewalk from the city for the low, low price of $91,385. NINETY ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.
So, it’s is no secret that in most cases I’ll always be pro-entrepreneur and ready with a low simmer disdain for excessive government regulation. And this whole mess? This makes me give a side-eye to the way planning and zoning is handled in this city. Also, we are thinking heavily about expanding PJP to a larger space and this gives me serious pause. Perhaps I’ve never received the memo that new buildings had to pay for sidewalks, as I thought that is where all those tax dollars from the pednet initiatives go. But even if we agree that the building owner pays for it, is it entirely necessary to require one be constructed immediately when it connects to NOTHING?
Because now we have a church that can’t move in and is out of money that sits on a street with no other sidewalks, but the city’s strictest adherence to regulation renders it impossible to view the situation in any other manner. It completely ignores the benefit a church brings to a community or how the addition of a large new church adds to the development of Ballenger Lane in a positive way.
In short, what I can’t wrap my head around is that the city requires you to include a sidewalk on your building plans to get a permit to build in the first place. And then when you can’t afford it, they deny the variance on the theory of “welp, it was on your original building plan”. And in the end, no one wins. Not the church, for sure. And not the city, because they’ve allowed poorly written regulations to slow well planned growth. And taught us all that the going rate per square foot of sidewalk is apparently $60.92 if it is a bureaucracy installed sidewalk.
I’m going to have to take a hard pass on the city as a “do it or write us a check” managing entity. Sorry, not sorry.