(Nov. 22, 2019) Churches, temples and mosques will now be allowed in the I-1 light industrial zoning district under special exception.

The Worcester County Commissioners approved the zoning code amendment submitted by Gary McCabe, a pastor at Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Salisbury, during their meeting on Tuesday.

McCabe sought the amendment so he could build a second location for his church in the former office building for Chaney Concrete Factory outside Bishopville. The Worcester County Planning Commission gave the text amendment a favorable recommendation on Oct. 3, finding that the church’s time of operation generally would be opposite from the industrial time of operation, generally.

During the county commissioner’s meeting, Ed Tudor, director of review and permitting, reiterated a concern that the amendment could open the door for other less compatible uses in the light industrial district.

At the previous planning commission meeting, Tudor had also said the amendment could cause a slow erosion of the zoning code. In her notes to the planning commission, Zoning Administrator Jennifer Keener also said this could also allow other structures to take up limited industrial space.

County Commissioner Jim Bunting shared the same concern.

“When we do something like this, it affects every area that’s zoned that way,” Bunting said.

Attorney Mark Cropper, who represents the church, countered that the amendment is a special exception, meaning that all cases will be individually reviewed by the Worcester County Board of Zoning Appeals.

“The whole purpose of that provision of your zoning code is so the board can utilize its expertise and knowledge and make that determination on a case-by-case basis, even though this legislation generally applies throughout the county,” Cropper said.

He added that the case with Oak Ridge Baptist Church is a perfect scenario in which the landlord is also the owner of the industrial use, and is working with the church to ensure that there are no conflicts between the two different uses.

The commissioners unanimously passed the amendment to allow churches, temples and mosques into the light industrial district by special exception.

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