The former Heartland Foods building in Hillsboro Heights subdivision will remain empty after city council denied Grace Community Fellowship’s request to relocate their church there.
The church, which has been meeting at Hillsboro Elementary School, had previously approached the council with a request to change an ordinance that limits the area to retail only.
At the meeting Monday, council members asked church representatives why they chose the Heartland building.
Church elder Jim Villanueva said that one of the reasons was the modern look of the building.
“Part of the purpose of Grace is to look to bring people to understand who God is who are not typically in a church,” Villanueva said. “Our feeling as a leadership and as a body is that some folks who have never been in a church situation would probably not want to go to a church because it looks like a church.”
Church elder Jesse Schumacher agreed with Villanueva’s response, adding that it was a prime location where people could see it as they went by.
“I think stewardship is a big piece of this,” Schumacher said, “and realizing that this was a way we could handle our resources in an appropriate manner by getting a building without breaking the bank.”
After hearing from church leaders and members, most council members decided that although they felt a need to have something in the building after 14 months of being unoccupied, they felt that it would be better suited for a retail business.
“If you take a non-retail business and put it in the middle of prime retail district,” council member Bob Watson said, “to me, that would hurt other retailers.”
Council member Brent Driggers said that from a financial standpoint, a church wasn’t necessarily what they wanted there.
“The idea of a church being there doesn’t bother me from the standpoint of a church being there,” Driggers said, “but from the financial burden that it puts back onto the citizens.”
The council voted 3-0 to not approve the ordinance change. Councilman David Loewen abstained from the vote.
Schumacher remained positive in spite of the setback.
“God is sovereign,” Schumacher said. “He knows where we will eventually land.”