By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fees forgiven on church project
Placeholder Image
First Southern Baptist Church members had their prayers answered Monday evening when the Ceres City Council agreed to waive thousands in impact fees for a planned church sanctuary renovation.

When church's pastor went to City Hall with plans to modernize the sanctuary on Don Pedro Road, he was told that the project would be charged Public Facilities Fees of $5,200. City officials say the fees are charged to offset the costs of impacts on city infrastructure by new growth.

But Rev. Dr. Randy Clark suggested that his project will have no impacts on the city.

"The project will not appreciably increase the seating area," said Rev. Clark. "More than the required number of parking spaces are being provided, a new updated exterior on the building and enhanced landscaping are all aspects of this project."

Clark supplied a list of reasons why his church should be forgiven the fees, including no forecast of extra trips because of the project, and no increases in water and sewer service since the church has its own well and septic service.

The church has been at its location for 54 years.

Initially the protest did not resonate with Community Development Director Ken Craig who told the council that the church's reasoning was "not convincing." But when questioned by Mayor Anthony Cannella, Craig admitted that the project would have "negligible impact" on city services.

Craig said determining impact is an "imperfect science." But he suggested that to avoid the danger of setting precedent the city needs to revise its exemption policy as it updates its public facilities fees. Cannella agreed that the city needs to have a "litmus test of criteria" for similar requests in the future.

Cannella seemed sympathetic to the church from the start but when he learned that the Ceres Unified School District had a fees exemption for non-profit groups, he joked that the city would "not be undone."

Clark said he appreciated the action, noting that "every dollar not spent on fees is a dollar for construction."

Members of the council listened as Clark detailed how First Southern Baptist Church helps feed the needy in Ceres. Each month the church buys and distributes approximately 5,000 pounds of food stuffs to needy families.