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Residents Oppose Church Moving Into Neighborhood

Tell Caldwell Planning Board there's just no place for Life Source worshippers to park.

Life Source Church asked for the Caldwell Planning Board’s blessing Wednesday night as the church’s pastor pursues the purchase of the building on 27 Personette Street.

After more than three hours of testimonies, and much opposition from neighborhood residents, the Board chose to adjourn the meeting and resume hearing the application next month.

was asked to return on Wednesday, May 9 with two revisions to the minor site plan. For one, the applicant was asked to modify its free-standing sign, eliminating the reader board and reducing the size. The applicant was also asked to address a concern raised by the borough engineer about the lack of two appropriate exits on the lower level.

Pastor Jonathan Papa testified that the church averages 50 worshippers at its Sunday morning services, which last from two to three hours. Other than Sunday morning, the church would use the building for Bible study on Wednesday nights for about half the year and for prayer groups that meet one Monday night a month. The Bible study meetings and prayer groups are each attended by about 8 to 12 people, Papa said.

While there is no on-site parking on the property, the applicant is exempt from parking requirements because there are no plans to expand the building. If this were a new construction, Benjamin Horten, the applicant’s architect, said 31 parking spaces would be required.

“Whether it’s a church or other use,” Horten said, “parking will always be a problem.” 

Several residents of Personette as well as nearby Kirkwood Place and Orchard Square stood before the board to voice concerns about the lack of parking in the area and how allowing a church on the block would only exacerbate things.

One resident said when the Knights of Columbus rented to third parties he often couldn’t get his car out of his driveway. Others complained increased traffic from the church would have an impact on property values as well as quality of life.

“We are going to come here and we are going to protest, because we pay the taxes,” said Rosa Granada, who has lived across the street at 28 Personnette for 13 years. Granada said she was happy the Knights of Columbus building has been vacant and would like to see the zoning changed so that a one-family home could be built on the property. “It’s very quiet now. We are thrilled.” 

Steven Schepis, the attorney presenting Life Source, said changing the zoning while the application was being heard was not permissible by law.

The church, a branch of the Assemblies of God, previously leased the building at and was forced to move when the building was sold. Until it finds a permanent home, the church has been gathering at .

Life Source Church has agreed to stipulations that would prohibit occupancy greater than 122 people—although legal capacity is over 200—as well as prohibit the building from being rented to third parities.

Rev. Papa said the church is not new to parking difficulties. When on Washburn, he said a parking attendant helped guide visitors to spots. He also said some members were able to drop-off people and park at a distance. Papa said these practices would continue if they were to purchase 27 Personette.

In addition, Papa said the church is conservative theologically and there would be no alcohol, dances, Tricky Trays, etc. at the church. This will be a “sacred worship space,” he said.

Life Source plans to spruce the place up. They would power wash and paint the building, replace the awning and improve landscaping, Papa said.

“The building is vacant, and it looks vacant,” he said. “It is an eyesore to the community.”

The Knights of Columbus building was built in the 1930s by the Maria Della Lavina Society, a religious group for Italian Americans. The building and its tax-exempt status were passed along to the Knights of Columbus Caldwell Council in 1964, when it was purchased by the Columbian Club (created because the Knights of Columbus cannot own real estate).

Over the years, longtime-member Roy Failla testified Wednesday night that members would meet here to socialize, play shuffleboard and plan their charitable endeavors. Dances were held three or four times a year, and the hall would be rented out for special occasions, such as baptisms and birthdays.

Those rentals stopped about three years ago and the building has stood vacant for 18 months, Failla said.

“It became obvious two years ago that we couldn’t afford to keep the place anymore,” he said.

The building went on the market in the Spring of 2010 and Life Source became interested recently when the asking price dropped sharply from $350,000 to $250,000, according to listing agent Tom Gartland of Gartland Realty in Fairfield. The buyer’s offer was not disclosed.

Papa said he did not see the price reduction as a coincidence. He called it a “God opportunity.”

