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City approves conditional use permit for Morris Community Church

MORRIS – Morris Community Church has a new home on Morris’ east side.

On Tuesday, the Morris City Council approved a conditional use permit for Morris Community Church to move into a building on East Sixth Street.

The building, which most recently housed Legacy Living and was the former home of the Morris Sun Tribune, is located in the central business district. This zoning district allows churches as a conditional use, said City Manager Blaine Hill.

The Morris Planning Commission held a public hearing on the conditional use permit request on March 18, 2014. At the hearing, the only condition the planning commission added to the permit is that Morris Community Church needs to have agreements in place for 15 off-street parking spaces because the city code says that there must be one parking space for every 10 seats in the church.

Currently, the church has an agreement with a nearby law office to share a parking lot and may partner with First Lutheran Church on Fifth Street for parking spaces.

City Attorney Aaron Jordan said the conditional use permit will be valid as long as the conditions are met. If the permit doesn’t state a specific date to end, it is valid indefinitely.

City council member Brian Solvie asked if there were any concerns that the property would no longer pay taxes and if they could still be assessed for street projects.

Hill said because it would be owned by a church the property would be tax exempt, but that the city can issue special assessments on tax exempt property.

City reviewing purchase agreement with Riley Bros.

The city of Morris is reviewing a draft purchase agreement from Riley Bros. Properties to purchase the old elementary school property, City Manager Blaine Hill said Tuesday.

Council member Jeff Miller asked whether the council would have an opportunity to review the agreement or see some of the specifics before it arrives for a vote.

Hill responded that the biggest issue in the agreement is price, but otherwise it should be pretty standard. One requirement that will be included is that the city has the right to buy back the property if there is no development within five years.

“I’ve been trying to feed the information to you like the price and the things we’re talking about – there shouldn’t be any surprises for you,” said Hill.

If developers want to use Tax Increment Financing to work on the property, they will need to bring that request to the city council, said Hill.

Other business

  • The council passed a resolution authorizing the issuance of nearly $10 million in Health Care Facility Revenue Notes for St. Francis Health Services. Cities are authorized to act as bond issuers on behalf of health care facilities, but will not have any liability for the bonds. Steve Fenlon, representing Midwest Healthcare Capital said the low interest bonds will help St. Francis reduce their interest rate on several projects.
  • The next city council meeting will be Tuesday, April 8 at 8:30 a.m. in the Morris Area High School auditorium.