By Richard Sullins |

The Sanford City Council is expected to decide Tuesday night whether to keep or remove a city ordinance that has prevented the location of churches in its central business district.

On the agenda is a recommendation from the city’s Planning Board to remove from the books an ordinance adopted in April of 1999 to promote the relocation of churches and religious organizations into other areas of the city, while allowing existing churches to be grandfathered into their current locations. This action was part of a broader effort made that year to reduce restrictions and regulations that were associated with all other zoning districts.

The issue resurfaced this summer when Councilman Charles Taylor brought it up for discussion at a workshop in May. He asked that a public hearing be held on the matter at the July 19 council meeting, where more than 150 conservative pastors and church members came to express their opinions that the ordinance had, as Taylor put it, “allowed Sanford to be open for business but closed for God.”

A motion to table the matter that night resulted in a 3-3 tie. Then-Mayor Chet Mann cast the only tie-breaking vote of his term in office by agreeing to table the issue indefinitely. But the makeup of the council shifted with the election of a new mayor and council members. With Taylor having gained new allies, the council voted to send the issue back to the Planning Board for further consideration.

On Oct. 11, the Planning Board voted to remove the restriction by a 5-1 vote, clearing the way for the City Council to vote on the issue again at its next meeting on Tuesday. If the ordinance is repealed, the victory could turn out to be a largely symbolic one, though, for two reasons.

First, there are few — if any — spaces that are now available for rent in the central business district. Secondly, even if a space were to become available, the monthly rent would likely be too pricey for most congregations.

Tuesday’s meeting will be a discussion of the matter by the council and city planning staff. There will be no further opportunity for the public to speak on the issue, since a public hearing on potentially repealing the ordinance took place on July 19.

Zoning map amendments to include food truck rules

The council’s lengthy Tuesday night agenda also contains a number of public hearings on rezoning requests. These include:

  • An application from Glenn Godfrey to rezone 196.87 acres along Carbonton Road and Creek Trail for single family residential development.
  • An application from the City of Sanford to rezone 4.67 acres at the intersection of Highway U.S. 1 and Colon Road for Fire Station Number 5.
  • A request from Ascend Leadership Academy Holdings to revise and update its site plan for an expansion of athletic fields.
  • A request from Keller Investments to create “The Station Apartments Conditional Zoning District” between Charleston Drive and Hawkins Avenue.
  • An application from Lee County to rezone 10.96 acres at 1418 Bragg Street to create space for the new Lee County Public Library.

The amendments also contain language that spells out how mobile food vendors, or “food trucks,” may operate within the city of Sanford and the town of Broadway. The new rules would make it easier to issue permits for food trucks to operate and be regulated by the Lee County Health Department.

The regulations would allow mobile food vendors to operate in any commercially or industrially zoned areas as long as they have the owner’s permission. The same would hold true for public parks. Operators must obtain and display a Mobile Food Vendor Permit issued by the Department of Community Development and they must provide adequate solid waste receptacles for the containment and removal of waste that is generated by their operations.

The City Council’s meeting begins at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers on Tuesday. The cases for public hearing will be held jointly with the Planning Board starting at 6 p.m.