ANDERSON — Special exceptions for the construction of a new church in downtown Anderson and an expansion of the Anderson Center have been approved.

The Anderson Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday approved a request from St. Vincent Health to expand the existing facility at 2210 Jackson St. for the opening of a day school for at-risk and challenged students.

Tim Stires, deputy director of the Anderson Municipal Development Department, said St. Vincent Health wants to construct a 3,000-square-foot building that will match the existing structure.

“The proposal is to provide treatment at the facility and eventually have the students return to their regular school,” he said. “The program is for intermediate and high school students.”

Stires said the expansion is expected to cost $1.5 million to $2 million and be completed in August for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

The expansion will consist of two classrooms, four offices, two sensory rooms, and a common area with the entrance on Meridian Street.

“This will upgrade services for at-risk and challenged students,” he said.

There was no opposition to the request.

The BZA approved a special exception and several variances for the construction of a new 20,000-square-foot church in the 200 block of West 14th Street.

Second Missionary Baptist Church intends to build the new church with seating for 424 people.

One of the variances approved was for parking, which was raised as a concern by a local landlord.

Stires said the plans are for 50 parking spaces; the city’s zoning ordinance requires 212 spaces.

“Once the new church is constructed, the existing church will be demolished for additional parking,” he said. “The church also owns two lots on Chase Street that could be used for future parking.”

Stires said the number of variances being requested normally raises red flags for BZA members. The church did receive approval of five variances including the parking, front and rear yard setbacks, height of the building and lot coverage.

Pastor William O’Neal said the present church doesn’t meet the current needs of the congregation.

“The building is 131 years old and there are structural problems,” he said. “Instead of making costly repairs, the decision was made to build a new church.”

O’Neal said parking concerns are only for two hours on Sunday and that the church will resolve the problems immediately.

“We want to make the neighborhood better,” he said. “There are a lot of concerns on the west side. We want to return pride to the area.

“The church is located on a major thoroughfare,” O’Neal added, “and we want to show the west side is just not vacant and abandoned buildings.”

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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