ENGLEWOOD — Englewood’s Crosspoint Church of the Nazarene will not be able to expand its school. In fact, it may have to shrink.
Sarasota County commissioners voted 4-1, Commissioner Charles Hines dissenting, Wednesday to deny a special zoning exception that would allow the church’s school to teach up to 90 students.
The church, on West Green Street, now teaches 50 students from kindergarten to high school seniors. But it presently faces a violation of a county code that limits the school to 25 students.
“They are well learned and love it there,” Peggy Garrison said of her grandchildren who attend the school. Also, her grandchildren don’t face bullying and other social problems like public school students do.
But neighbors like Susan Fordyce, whose home is adjacent to the church, weren’t anxious to see an expanded school.
“(West Green Street) is often traveled by large trucks and large boats,” Fordyce told commissioners, describing the traffic using the boat ramps at nearby Indian Mound Park off Winson Avenue. West Green and Winson is “a very busy intersection,” she said.
In an email to commissioners, Barbara Morris said, “Numerous children, buses, congestion has increased at this location. As a residential neighborhood, a church is one thing with worship on Sunday. However, daily noise around quiet homes is unacceptable.”
Taylor Meals, president of the Olde Englewood Village Association, said no one has a problem with the church. The problem, Meals suggested, the property is not conducive for a larger school and commissioners would be condoning what is inherently a non-conforming zoning use for that neighborhood.
A potential solution the county could consider, Meals suggested, is limiting the school size to 60 students and limit the special exception to two years.
Crossroads Pastor Michael Lindsey explained how his church started the school to teach students with learning disabilities and who benefit with “one-on-one” instruction. Originally, they started the school for kindergarten to sixth graders, but their students didn’t want to leave, Lindsey said.
“Most of our kids are bused in, so we have hardly any of our students that are dropped off or picked up,” Lindsey said, addressing worries over traffic. He also suggested if the school were to see 90 students, the church would have to move.
“We’re kind of land-locked,” he said. “If some of the business people would like to buy our church and make it into something else, we’d be glad to sell it to them.”
Commissioner Alan Maio first called for the denial. The special exception would be permanent with the property, whether the Nazarenes stayed or sold the property. Maio said, “It’s the wrong place for (a larger school) right now.”
Commissioner Michael Moran agreed with Maio, saying, “Ninety students with staff is a tremendous enterprise.”
With the county approving mixed commercial-residential development around West Dearborn, Hines, who dissented, felt a church school from kindergarten to high school was “too much.” But a small school serving working people with daycare and kindergarten might be more appropriate to Englewood’s downtown, he suggested.
With the commission decision Wednesday, the Nazarenes will still have to resolve their code violation with the county.