Establishing a new location for church

(romulus mich)

Visitor Question: Does a proposed church location have to be a certain number of feet away from a bar/strip club?

Editors Reply: We cannot give you a definite answer to your question, since every zoning ordinance is unique. Ultimately you will need to ask your city (or county or township government, if they are the ones doing the zoning). Many cities have placed their zoning ordinances online now, but if you cannot find it you will need to call the city or visit city hall.

However, we will make the observation that generally if you find a prohibition, it will be against bars and strip clubs locating near a church or school. In our experience, that is rare. None of the four of us have worked in a city where churches are not allowed due to being near a bar.

To answer your own question about your local zoning ordinance, you will need to figure out the name of the zoning district where the property lies. Often these have shorthand letter designations, such as R-1 for a certain type of residential district or C-1 for a particular commercial designation.

Then within the text of the zoning ordinance describing that zoning district, you will find a list of permitted uses. Sometimes churches are simply listed as permitted, and at other times they require an extra layer of review. This extra layer might be called a conditional use or special use.

In the majority of cities, obtaining a conditional use or special use requires about the same procedure as a rezoning. In other words, there are required public hearings before the plan commission and city council, and neighboring property owners within a certain number of feet are notified of these hearings. If you need one of these permits, expect to be delayed for a couple of months at least while the application is processed, required notices sent to property owners and published, and regularly scheduled meetings of the two public bodies occur.

In sum, your first step should be learning the zoning rules for churches in your particular location. But on a personal note, we find it very unlikely that you would be denied a church use due to proximity to a bar or strip club.

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