Quaint no more? Some Naples residents say rezoning chuch property may cause neighborhood to lose appeal

A Naples church is a step closer toward rezoning a portion of its property.

The city’s planning advisory board on Wednesday voted 5-1 allowing First Christian Church to rezone a small parcel of land — which is currently used for overflow parking — from public service use to a highway commercial use.

That change would allow the Coquina Sands church, 1789 Mandarin Road, to sell the property and enable it to be redeveloped.

Board member Dorothy Hirsch cast the dissenting vote, while board member James Krall abstained because of a conflict of interest.

“This is so inappropriate,” Hirsch said. “Once again we’re going to ignore the residents, and they’re going to be pushed into a corner. I’m saying ‘no’ for the residents.”

Representatives for the church met with a small group of Coquina Sands residents prior to Tuesday’s meeting, and Rich Yovanovich, the attorney representing the church, said the meetings resulted in a list of approved uses for the property.

The proposed uses would have reduced traffic, and would have limited what type of businesses could go on the property.

“We agreed to these terms, but it was because ... we do not want this to happen, but those are the accommodations we would want to happen if it did get done,” said Coquina Sands resident Maria Eaton.

“We love our little neighborhood. It’s quaint, it’s quiet, it’s beautiful and we just don’t want to see it disrupted by more commercial.”

The neighborhood may have liked the restrictions, but board members removed the restrictions from the final plan. Instead board members asked that access to the property be restricted to U.S. 41 and a buffer be put in place to protect the neighborhood.

“I know that we’re trying to be helpful, but I also think the property has different issues,” said board member Wafaa Assad.

This isn’t the end of the matter, though. Naples City Council next month will have the final say on whether the church can rezone the property.

Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna_buzzacco

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