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Store front churches in the CBD


I am working for a small town in NC that is interested in limiting the location of store front churches - prohibiting them in the CBD - the alcohol laws here prohibit any establishment serving such to be at least 200' from a church. There are now about ten of these churches and they preclude the possibility of any rest/bar from opening in the downtown. I realize there are constitutional issues - but was wondering if anyone has any ideas? thanks


Dear Leader
Staff member
Are the alcohol laws state or local? If they're local, you can amend the appropriate laws to decrease or eliminate the spacing requirements in certain districts.

Are storefront churches permitted by right, or are they a special use?

Language from the land development code I'm writing.

308.7 Place of worship or assembly

308.7.1 Intent
There is no doubt that churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship play a positive role in their host communities, especially in this town, where they are an integral part of the built and social environment.

Recent trends in organized religion include changes to the role churches play to their congregations and the communities as a whole. A modern church can unintentionally affect the built environment in less than desirable ways. Excessive traffic, parking, noise, special events, building scale and design, and site design are some factors associated with churches that have an impact on the character of residential areas. By not generating weekday pedestrian traffic, and presenting the appearance of vacant space, the presence of a church in a shopping center or retail district can affect its dynamics and vibrancy, and deter retail establishments and restaurants.

Places of worship and assembly must be planned carefully, to ensure they have the same positive impact on the town¡¦s built environment as they do on the spiritual development and quality of life of its citizens.

308.7.2 Definition
Place of worship or assembly -- building containing a hall, auditorium or other suitable rooms used for conducting religious or other services or meetings. Places of worship or assembly include churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and similar institutions, but not commercial endeavors or ¡§outraeach operations¡¨ such as rescue missions, homeless shelters, and social service agencies.

308.7.3 Permitted locations
Places of worship or assembly are considered subject to special review in all districts.

308.7.4 Conditions
The following criteria will also be considered in determining special review approval for a place of worship, along with standard review criteria for special review uses.
* Traffic generation, parking and circulation, and the potential impact on surrounding areas.
* Building and site design, including architecture, landscaping, lighting, signage and other features.
* Building size and scale, and compatibility with surrounding existing and future land uses.
* Potential noise detectable at the property line.
* Accessory uses, including schools, day care, outreach programs, and offices for organizations directly related to the institution.
* Potential impact on the vitality of a commercial district, if applicable.
* If the use is the ¡§highest and best use¡¨ of commercial or industrial land, if applicable.


Town land use regulations are not intended to restrict or control the peaceful assemblage of those who share a common belief or faith. However, Town regulations are also intended to preserve the bucolic character of its residential neighborhoods.

Social groups, activity groups, spiritual development groups and organizational committees related to a congregation may meet in a congregant¡¦s home without special use approval. Likewise, small gatherings of people for ceremonies that could be described as the equivalent of a religious service do not require special use approval.

It is difficult to define a line that separates study groups, prayer groups, and social groups meeting in private residences, versus the use of a house as a church. When such gatherings regularly have an impact on the surrounding area that exceeds what would normally be expected of a house, or changes the residential character of the home, the house could be considered a ¡§place of worship,¡¨ and subject to the regulations above.