Town denies permit request by Richfield UMC for kitchen renovations

After much discussion in public and private sessions, the town of Richfield formally notified Richfield United Methodist Church of its decision regarding a permit application.

Richfield UMC had previously applied for a permit to renovate the kitchen in its fellowship hall to support a Community Table. A part of Stanly Community Christian Ministry, the table would provide one free meal a day to those living in the area who were hungry.

In a letter to the church, Town Administrator Carolyn Capps said she had “determined that a soup kitchen that provides a daily feeding site is not an allowable use” of the land. The determination is based on the church being in an R-20 single family residential district zone.

Capps said the decision was based on the application and information presented to the town by SCCM and Crossroads Connection, a non-profit group of churches in the area.

The church was “grandfathered” into the zone because it existed prior to the adoption of the current zoning district in 1973, the letter stated.

“Any renovations or upfits of the RUMC property undertaken to change or expand the uses performed at the RUMC property must comply with current zoning regulations,” the letter read.

Large-scale food operations are not permitted in an R-20 district, Capps said in the letter. Restaurants operating in other business districts, the letter read, seems “very similar to what is being proposed here.”

The letter also stated other churches in Richfield are in business districts, which “may be better suited” for a soup kitchen.

The other two locations of the Community Tables in Albemarle and Norwood, the letter noted, are in mixed use zones.

Richfield UMC may renovate its kitchen, the letter said, and may host “occasional events with food service in the normal course of its ministry,” listing church functions such as “weddings, funerals, youth group meetings, and church fundraisers.” These “incidental activities,” the letter continued, “generally take place in the evenings or on weekends. They do not burden the surrounding residential community with unexpected noise and traffic.”

The church has 30 days from receipt of the letter in writing with which to file an appeal to the town’s Board of Adjustment.