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Hotchkiss grants setback variance for church expansion

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The Hotchkiss council dealt with a lengthy agenda at its July meeting. Pastor Jake DeField from the First Baptist Church at 203 W. Main Street was granted a setback variance. Pastor DeField said the congregation is outgrowing the building, which was built in 1904. Most importantly, there are no ADA compliant restrooms. For church members to use the restroom, they must leave the sanctuary on the main level and go either upstairs or downstairs. Pastor DeField said this is an issue for his elderly and handicapped members, who either have to go outside and down the ramp, or maneuver a short staircase to reach a restroom. Additionally, the restrooms are not large enough to accommodate someone in a wheelchair. Their current nursery is also not big enough to accommodate the number of infants and toddlers in the congregation. "We're in desperate need of handicapped bathrooms and a nursery," he said.

The congregation plans to expand the north side of the building on the main level, adding two restrooms which each would have two stalls and infant changing areas. Pastor DeField said the church considered all other options for expansion, but the north side is the most feasible; expanding anywhere else in the church would cut into sanctuary seating, youth group meeting areas or pastoral offices.

Town regulations require a 25-foot setback between the sidewalk and the building in an R2 zone. The renovation plans would bring the building to within just four feet of the sidewalk. However, as trustee Tom Wills pointed out, the church is adjacent to the C2 zone, which allows building to the lot line. He pointed to Memorial Hall, Church of Art, and others that are built on or near the lot line within the same block the church is located. "It seems to definitely be needed and it seems to be an exception that's warranted," said Wills, who also serves as chair of the planning commission.

The planning commission unanimously recommended approval of the variance; the council likewise unanimously approved the request. Pastor DeField said he anticipates the renovations will be complete before winter.

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