RIDGELAND — A Spanish-speaking evangelical church seeking approval to operate out of a retail storefront at night has agreed to a waiver allowing nearby businesses to continue alcohol sales.

The church, Iglesia Evangelica Monte desion M.A.V., as identified in official documents, is seeking to locate in space at 6965 Old Canton Road. 

The storefront is currently zoned for C-3 for a Convenience Commercial District. The church would be close to a Sprint Mart-branded Shell and the Asian restaurant Ding How.

The city zoning ordinance has prohibitions that keep a minimum distance between buildings operating as churches and facilities that serve alcohol.

Aldermen responded by issuing a conditional use permit that includes a waiver for the distance restrictions on the sale of alcohol. The item passed unanimously.

Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard asked if this would be “forever.” City Attorney Jerry Mills said this conditional use would go unchanged unless the city took action to later reverse course on its own waiver.

As of the June 20 Zoning Board meeting, leaders of Iglesia Evangelica had signed a waiver regarding the distance rule for the Shell Station, but Zoning officials were worried it would impact other current businesses and possible future tenants.

Community Development Director Alan Hart told aldermen that the Zoning Board unanimously recommended the approval of the waiver under the following three conditions:

• That the waiver is expanded to include all other existing business, present or future, located within the otherwise restricted distance.
• That the revised waiver be presented to all legally required boards or persons for ratification and approval.
• That a condition of this approval distance requirement for the sale of alcohol as contained in any Ridgeland ordinance are specifically waived by the applicant, its successor and assigns so long as the property is conditionally used as a church.

Joe Morris of Morris Properties, L.P. and the owner of the Shell Station said in a letter that they had no problem with the land use, apart from its potential to disrupt beer and light wine sales.

“Although we welcome the church to the area and believe that it will have a positive impact on our community, we are apprehensive that its location will adversely affect the ability or right that we currently have to use our property for beer/light wine sales,” he wrote.

Morris also stressed that he welcomed the church and thought they would be have a positive effect on the community, apart from his concerns about his businesses ability to operate as it currently does.

The church will operate three times a week between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Notes from the Zoning Board indicated that a church representative used an interpreter.

In their petition, they note that they expect the operation of their business to have a minimal impact because they are operating a few nights a week well after normal business hours.