The Fayetteville City Council on Monday approved a special-use permit to allow a church to locate on property closer to an adult entertainment business than current zoning regulations allow.
The Bragg Boulevard property is the former home of Peter Stewart Superstore and other vehicle dealerships.
Stephanie and Sammy Davis, who said they recently relocated to the Fayetteville area, want to rent part of the building on the property to open a ministry at 929 Bragg Blvd., said Craig Harmon, a senior planner for the city.
Harmon presented the case to the City Council during its monthly meeting at City Hall.
The property is across the street from and “kind of catty-cornered” to Secrets Cabaret, an adult nightclub, Harmon said.
The land is currently zoned community commercial, and the city’s land use plan calls for it to be redeveloped for commercial use, he said.
Religious institutions are allowed under community commercial zoning, but the zoning ordinance requires a special-use permit when they are within 500 feet of a bar, nightclub or adult entertainment business, Harmon said.
Conversely, an adult entertainment business seeking to locate near an existing church is required to maintain 1,000 feet of distance from the church, according to Harmon.
He said an amendment to the zoning ordinance is scheduled to be discussed in the spring that would change the 500-foot requirement for churches.
“This will take churches out of that because I don’t see any reason why churches should be punished for where they locate, …” Harmon said. “It makes sense for bars and nightclubs to not be able to locate near churches and schools and day cares. But why they can’t locate where they want to, spending money to come before you to get permission, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But that’s where we are tonight with our ordinance currently.”
The 1.15-acre property is owned by Peter Stewart and others in his family.
“This property is approximately 290 feet from this adult entertainment,” Harmon said. “However, there is the six lanes of Bragg Boulevard that separate the two uses.”
In August 2021, Harmon said, the city was presented a similar case dealing with property on the same side of Bragg Boulevard in the 900 block. Another church came before the City Council and received approval for a special-use permit to locate within 500 feet of Secrets, as well.
Stephanie and Sammy Davis addressed the council about why they want to open a church on the property.
“Our desire is to build community in Fayetteville,” Sammy Davis said. “In 2023, we believe it will be a year of thriving. We said we would focus on God’s promises and celebrate wins, no matter how big or small it is. So, we’re hoping, our prayers are, that the council will grant our request so that we could really impact Fayetteville State University. … We just want to be part of the community in a positive way.”
Stewart also addressed the City Council, saying he and other owners of the property “have some empty space that we need to be filled. I hope you will support it tonight.”
Bobby Wiggs, who lives on Carolina Avenue directly behind the property, spoke in opposition to the church locating on the site. He said he understands the nonprofit nature of the proposed church.
But, he added, “the change in variance, to me, will bring a different set of problems. How long before religious institutions start to expand and encroach on our neighborhood right behind it?”
Wiggs said that some larger churches in the city have expanded into neighborhoods by purchasing surrounding lots.
“I don’t think that’s right,” Wiggs said. “The businesses that are there were there legally. Now you’re forcing on him a variance change that, ‘We can’t do this now.’”
Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram made a motion to grant the request for a special-use permit. The council voted 9-0 to approve it.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.