First United Methodist Church's plans to have the city vacate a portion of Sommers Avenue between Park and Orange streets was met with concerns from neighboring property owners.

First United Methodist Church's plans to have the city vacate a portion of Sommers Avenue between Park and Orange streets was met with concerns from neighboring property owners.

The church owns property to the east and west of Sommers Avenue and would like to connect the property to make one larger parking lot.

"This would create significantly better opportunities to realign and maximize parking capacity south of Park Street. It would also allow more options for how to most safely collect and direct pedestrian traffic flow from this area to our main church facility," wrote the church's building committee chairman Joe Witter in a letter to the council.

The proposed plan would make Sommers Avenue a dead-end off Orange Street. The road currently is a one-way between Orange and Park.

The remaining open segment of Sommers Avenue would become a short two-way to allow access for other properties located along the road.

"I have some definite concerns," said Ki Wirth, president and general manager of Wirth Inc., which owns the former Rink's Market/Winner's Circle building east of Sommers Avenue.

"When it comes to the public or tenants parking (in spaces on Sommers), how do they turn around and get back out?" asked Wirth.

Previously, First United Methodist Church members successfully requested the city close the portion of Sommers Avenue north of Park Street, directly behind the church. The current request is for the southern part of the street, but Wirth said he wonders how many more streets the church will want


"When will they ask to have Park Street closed?" he said.

Wirth Inc. has equipment stored off Sommers Ave, and Wirth said vacating a portion of the street would "make it difficult (for equipment) to turn around and get out."

The awkwardness created by vacating a portion of Sommers also could dissuade future tenants from renting space from Wirth, he said.

"This devalues the property," he noted.

Wirth said his property has approximately 20 parking spaces adjoining Sommers Avenue. Those spaces are angled, which he said would lead to "questions on traffic flow" if part of the road is vacated.

"Can't you change the parking from angled to straight?" asked Witter.

Central Bank owns property to the west of Sommers Avenue.

Bank president and CEO John DuBois attended the July 9 meeting and also expressed concerns about the proposal.

The bank property is primarly used as a parking lot for bank employees and community residents.

"As it is today, the change isn't a problem, but it could affect any future plans (for the property)," said DuBois. "It could impact the development of the property and it could devalue the property."

Alderman Doug Crow asked Witter if the church could accomplish their same goals by receiving permission to temporarily block Sommers Avenue on Sundays during church services.

Witter said the "logistics" of that wouldn't work. "We wouldn't be able to stripe it to create a uniform flow. Elevation wise, we also couldn't make the changes we want."

At the city council meeting which immediately followed a public hearing on the Sommers Avenue proposal, aldermen voted to delay action on the decision.

Aldermen Derek Betcher and Justin Snodgrass, who both attend First United Methodist Church, recused themselves from the vote.

At the July 9 city council meeting, aldermen also:

• Approved a developmental agreement with Maple Leaf Farms LLC and approved an intergovernmental agreement for the subdivision. The city and other local taxing districts have agreed to temporarily forego property taxes from new homes built in the subdivision with those funds then being used to pay for a state-mandated turn lane from Route 82 into the subdivision. Alderman Crow abstained from the developmental agreement vote.

• Issued a "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Week" proclamation for the week of Aug. 7-11.