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Pastor seeks zoning change to build church in Pleasant Hills

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

A pastor is asking for a parcel of Pleasant Hills property to be rezoned, so he could build a new church.

The Rev. Jeffrey Winters of Jefferson Hills and founder of the Freedom Life Center asked members of council if a 17-acre parcel could be rezoned, so his young congregation could purchase it and build a new church.

The property, located along Route 51, would offer his 250-member congregation the opportunity to grow, Winters said. The group now meets in the former New Wine Harvest Church on Old Clairton Road. Winters began his church in his home with 30 people about four years ago. Since then, he has gone from one Sunday service to three.

The vacant property in question is designated as residential, but Winters wants the zoning to be changed to public use. He would prefer to purchase the property after rezoning has occurred.

“It's too big of a risk to put $325,000 in property that's not rezoned,” Winters said.

Although Councilman Rege Brown said he has no reservations about supporting this particular group, he wants to ensure the church has a firm plan in place. Others agreed.

The pastor was hoping to use the property as collateral for a loan to build the $600,000 to $700,000 church, containing classrooms, a 500-seat auditorium, gymnasium, coffee shop and a kitchen. The site would have adequate parking.

Council also was interested in Winters' timeline for gathering funds, developing plans and building his church.

Solicitor Fred Jug Jr. cautioned that if there's a need for an additional traffic light at the church, the $200,000 cost would be passed on to the property owner.

While the borough's zoning hearing board was in favor of the pastor's request by a vote of 3-1, Joe Esper, councilman, pointed out that it is a seven-member group, and only four were present at the meeting.

Winters and a few church members had hoped for an immediate, positive response from council but were asked to bring their request back to them in July. In that time, council could consider how this zoning change would affect the borough's comprehensive plan.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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