Two Miami Gardens churches will make their cases to the city and the community during a hearing at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, after applying to change the zoning on their properties.
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, at 21311 NW 34th Ave., and the Harvest Fire Worship Center, 18291 NW 23rd Ave., are on land zoned for residential use. To comply with city law, they have asked for the zoning to be changed to neighborhood commercial.
The city approved new land-development regulations in 2010, and with both churches are planning new developments — including new parking lots and new buildings — they have to make the change. Cyril Saiphoo, the city’s planning and zoning manager, said the city recommended the change so both churches could comply.
“In order to have a place of religious assembly, you have to be in commercial zoning,” said Saiphoo.
The city’s development master plan says the neighborhood commercial designation is mainly for low- and medium-density areas to support commercial and office uses and that it “is specifically intended to protect single family homes from encroachment or intrusion from incompatible land uses.”
The City Council was scheduled to vote on the rezonings Jan. 22, but the vote was deferred until Feb. 26 to provide residents around both churches with more information. Harvest Fire held a meeting Feb. 10, at the suggestion of Councilman Rodney Harris, to further clarify the details of the changes.
During the Jan. 22 meeting, residents who live near Harvest Fire initially expressed concerns about the zoning change, saying the property values of their homes would decrease and said that they were not given advance notice about the application.
“I could put a strip club there if I was granted permission,” said Ruben Burke, who lives near Harvest Fire. “It doesn’t make sense to have such rezoning done in a long-term residential area.”
Harvest Fire’s bishop, Donald Clarke, said he wants to continue the dialogue with residents.
“We’re not the enemy. I spent 35 years of my life here — blood sweat and tears,” Clarke said. “I’m here because I love this community.”
Saiphoo added that if either church wants to make further changes that require special exceptions, they would need the approval of the City Council and the planning and zoning department.