After getting a legal opinion about what constitutes a church, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission is expected to rule Monday on an application for a proposed church in Macons entertainment district.
In September, Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church applied for a conditional-use permit to allow the church on the second floor of 442-446 Second St.
The matter was deferred at that meeting after much discussion about whether the use would be defined as a church -- which would affect new businesses in the area expected to sell alcohol. State and local laws require a minimum distance between churches and businesses that sell alcohol.
The applicant, Michael Rizkalla, said in September that he never called it a church, but that he wanted a place for a priest to give my son communion ... Its a religious place for the two hours (a month) we hold a meeting.
Some downtown business owners spoke at the meeting, saying they were worried the state would not approve alcohol licenses for their planned new businesses if the churchs application was approved.
The commission decided to put the application on hold for 30 days until it could get a legal opinion.
Based on information received from the city attorney, a church is defined as any permanent building where persons regularly assemble for religious worship, according to the commissions staff report. At that point, all distance requirements become applicable.
The staff report notes:
A liquor store has been approved 85 feet from the proposed church.
A zoning permit has been issued for a restaurant serving alcohol 228 feet from the proposed church.
A music venue with alcohol has been approved 130 feet from the proposed church.
An unsigned handwritten note, titled business plan filed with the application, states the Coptic Orthodox Center will be a place for Copts to congregate and have meetings and possible mass in the future. ... This is a nonprofit business and there will be no employees. Expecting to have 25-40 members. A hand-drawn sketch shows an alter and seating area.
At the beginning of October, Rizkalla called an editor at The Telegraph and said he wasnt waiting for the commissions decision and planned to have an East Coast leader of the church dedicate the place of worship on Oct. 6.
The church may be facing another issue. The churchs name has been put on a Second Street door that leads to the second floor space. However, the word chapel is at the end of the name instead of church.
The space is next door to Roasted Cafe, which serves beer and wine and is owned by Rizkallas son.
The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. in the 10th floor conference room, Willie C. Hill City Hall Annex, 682 Cherry St.
Other items on the agenda are:
738 Third St.: Conditional use to allow continuation of nonconforming use (machine shop), CBD-2 District. James Vaughn, Mid-State Auto Machine, applicant.
3902 Northside Drive: Conditional use to allow a learning center/school in an existing building, PDC District. Jon Jordan, Provost Academy Learning Center, applicant.
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS:
570 Mulberry St.: Certificate of Appropriateness for design approval of signage, CBD-1 District. TailsSpin; Macon Signs Inc., applicant.
737 Walnut St.: Certificate of Appropriateness to allow exterior modifications, CBD-2 District. Nathan Hodgson; ZZ Properties, applicant.
4171 Bloomfield Road: Variance in distance from a residential structure to allow an electronic graphic display sign (EGD), C-2 District. Danny Patel, applicant.
1948 Hardeman Ave.: Variance in distance from a residential structure to allow an electronic graphic display sign (EGD), C-2 District. Rosson Sign Co., applicant.
3072 Riverside Drive: Variance in height requirements to allow a freestanding sign, C-2 District. Shawn Smith, Site Enhancement Services, applicant.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.