First Christian Church will not be opening its doors on Main Street.
The decision was made after a public hearing Monday evening when the city commission voted unanimously to deny a conditional use permit that would have enabled the church to open in the downtown commercial zoning district. The commission received 31 letters of protest from downtown property owners and two letters of support, one from a property owner and one from an employee at a downtown business.
Community Development Director Jessica Scott began the hearing outlining the city’s objection to the conditional use request. She said it would impact the city’s plan for downtown.
“The city has done a major effort to revitalize our downtown Main Street,” Scott said. “In 2017 the city prepared a comprehensive plan where we spent $200,000 with Houseal Lavigne to prepare a comprehensive plan for the city. When we started doing that plan, one of the things that the city did was put in a sub-plan for the downtown area.”
Scott said the city has been working on the suggestions made in the sub-plan, and pointed to the downtown Streetscape project and the facade grant as examples. She said the city made these plans in order to draw more businesses, restaurants, and bars to the downtown area as part of a revitalization effort.
Scott also mentioned the plan Ardmore Main Street Authority recently put into motion from Hilary Greenberg where one of the recommendations was an attempt to recruit a microbrewery or distillery to the downtown area.
Scott said ABLE laws would limit the types of businesses that could open near a church. A bar, microbrewery or distillery could not open within 300 feet because of these restrictions.
Scott also addressed the church’s claim that they were not informed about the conditional use permit before they purchased the building.
“When I first met (church member) Chris Frederick I thought that they had not purchased the building,” Scott said. “However, I believe after reviewing the county documents that the church was in the purchase process. When I met with Chris Frederick I told him about the conditional use permit and I gave him an application. I explained the process and advised him to make the purchase contingent on city approval.”
Church member Megan Shelton spoke in favor of allowing the permit.
 “We didn’t want to come downtown and cause issues,” Shelton said. “We did reach out to the city and asked if there was any problem with us coming downtown. We weren’t given the impression that there would be a problem, otherwise we would have went about this in a different way. The time we knew about the conditional use permit was after we had purchased the building.”
Frederick also spoke in favor of allowing the permit and said the church wants to be a part of the downtown revitalization. He said he met with Ardmore Main Street Authority General Manager Todd DiMiceli and Chair Todd Yeager earlier in the day about ways to legally work around the ABLE laws.
 “We want to work with the city. We love the city. We love downtown. Downtown is a hub of revival right now. It is really looking great,” Frederick said.
One citizen that spoke against allowing the permit was Jeff St. Clair who owns the building formerly occupied by Jim’s Tees. He has been working on a plan for renovating the building and turning it into a restaurant for over a year. He said he has been working on developing a large portion of the entire block for restaurants and bars, and the ABLE laws could potentially impact his efforts.