A new use for the former Frank Acquavia Memorial Post 1344 building on Lake Shore Drive West in the city of Dunkirk is on the way. The city's Zoning Board of Appeals issued a necessary variance at its meeting Tuesday that will allow the Pillar of Fire Fellowship to purchase the property.
Closed since August 2013 due to declining Post membership, the building has been on the block since.
Ed Gould is the temporary commander of the Post and submitted a letter in support of the sale, along with testifying at Tuesday's hearing.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder
Real Estate Broker Charles St. George (left) and Pastor Jeffrey Wentz of the Pillar of Fire Fellowship, pointing at a just-affixed sold sign, along with other church members celebrated a ruling by the city of Dunkirk Zoning Board of Appeals that will allow the church to purchase the former Frank Acquavia Memorial Post 1344 on Lake Shore Drive in the city.
"Post membership went down, different laws in New York state, the smoking ban and that, our membership dropped," Gould stated. "We got behind, way behind, way, way behind. ... So we decided to put it up for sale."
The club has been for sale 10 months but had only three lookers, with the church making the only offer. Gould added the Post has some big bills that need to be paid in a few months.
ZBA Chairman Bob Bankoski asked Gould if the sale would take care of the bills and was told yes.
With adequate parking the issue before the ZBA, Gould said events with up to 150 to 200 attendees posed no parking problems, the only time it was an issue was for the Post's annual Memorial Day event.
Charles St. George is the real estate broker handling the deal and addressed the ZBA next.
"I've only had three prospects on this and two absolutely said no," St. George stated. " ... We need this for the Acquavia Post which is in bad straits financially. ... If they don't sell it to these people that building is going to deteriorate and who knows what's going to happen?"
Sixty-nine parking spaces currently exist with more property available for more spaces if needed.
Pillar of Fire Fellowship Pastor Jeffrey Wentz was asked to come forward by Bankoski to "give us a little background on your congregation."
"We decided when we started the church we actually wanted to be in the city. We had other opportunities to look at buildings and we actually want to be in the city," Wentz stated, adding the building would fit the church's needs. "It's down by the park, it's down by the projects where we would like to minister to young kids. We looked into the building. ... With 69 current parking spaces that works almost perfectly for families, very few people come to church alone."
Wentz said the church would like to keep the previous arrangement where the School 5 lot was used for overruns for Acquavia Post events and the Post lot was used for School 5 events that drew a large crowd.
"We want a building we can grow into, that's why we picked that building. Plus, we're going to fix it up real nice. It will look good on Route 5," he stated. "The last thing we need in Dunkirk is another empty, vacant building on Route 5. We're looking to make it look real nice and fix it up."
A letter from Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Development Senior Planner Donald McCord stated, "the proposed action would have no significant county-wide or inter-community impact and that the proposal is a matter of local concern."
The vote to approve the variance was 4-0, the same as for the other two variances granted by the ZBA during the meeting
The Pillar of Fire Fellowship is currently located at 10880 S Roberts Road in Dunkirk.
Jason and Amanda DeGolier, 25 N. Martin St., were granted a variance to erect a shed at their place of residence while Sean and Trudy Raynor, 17 Lafayette Ave., were granted a variance to install front-yard parking adjacent to an existing driveway at their place of residence.
There was no testimony in opposition to any of the requests.
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