A little over three months after the city agreed to purchase the Ormond Beach Riverside Church property, the pastor is asking to lease the property from the city until the congregation finds a new place of worship.
City Manager Joyce Shanahan brought the request to the commission's attention at its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, adding that the congregation has not yet found a location to relocate to, though the property had been on the market since spring and under contract since May. The city closed on the 56 N. Beach St. site in mid-June, Shanahan said.
The City Commission decided to adhere to Pastor Michael Carruthers' request of a month-to-month lease, though not without reservations.
The commissioners balked at Shanahan's initial suggestion of a six-month extension, trimming down the time limit to either 90 days or month-to-month, which City Commissioner Dwight Selby would later state was what Carruthers sought.
City Commissioner Troy Kent said he would not be willing to extend the lease for any period of time due to the church building's state of disrepair and the liability issues that could arise now that the city owns it.
“It’s just a pretty big concern of mine and it’s one of the leading factors as to why I’m a no-go on this," Kent said. "I think that both parties have had plenty of time.”
City Commissioner Rick Boehm asked City Attorney Randy Hayes if the city could retain unfettered access to the church while the congregation leases it to be able to conduct inspections or necessary repairs. Hayes said that is something the city can outline in the lease agreement.
“I would just hate to be locked in because I don’t know exactly how much would need to be done," said Boehm, who first suggested a 90-day lease, with option to renew if possible.
Access is important, as Boehm said the city can't delay needed repairs to keep the building from deteriorating further. The city bought the property for $729,000, which was under the $1 million asking price. Renovating the building could cost the city anywhere from $2.8-$3.3 million, as a property inspection revealed the church has roof leaks in all three buildings and mold in the existing classrooms.
The church also doesn't have a fire sprinkler system and could have lead and asbestos.
Mayor Bill Partington was sympathetic to the church.
“I can understand how time periods can get away from you and they might need a little extra time," Partington said.
He advocated for a month-to-month lease as he felt it was the best option that would protect the city and give the church an opportunity to relocate. That kind of lease would also keep the "fire lit under them," he added.
The lease agreement will be brought back to the City Commission as a resolution. Once that is resolved, and elections are over, Partington said the commission needs to have a workshop to decide what the city will do with the property. He listed a community center, a multi-use city staff building and an events center for lease as possible options.