Representatives from the Walk in Love for Jesus Church, which is located at 906 Newbridge Road in Bellmore, will appear in court Tuesday over alleged violations of Hempstead Town code, according to Bellmore Life.
Nearby residents have been protesting the rezoning of the residential property as a church for several years, citing that it will decrease their property values.
Jeanette Capriola, the pastor and founder of the Walk in Love for Jesus Church, was denied church status by the Hempstead Town Zoning Board in 2008, but the decision was overturned in an appellate court and was granted church status in August of 2010.
Vincent Franco is one of the more vocal opponents to this church, as his property abuts the building. He organized a protest, and said he is not pleased with what he believes the church is doing to his property.
"It's causing my property value to depreciate," said Franco. "…I'm losing value on my property. How will I be able to sell my house now with a parking lot in the back of it?"
Franco has also accused the church of being a scam and a "pseudo church," but Capriola says the church is no scam.
"We call it a hospital," she said." It's different from other churches. ... We don't have a big church but we do a lot of work. We do help people."
Councilman Gary Hudes submitted a letter to Patch in October of 2010 explaining some common misconceptions regarding the property.
- The Town of Hempstead Building Department issued a total of 12 summonses from 2004-2007 for various violations of Town Code. Each one of these tickets was prosecuted by our Town Attorney's Office in Second District Court. The judge imposed more than $2,000 in fines upon the church for these violations.
- The Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals, although an independent government entity, denied variances, which were requested for a special exception permit to maintain the church use, as well as grant relief from off-street parking requirements and a restriction regarding a freestanding church sign.
- Hempstead Town defended its decision in Supreme Court in April 2009 after the Church appealed the Board of Appeal's decision. The appeal made by the church was denied in Nassau County Supreme Court.
- Moreover, the town prevailed in defending the decision of the Board of Appeals. In May 2010, Hempstead Town once again defended the town's Board of Appeals decision in the Appellate Division after the church challenged the Supreme Court's ruling, appealing the case to the Appellate Division.
- The Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court's denial and Hempstead Town's Board of Appeals was ordered to grant the Walk In Love for Jesus Church's request for a special exception to operate a church, as well as their request for a parking variance. The court instructed the Board of Appeals to allow the church to operate but to impose certain conditions to reduce the impact that the church has on the residential neighborhood.
- The Appellate Court directed the Town of Hempstead Building Department to issue a building permit so that the Walk In Love for Jesus Church could continue to operate. The conditions that the Board of Appeals adopted in July 2010, as ordered by the court, to reduce the impact on the surrounding residential neighborhood are:
- No other use of the premises (i.e., meeting room, gift shop, refreshments) while sanctuary is in use.
- Parking lot blacktopped per town specifications.
- Parking lot enclosed by 6' high PVC fence.
- Exterior lighting, if any, shall be no more than 6' high and directed away from residences.
- Exterior area not to be used for storage.
According to Merrick Life, Capriola will appear at First District Court in Hempstead to addresss why mandates were not adhered to.
From Bellmore Life:
The restrictions ordered Pastor Jeannette Capriola and the church to create buffers against encroaching upon neighbors’ properties and to make changes to the building it occupies for safety reasons.
“The summons is for having no Certificate of Occupancy,” Susie Trenkle-Pokalsky, a Hempstead Town spokeswoman, told Bellmore Life. “And also for having no plantings” that would create a buffer."
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