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City of Frederick: Houses of worship OK in downtown zone

City of Frederick: Houses of worship OK in downtown zone
Originally published January 09, 2011

By Patti S. Borda
News-Post Staff


Frederick aldermen approved an ordinance change Thursday that allows houses of worship in the downtown business district.

“We’re really just going back to the way it was for 20 years,” land-use lawyer Bruce Dean said on Friday.

The unanimous vote allows churches in downtown business districts, in addition to those zoned general and neighborhood commercial.

Dean’s client, the El Shaddai Congregation, originally sought the change so it could move into rented space at a shopping center on West Patrick Street, Dean said.

The congregation has since decided to go elsewhere, but asked Dean to pursue the change anyway.

Dean said from 1985 to 2005 churches were allowed in the downtown business district as well as in general commercial and neighborhood commercial districts. In 2005 the city established the use of institutional floating zones to apply to church or school properties in the downtown business district.

A floating zone can apply only to whole properties, and not to rented space within a property. It can be lifted if use changes and the property reverts to what is called the base zoning.

Dean and Gabrielle Dunn said property owners were not inclined to change the zoning of property based on tenants.

Dunn said many churches stay just a few years in one place. Dean said the city is now recognizing the common practice of establishing churches in shopping center spaces.