JohnD32 April 12, 2012 at 03:17 PM
They can buy in Newark for much cheaper that $250k. Send them east on Blfld. Ave.
Dana Merrill April 12, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Where do they plan on parking ?? Already both Personette and Kirkwood are full every weekend !!
Sandra M April 12, 2012 at 05:58 PM
They aren't just talking about services on Sunday. They are talking about Mon - tues - Wed. Plus events. kids parties. commiuions. etc.. ALL THE TIME and it's not just 50.. it's over 173 people from Dover to Hanover no one lives in this town.
Nancy Cummings April 12, 2012 at 07:26 PM
It was evident at the meeting that the neighborhood does not want them; and it was expressed that it would affect our quality of life. The pastor also said the parking was going to be a hardship to his parishoners. So tell me again, why, a "Man of God" wants to create all this hardship?? It just does not make sense. Nancy Cummings
Edwin April 13, 2012 at 02:39 AM
I am one "them" ppl referenced above. The "Man of God" you reference is also the pastor of the church I helped start up. Like the pastor I am from Suburban Essex County. Yesterday I stood there and listened to all the comments and just took it all in. I understand and quite honestly respect the passion that the residents have for the local community. However, what I don't understand is the attack made on our congregation and our pastor with lies and completely INACCURATE or exaggerated statements. For example, to indicate we have "over 173 ppl from Dover to Hanover no one lives in this town" is COMPLETELY inaccurate. A statement like that leads us to think that you either have us confused with another church or decided to post a comment without doing any research whatsoever.... Finally, the parking situation is a valid concern throughout Caldwell but to suggest that a church's presence will lower the quality of life in a community is somewhat disturbing. When looking for a home I thought most folks welcomed churches, parks, schools, etc versus having an unkept vacant eyesore on their street. God Bless, Edwin
Mark Guiliano April 13, 2012 at 01:24 PM
The problem here is that the present law allows for use changes of existing properties and does not consider parking as long as the square footage is not changed. The law as it stands is broken and should be fixed. This already happened on Brookside when the town allowed a restaurant to open without adequete parking. The town needs to address this to protect our neighborhoods and the existing businesses which are being pushed out.
Moe April 13, 2012 at 01:25 PM
It will be impossible to park or drive along Personette St and the surrounding area when the church is holding services,meeting or other functions
Lords Pray April 13, 2012 at 05:18 PM
surprising Edwin, On the same street we have an eye sore for over 5 yrs. with nothing from the town to help with the rats, and other anmials living in the house. Tell us does the your Pastor live in town and pay taxes, do any of your members use the business' to put monies into the town. But here you use our parking for our shopping needs our police - fire (god forbid) and Medical. That we must pay. You talk about K of C they were never a church the small gathers or parties they did once in a while will be nothing compared to what is being asked of us. The K of C gave to our churchs, boy & girls clubs food banks.. except for the foodtown cards you gave out one day. Please name how many families in Caldwell not your members you helped. Our churchs in town give back to the town and sponser our business, use our services, you will use your members. You will only take away an eye sore..... God Bless you sire
Moe April 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Rumor, the Caldwell police department in looking at making Personette St from Kirkwood to Orchard sq parking on only one side of the street due to The Life Source church buying the Knights of Columbus
laura April 14, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Making one sided parking - does this take away the 31 parking spots requsted by the church.
Edwin April 14, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Lords Pray, so if our pastor lived in town it would solve the parking issue most ppl are concerned with? Again, let's stick to what is important and just FACTS....I didnt mention KofC at all....I mentioned the building which will be an eyesore if it's not maintained...Our church has given back to numerous families in Caldwell, we consistantly suppport local businesses, even hosted a successful fundraiser at a local business and regardless of the untrue comments made about our church we are looking to embrace this beautiful town and it's people...
John Lawabider April 14, 2012 at 05:48 PM
This is a done deal, and no emotional argument can overcome the fact that the sale cannot be prevented by the prevailing zoning ordinances. And under those same ordinances, parking is not a requirement. The good people of Caldwell must change the zoning ordinance, therefore, and any subsequent change cannot retroactively affect the property rights involved here. Done deal.
sue April 16, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Nothing is ever a Done Deal. Seems to me by reading all this why anyone would now want to come to a area that will never have happiness in, or be welcome.
Nancy Cummings April 18, 2012 at 01:14 PM
The old saying is "You can't fight city hall", but you can make it difficult. I agree with Sue, why do they want to go where they are not welcomed. The neighbors should all pull their cars out onto the street early Sunday morning to be sure there are "0" spots when the parishioners arrive!
Hilda April 25, 2012 at 01:02 AM
I live next door to the Knights building and I certainly DON'T want another organization making noise , blocking my driveway or eeven @ time parking in same next door to me again! Something just does not seem right with a church that has only 20 members and now they need a place as large as the hall! What are the alterior motives involved!
Hilda April 25, 2012 at 01:04 AM
GREAT IDEA BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE ANY VISITORS< THE PARISHONERS WILL TAKE UP ALL THE SPACES!
Hilda May 07, 2012 at 11:36 PM
"AMEN!"
Hilda May 07, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Because he has another agenda other church service!
Hilda May 07, 2012 at 11:38 PM
I really don't care where you or the members reside, I just don't want your church next door to me or in my quiet peaceful neighborhood!
Hilda May 07, 2012 at 11:41 PM
"NEVER SAY NEvER!"
Teresa Akersten (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Tonight's Caldwell Planning Board hearing has been postponed until June 13 at the request of the applicant, Life Source Church.
Hilda Moore July 09, 2012 at 07:48 PM
The Lord works in mysterious ways and if the residents of Personette Street, Kirkwood Place and Orchard Square do not already know...LIFE SOURCE CHURCH has withdrawn their application to come into our quiet and peaceful neighborhood. The planning board will no longer entertain this problem which was scheduled to be heard on July 11th. However, we as residents must petition the Mayor and Council to change the ordinance so this situation will not happen ever again!
sue July 13, 2012 at 03:10 AM
lets go Hilda. start it up
Hilda July 18, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Only four residents of Personette Street (3), and one from Orchard Square attended the Council meeting of July 17th. I presented our signed petition asking for a change in the ordinanace preventing in our neighborhood, religious establishmments, businesses (commercial or otherwise including entertainment) to the Mayor and Council, however; signatures are still be obtained. I must still remind the residents of our neighborhood that just because Life Source Church withdrew their application, the situation concerning 27 Personette Street is "not a done deal!" Councilman O'Donnell, has proposed that the town purchase said property for Open Space. This would be the best measure to satisfy the residents, especially while Green Acres Funding is available.
Hilda July 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM
John, What do you have to say now that the church has withdrawn their application? "Miracles Never Cease!"

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