Church-To-Child Care Conversion Blocked - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Church-To-Child Care Conversion Blocked

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Daycare goes down.  A Bismarck neighborhood rallies to block a church from converting to a childcare center. 

"We do recognize that there is a shortage of daycare in the community," says Kim Lee, Bismarck Planning Department.  Even so, a proposed childcare center and kindergarten won't be coming to this Bismarck neighborhood.

"We would love to see more daycares in the community.  There's a place for them, just not in a tight knit neighborhood where the streets are narrow and it's not designed or built for such a program," says Doug Philp, Neighborhood Resident, Bismarck.

One neighbor, First United Methodist Church, is disappointed.  They're building a new church, and found what they thought was a buyer for their old one with a special vision for the property.  But the buyer needed a Special Use Permit.

That hope went down in flames as the Bismarck Planning and Zoning Commission denied the request without explanation -- even though City staff recommended approval.  "This did meet all of the requirements for a daycare facility in that area," says Lee.

The options for the building are few.  Lee noted "they're pretty much limited to a church, a daycare facility, or some sort of educational facility."

No one knows what happens next.  T.J. Corcoran, partner of the proposed purchaser, Kenneth J. Klekamp, Inc., commented:  "We are carefully considering options over the next few days, and haven't yet ruled out an appeal.  It's unfortunate for families in desperate need of early childhood development and education."

In fact, Corcoran successfully engineered a similar project elsewhere in North Dakota.  Shawn Wenko, Assistant Director of the Williston Area Development Foundation, says "it's been a very positive experience." 

The church informs KX obtaining a Special Use Permit was a condition of the purchase.  Resident Nadine Philp hopes the best for the church going forward.  "We've enjoyed the community church that's been local.  We wish them well in selling.  There's a lot of start-up churches in the area that would love a building."  However, the church tells KX there are not a lot of buyers for used churches.

While some have speculated the project was denied due to size, the City says neighbors did not indicate a smaller daycare would be acceptable.


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