'The Lord needs it,' pastor tells Penn Hills in failed rezoning bid for church
Penn Hills Council voted against a church's request to rezone a vacant property from business to residential because the township doesn't want to lose out on tax revenue there.
The Rev. Lance Lecocq, a pastor at Monroeville Assembly of God, asked Penn Hills to rezone the 22,600-square-foot building at 12012 Frankstown Road from commercial to residential.
The Pentecostal Christian church wanted to develop its fifth campus in the region at the former Bottom Dollar grocery store. It also wanted to house its third Sheep Inc. Health Care Center, a free health clinic for those without health insurance.
Council voted 4-1 against the request, with Deputy Mayor Catherine Sapp — a minister — voting in favor. The municipality's planning commission recommended denial in May.
“We don't want to put a dollar figure on someone who needs help,” Mayor Sara Kuhn said before voting against the request. “Unfortunately, as I stated, you chose the heart of Penn Hills. We have to put our personal beliefs aside and we have to make our decision based on what is best for the entire community and residents.”
According to county real estate records, the property generates $52,000 a year in tax revenue. Under current millage rates, around $7,500 of that goes to the municipality and around $6,500 goes to the county. The school district receives a little more than $38,000.
The property is assessed at $1.3 million.
Lecocq used a spiritual argument to plead his case before council one last time. He referenced a story from the Bible, in which Jesus asked people to get him a donkey to ride into Jerusalem.
“As they were untying it, people asked why. And the answer was, ‘The Lord needs it.' And that answer was sufficient. The Lord needs the property located at 12012 Frankstown Road. Please untie it for him. It's tied up, you have the abilities to untie it, the Lord needs it. We're asking you to untie it,” Lecocq said.
After the meeting, the pastor said he is disappointed with council's decision but not in the people.
“I understand where they're coming from and the responsibilities they have to make,” he said. The church is still under contract with Aldi on the property, which has a $1.2 million sale price, Lecocq said.
He said the church is still determined to develop a church in Penn Hills.
“We're looking at alternate locations. But we need considerable size, so that limits it. Most that have been presented are on the smaller size,” the pastor said.