The Rev. Lovell Lewis said he wants to extend an “olive branch” to people who opposed his plans to open a church at 631 Mascoutah Ave. in Belleville.
The Belleville City Council voted 10-6 Tuesday night to allow his church to open in a single-family zoning district where area residents raised concerns about parking at the site. Two other churches were unanimously approved by the council.
Lewis said only about seven people normally attend services at Greater Grace Missionary Baptist Church, which now meets in a skating rink in East St. Louis and was formed about two years ago. He also said that if the congregation grows, it will seek a different building that hold could a larger crowd.
The aldermen who voted in favor of Lewis’ request were: Ward 1 Aldermen Ken Kinsella and Joe Hazel; Ward 2 Alderwoman Jane Pusa; Ward 3 Alderman Scott Tyler; Ward 4 Alderman Johnnie Anthony; Ward 5 Aldermen Phillip Silsby and Ed Dintelman; Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti; and Ward 8 Aldermen James Musgrove and Roger Wigginton.
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The site is in Ward 6, and both aldermen from the district, Paul Seibert and Bob White, opposed the request. The others to vote against the request were Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner, Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle, Ward 4 Alderman Raffi Ovian and Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore.
Sindy Kubitschek, who lives on Annex Street, and Tammie Daesch, who lives on East McKinley Street, were two of the residents who opposed the variance request because they are concerned about the amount of cars that could be in their neighborhood when Lewis conducts services.
“The problem is parking. That’s where the issue going to be,” Daesch said after the council voted. “It’s going to be really congested,” Kubitschek said.
They were upset that the council did not follow the wishes of the two Ward 6 aldermen who voted against Lewis’ request.
Daesch and Kubitschek remember when the building at 631 Mascoutah Ave. had a bar and that many of the residents did not like that.
“The church does not pose the problems that secular businesses pose,” Lewis said after the meeting. “We’re totally different. We open early and close early. I understand the people’s concerns.”
Lewis, who works as a packing operator in a chemical plant in St. Louis, said he intends to have stripes painted on the parking lot to show where the parking spots will be.
After the meeting, Lewis received congratulations from people who supported his request and from those who opposed it.
In November, the City Council tabled Lewis’ request, which the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals had voted 4-2 against.
Two other churches sought permission from the city to open. They received unanimous support from the council, and no one spoke against these requests:
▪ Ben and Yvette Pete plan to open a church at 621 South Belt West in a heavy commercial zoning district. The zoning board unanimously recommended approval of the variance.
▪ Sylvia Prothro wants to operate a church at 1646 Lebanon Ave. in a heavy commercial zoning district. The zoning board unanimously recommended aldermen approve this request.