By Ryan Gueningsman
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN A proposal from Old Apostolic Lutheran Church to build a church for up to 900 people in Franklin Township was brought to the township meeting Aug. 5.
A conditional use permit request was before the board for a church and cemetery to be located on a 54-acre parcel on Wright County Road 13 that had been purchased at auction. There would also be one outbuilding for storage on the land.
Church officials had been before the township board a little more than a year ago with a similar proposal, and inquired about right-of-way issues.
At that time, church leaders had plans for a church facility that would seat approximately 1,000 people, and also have a kitchen, dining room, Sunday school rooms and parking lot. The plan did not proceed.
Greg Halling, representing the church, made another presentation Aug. 5 to the township board.
Two of three township board members, Chairman John Czanstkowski Sr. and DeWayne Bauman, were present at the beginning of the Aug. 5 meeting, in which the church request was the first item of new business on the agenda. Township Supervisor Mike Barfknecht arrived later.
Halling said the church they are proposing in Franklin Township is larger than the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church in Minnetonka. That facility would continue to be used, as well.
It was noted Wright County would require 300 parking stalls for a facility of that magnitude, and Halling said two entrances to the church would be planned.
He said, in October, this plan will be brought before the congregation at Old Apostolic Lutheran Church, as it is seeking congregational support of the expansion plan. Halling said church officials want to have the conditional use permit in place prior to that presentation to address issues the congregation may have regarding the permit process.
Discussion took place about drainage of the site, which shows nine wetlands. Two would have to be drained with this proposal, which has been sent to the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District. Material for the parking lot was also discussed, as was the presence of curb and gutter on the property.
Halling said the church is hoping to have few or no curbs and gutters, for snowplowing reasons.
The board asked Halling if there would be any land left for farming, and Halling said, if there would be any, it would maybe be 10 acres.
Czanstkowski said he personally doesn’t want to see the farmland disappear.
Bauman asked if the church was aware of the City of Delano’s 2030 comprehensive plan, which notes city expansion possibly in that area by that time.
Czanstkowski asked if anyone in the audience had questions or comments; no one spoke.
Czanstkowski made a motion to approve the request from Old Apostolic Lutheran Church for a conditional use permit for a church and cemetery on the property it has purchased, provided it meets all the rules and regulations of Wright County Planning and Zoning. Bauman did not second the motion, and it died for lack of a second. Barfknecht had not yet arrived at the meeting.
After the motion had failed due to lack of a second, Halling asked Bauman what could be done to address concerns he has with the project. Bauman said he’s not interested in a large commercial application within the township, and said Franklin Township is an agricultural township.
He said, in his opinion, if the church were to be approved, the township would lose agricultural land, tax base, and everything associated with the agricultural designation. Bauman said the issue is with the amount of real estate consumed with this purchase.
Halling asked Bauman what amount of land could be sold off in order for Bauman to support the conditional use permit request, and Bauman said 10 acres should be more than enough to build the church, and leaving the rest of the agriculture land alone.
Halling acknowledges this is a large building, but said the land would never be subdivided, as could happen if something else went in that space in the future. Except for the church, it would remain green area, it was noted.
A meeting with church officials and Wright County is set for Thursday, Aug. 29. The township will send the form to the county indicating the motion did not pass, along with draft minutes from that portion of the meeting.
Czanstkowski said it is now up to the county to make the decision regarding the request.