By Joshua Baethge

For the Anna-Melissa Tribune

MELISSA - On Tuesday, the Melissa City Council gave near-unanimous approval to plans for a new Melissa United Methodist Church building.

Place 3 Councilman Nicco Warren recused himself due to a potential conflict of interest. His wife serves as the congregation’s minister of communication and care.

Church supporters gave a resounding cheer when the motion passed.

Before the vote, Tyler Ferguson, the church’s minister of worship and music, read a statement to the council and planning and zoning commission from lead pastor Rev. Stacey Piyakhun, who was not in attendance due to continuing education obligations in California.

“I would like to express my gratitude for you and for your support of Melissa United Methodist. Not only through the building process but most importantly throughout the community. You are a blessing,” Ferguson said on behalf of Piyakhun. “We are excited for the next steps of development and the building that will unfold over the course of the spring and summer.”

The building will be located on the west side of Highway 5, just north of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Also during the meeting, council members debated the merits of turning a home near downtown Melissa into a licensed childcare facility. The property in question is located near the intersection of Sherman Street and Paris Street.

The area is considered to be within the city’s downtown overlay district. Land use there is generally restricted to residential, public buildings, retail or office space.

A childcare center does not fully align with the intended uses, however, the zoning also allows for adaptive reuse of residential structures.

The agenda item debated Tuesday would grant a use permit specifically allowing a childcare facility to operate there.

Some council members expressed concerns about potential traffic caused by the daycare facility and its impact on nearby neighbors. Among them was Mayor Reed Greer, who said that while he is in favor of downtown area redevelopment, he was not sure that it was the right time or place for this particular business.

“I think there’s a big difference in the transfer of residential property to commercial in the downtown overlay district in an area that is primarily residential,” he said.

There was also concern about a loose-asphalt driveway that the property owners want to keep rather than convert to concrete - their reasoning being that as downtown grows, they may need to rebuild at some point. Therefore, they don’t want to over-invest in a property that may soon be obsolete.

According to co-owner Emily Pope, the childcare facility will be suited for a maximum of 25 children. Although the hours of operation have not yet been finalized, she anticipates those being normal workday hours, between 6 a.m.- 6:30 p.m.

Pope said they chose the area because they felt there was a need for the facility and that it would mesh well with the city’s long-term plans.

Council passed the motion 6-1, with Greer casting the lone dissenting vote.