An annexation and rezoning request that would advance a local church's expansion project recently was postponed for two weeks to iron out concerns expressed by neighbors.

Faith Life Church, 2407 Beech Road NW in Jersey Township, is planning a $20 million expansion that could lead to the hiring of more than 40 employees; about 60 full- and part-time staff members work there already.

Church leaders want to add 150,000 square feet to the 50,000-square-foot building to accommodate new and existing programs, said Tim Keesee, a pastor for the church.

But after neighbors expressed several concerns while meeting with church leaders, the church's lawyer asked City Council on June 19 to table the legislation to July. Marlene Brisk, Mike Durik, Glyde Marsh and Matt Shull voted 4-0 to do so.

City Council now is scheduled to vote on the annexation and rezoning Tuesday, July 3. Ordinances and rezoning requests in New Albany require two readings before a vote, according to Jennifer Chrysler, New Albany's community-development director.

David Hodge, with Underhill and Hodge, a real-estate law firm representing Faith Life Church, said church leaders asked for the postponement so they could hold more meetings with neighbors. Four residences abut the church property and a few other homes are nearby, he said.

Last week, the church held a meeting that was attended by three groups of neighbors, Hodge said.

The neighbors have expressed concerns about the height of the church steeple, he said. The height still is being determined, but the church has agreed for New Albany's planning commission and architectural review board to review the steeple when the church submits its final development plan, he said.

Jay Luebbe, a member of the church's building committee, said neighbors also are concerned that New Albany wants to extend Smith's Mill Road from Beech Road along the northern perimeter of the church's property and with the church's practice of providing temporary living facilities at two houses on the property for victims of sex trafficking.

The church provides temporary housing for victims of abuse, financial problems or personal problems unrelated to substance abuse, Hodge said.

The church has provided the service for about three years, Luebbe said.

Under the proposed zoning text for the church, temporary residential living facilities could be made available on a charitable basis to individuals who have suffered from abuse, are having financial problems or are experiencing some other personal difficulties unrelated to drug and/or alcohol abuse, said city spokesman Scott McAfee.

The use would be permitted only in the existing houses, which are at 2337 Beech Road and 2487 Beech Road, or similar replacement structures that could be approved as part of a final development plan, McAfee said.

Zoning code also would restrict the size of the structures to no more than 3,000 square feet in size and restrict the number of homes to two, he said. Under the code, individuals would not be allowed to stay in the homes longer than one year, McAfee said.

The church building is on 37 acres, which church leaders want annexed from Jersey Township to New Albany, Keesee said. The main reason for the annexation is to access utilities the city provides, he said.

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