Clayton News-Star

Rezoning request in historical district concerns some neighbors

Horne Memorial United Methodist Church is located at the corner of Second and Church streets in downtown Clayton.
Horne Memorial United Methodist Church is located at the corner of Second and Church streets in downtown Clayton. ndunn@newsobserver.com

A church’s rezoning request in Clayton’s Historic District is troubling neighbors who don’t want to lose an old house for an office building, parking lot or playground.

Horne Memorial United Methodist Church wants the Clayton Town Council to rezone two lots it owns on Horne Street, just behind the main church campus, from residential to office and institutional use. The church has not said what it plans to do with the parcels or the former Methodist parsonage that sits on one of them.

However, the rezoning application, filed by True Line Surveying of Clayton, notes that the “church is expanding, and office and parking needs already exist.”

Dorotea Torchiano lives next to the lots the church wants to rezone, She said razing the former parsonage would change the historical nature of the neighborhood.

“We just can’t start tearing things down and changing things that take away from our town history,” Torchiano said.

The Rev. Ross Carter, pastor of Horne Memorial, said the church has had no formal talks about how to use the two parcels behind the main campus. Horne is seeking the zoning change only because any future church use would require it, he said.

In an email, Carter said the church, because of its longtime presence in the neighborhood, is sensitive to the concerns of those who live in the area.

“We will listen to any concerns and will do our best to communicate in a helpful manner with our neighbors,” Carter said in the email. “It is always our hope that the congregation is a positive presence in the community and that any future use of that property would be an extension of that positive presence.”

The former parsonage is listed as a “contributing structure” to the Clayton Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The listing, recorded in 2010, has allowed owners of historic properties to apply for preservation tax credits.

However, while other towns often adopt restrictive ordinances for their historic areas, the Town of Clayton has no special rules governing its district, which is bounded by Mulberry, West Barnes, Mill, Lombard and Blanche streets. That means if the church decides to raze the parsonage one day, no town ordinances will get in the way.

Horne Memorial has been at the corner of Church and Second streets since 1916. In its current state, the church is landlocked and has used almost every square inch of its less than one-acre property.

The church bought the two lots south of the main campus in 2013 to prepare for growth.

In addition to the two parcels, the church is seeking to rezone its main building. Clayton allows churches in residential zones as a conditional use, but the office and institutional use is more in line with what the property is used for, Carter said.

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