ST. JOHN PARKING LOT PLAN QUESTION AND ANSWER
The St. John Council has begun conversations with the City of Ely to find ways to collaborate to bring additional parking to the area around the corner of Rowley and Walker streets. This Q&A will help explain the process.
A: First, the church is legally required under city code to provide 45 parking spaces based on the amount seating in our sanctuary. The church was given a five-year variance on that requirement in 2014. That variance expires at the end of 2019. So, we are legally needing to add parking.
Second, both the city and the church council feel there is a need for more parking in the area. The city would like more parking for the community center and events in the area such as Fall Fest. Along with the legal requirement, the church sees the need for additional parking on Sundays and especially for funerals and weddings at the church. Additional parking is not only a necessity, but more welcoming to visitors.
A: The church council has proposed the offer of the property the church owns at 1600 Rowley Street to the city and, in exchange, the city clear the land and construct a parking lot at its expense. In exchange for the donation, the church would have permanent access to the parking lot and its requirement under code to provide parking would be met in perpetuity. This idea was presented to the city council and the council voted to enter negotiations with St. John to this end.
The donation of the property would be the church’s contribution to the parking lot in exchange for which the church would have permanent access. If the church were to sell the property, it would have no ability to define the use of the property or the right to expect to have permanent use of it.
Additionally, sale of the property would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the church to satisfy its legal requirement to provide 45 parking spaces. While we might have funds to construct a parking lot, we would no longer have the land to do so. In any case, the city has made no offer to buy the property.
The property at 1600 Rowley was purchased by St. John with the intent that it be used for church purposes (parking, expansion, etc.). Donating the lot to create parking would satisfy that purpose.
A: Yes, but net income from rentals is probably less than you think. Both houses the church owns and rent out have needed repairs and maintenance and both will need additional repairs in the future. At least one potentially needed repair will be costly. The cost of these repairs must be subtracted from rental income to find the net income for the properties.
Income is not consistent as we have occasionally experienced sporadic payments of rent by tenants and times when the properties were left empty. While we cleared $6,000 from both properties last year, this year the income from the properties will be minimal; perhaps nothing.
As a practical matter, house rental is not a good business for a church. We have been forced to evict for nonpayment in the past and that is a terrible thing for a church to be forced to do. The council agrees that property rental is not a long-term function of the church.
Finally, it is worth noting that the purchase of the property was not for the purpose of its permanent use as a rental unit. Rather, it was intended for use as parking or for church expansion.
A: We could, but it would be very costly. The cost of clearing the lot, preparing the ground and building the lot would be substantial; at least two or three hundred thousand dollars. Owning a lot has ongoing costs as well; these include scheduled maintenance, repairs, snow removal, lighting, mowing and liability insurance. The church would bear these costs permanently. With the donation, those costs would be borne by the city. Our contribution to the project is the property itself.
Beyond that, it is difficult to see a benefit of owning a lot that would offset its great expense. Any lot the church built would be used by the public regardless of signage. It would be both impractical and ungracious to gate the lot.
A: It wouldn’t take place until the summer of 2019 at the earliest. The city would then have a negotiated timeline to build the lot and pave it. Negotiations on specific terms are being worked out.
A: Once the terms have been worked out, the final decision to proceed based on those terms will be made by the Ely City Council and by a vote of the entire congregation of St. John Lutheran Church.
A: Feel free to direct questions to any member of the council or Pastor Brian.