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By Grace Carr
The Californian city of Palo Alta is cracking down on churches that sublet property to cut costs, going so far as to tell one church that its current tenants have to leave in the upcoming weeks or the church will face serious fines.
The city sent a letter to Pastor Rick Mixon of First Baptist Church ordering him to stop all non-religious activities and demanding that the occupants evacuate their stay by August 17 according to CBS Local News.
The meaning of non-religious however, is a bit of a grey area according to Pastor Mixon who said that the meaning of Church has changed over time, and noted that the church engages in many “non-religious” activities — or what might be considered so by the city council — that still have a spiritual element, bringing family and friends together in thanks. Historically, the church has rented its second floor out to music and dance classes, choir practice, and used the space to host dinner parties and wedding receptions as well. Church doesn’t only happen on Sundays, Mixon said.
If Palo Alta insists on ending the church’s financial endeavors that help keep it afloat, the church will likely close and the tenants its houses will suffer to a similar degree, with housing and rent prices reaching new heights in the San Francisco Bay area. The church has been making roughly 120,00 dollars a year to sustain and fund the activities it puts on, helping to make the community within which its sits a vibrant one.
The neighborhood is zoned only for residential use, so the city says that every time the church and its guests park in the neighborhood they violate the city’s zoning laws. The city also said it regularly received complaints about traffic and not enough parking, according to Long Room News.
“Our goal is to balance neighborhood concerns with our zoning laws, and to find a solution that works for everybody. We are asking the Church to apply for appropriate permits where possible, and to help relocate those activities that aren’t allowed in residential neighborhoods,” the city said in a statement.
The First Baptist Church did not reply to the DCNF’s request for comment in time for publication.