Fulton’s Believer’s Chapel church lost its struggle Tuesday night to get a second driveway, in the face of polite opposition from the church’s neighbors.
The Fulton Common Council voted 4-2 to deny the church the permission to build a driveway 200 feet long and 35 feet wide from behind its building along Route 481 onto S. 1st St. Fulton’s Planning Commission gave the church its approval but a majority of the Aldermen were swayed by people who live on that street, who said the extra traffic would increase noise and dust and make the street less safe for the children and adults who use it.
The neighborhood has changed a lot in the last few years. For decades, the street was a popular shortcut from Rt. 481 to Broadway. The shortcut was short circuited when the city closed the road at the Huhtamaki factory so the company could build a connection between the two halves of its factory. Neighbors successfully fought to close a back entrance onto their street from the Golden Corral restaurant, which has been closed for several years.
Believer’s Chapel bought the former Masonic Temple and its 2 1/2 acres of land in 2004.
Pastor Brian Goodfellow said that “right from the beginning, it was a concern” to have an exit that did not open onto busy Route 481. He said that neighbors were not opposed to a driveway back when the church first bought the land.
But they’re opposed now. Mike Larock, who lives on S. 1st St., delivered petitions to the Aldermen signed by 45 residents of the neighborhood opposing the driveway.
“We’d like to see the character of our neighborhood stay as it is,” Larock said.
“This is a bad idea,” said S. 1st St. resident Andrew Hart, one of a number of neighbors of the church to offer an opinion at the public hearing. “We finally have settled that street down.”
Several members of the church offered their support.
“There’ve been many close calls with people pulling out of the church” onto Route 481, said church member Earl Sixberry of Volney. Making left turns onto 481 “is a bigger risk than kids playing on skateboards” on S. 1st St., said church member Chester Ford of Meadowbrook Circle.
Aldermen then took their turns making statements as they voted.
“It’s quiet now,” said Daryl Hayden, the Alderman who represents the neighborhood, as he voted against the driveway. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt Believer’s Chapel or the neighborhood if we leave things the way they are.”
“I would like to see both sides come together and work a little bit more on this,” said Alderman Jay Foster, who voted for the driveway.
“There’s some safety issues both ways,” said Alderman Russ Hayden, voting no. “With some time, you guys can work it out.”
Alderman Bob Weston voted yes, saying, “When a neighbor comes to me and asks for adriveway, I’m not going to say no.”
But Aldermen Tom Kenyon and David Guyer both voted no to defeat the church’s proposal.
The hearing was cordial, with neighbors noting the good work the church does in the city. Church members said they wanted to be good neighbors. And when the meeting broke up, people from both camps gathered in clusters to talk to each other.
“The neighbors are good people and the church members are good people,” said Mayor Ron Woodward, and the issue is almost certain to come back again.