By Corey Evan


NEW PLYMOUTH — As City Attorney Dan Chadwick shared with the New Plymouth City Council at its regular meeting on Monday, he has a personal connection to the New Plymouth First Baptist Church.

“In terms of full disclosure, I’ve been a member of that church,” said Chadwick. “I was married in that church, Michelle’s kids were baptized in that church, so everybody needs to know that it’s a family thing for us.”

With that connection in mind he offered a service to the city during that meeting, in the form of drafting an updated zoning ordinance on the matter of churches holding services in industrial zones. He observed that the church is presently holding its services at Good Times Entertainment Center at the north end of town, which is in an industrial zone.

Churches are not listed as a permitted commercial zone use under 11-8-1 or industrial zone use under New Plymouth City Code 11-9-1, unlike in sections 11-5, 11-6 and 11-7 for residential zones.

“That’s contrary to federal law and the U.S. Constitution,” said Chadwick. “You all received a document that the Justice Department prepared a number of years ago [that says] you can’t discriminate [against] a church.”

Chadwick went on to say that activities held within a church cannot be discerned from those held within auditoriums or gymnasiums.

“I really think you have the authority to allow a conditional use permit, even though it’s a special use, even though it doesn’t speak to it in the commercial zone ordinance. But I’m not comfortable with that,” he continued. “I would much rather you change your change your ordinances to specifically call out churches. It’s going to take you until the month of July to get that done.”

His goal is to have a draft ready within a month for review by the New Plymouth Planning and Zoning Commission.

Councilor Bill Warnke moved to allow Chadwick to draft an ordinance for consideration by planning and zoning, seconded by Councilor Eileen Balcer. The motion carried unanimously, with a vote of 4-0.

A public hearing date for the updated ordinance is set tentatively for its first July meeting on July 5.

The First Baptist Church building burned down on May 15, as previously reported by the newspaper. The church’s site is in a residential ‘B’ zone.

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