EAST COUNTY — Neighbors of Faith Christian Church have become accustomed to seeing the building sit empty and unused, week after week.
It’s off-white paint and green roof are still in perfect condition, even though services haven’t been held there since C1 Bank foreclosed on the property more than two years ago.
Neighbors say the structure brings them comfort and a sense of peace.
Although the Faith Christian Church building is fully functional, the 12,225-square-foot facility, located at 5215 Lorraine Road, may soon face demolition.
The property on which the church sits plays a critical role in a new development plan.
C1 Bank proposed to the Manatee County Planning Commission May 8 a plan to tear down the church, built in 2001. In its place, developers would construct 24 single-family homes on the church’s 24.6-acre lot.
The Planning Commission recommended denial of the project, but the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners will determine the property’s fate at a June 3 hearing.
“The bank is basically trying to recuperate its costs,” project engineer Rick Schappacher said. “They came to me and asked what we can do to get the value of this property.”
The bank hopes the project will help it earn back the $1 million still owed to it when C1 foreclosed the property in 2012.
Currently, the property is zoned for agriculture, which allows one home per five acres. However, the property’s future land-use category would allow up to one home per acre — what C1 is proposing.
Out of place
As Gene and Tina Miller stood near the fence separating the church property from Lorraine Road, they looked back at their own home across the street.
“We can see this land from our house,” Tina Miller said, pointing to their driveway.
The Millers say construction of a 24-home subdivision across the street would diminish the reason they moved to the area — to live private lives.
“We bought this property 27 years ago, and built our house in 1997,” Tina Miller said. “We’ve enjoyed raising our seven children here; we raised our kids in this house.”
Their neighbors share similar stories.
“We’ve enjoyed a life where the whole street doesn’t mind a little noise if you’re weaning a calf, tending to your nursery with loud equipment, or the dogs that are waiting to be adopted, who bark at feeding time,” Sarah Makeever said. “To put a development in the middle of this doesn’t make sense to us.”
Church property neighbors believe the plan is not compatible with the area.
Currently, no other residential developments exist in the three-mile stretch between state roads 64 and 70 on Lorraine Road.
C1 Bank attorney Ryan Snyder sees the situation differently.
He says the foreclosed church building doesn’t fit in an area that already has other religious establishments and no longer benefits the neighborhood.
“The church was a fish out of water in an area overly saturated with churches,” Snyder said. “Last month, someone broke into the church and stole all of the electronics; homeowners don’t want that on their street.”
Although the Planning Commission did not recommend approval of the proposed development, it is up to the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners to rule on the development.
The Millers will do what they can to protect their neighborhood.
They visited more than 25 homes along Lorraine Road last week asking for signatures on a petition they drafted to block the subdivision.
For the community members who signed the petition, the planning commission’s decision — although not final — counts as a small victory.
“We thought it was an uphill battle,” Gene Miller said. “I just had this ‘wow’ feeling. I caught myself grinning, but I didn’t want to smile too much. This (issue) is far from over.”
Should the plan be denied again next month, Snyder said he is unsure what the bank will do with the property.
Eventually, however, Snyder believes the property will be developed; the question is when.
“That area will be completely different in the future,” Snyder said, “Development is coming and we’re out of land. The land that’s left to develop is out east. Tree farms aren’t going to be tree farms forever.”
C1 Bank attorney Ryan Snyder says the bank wants at least $1 million for the property. The amount would help it break even on its costs.
Although other churches and organizations have made offers on the property, the amounts were not high enough.
Snyder said he is open to offers close to his client’s asking price.
“People say they will buy the property, but they don’t want to really pay for that area,” Snyder said.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].