By Conrad Dudderar
Plans to open a church in Yukon Main Street’s central business district are on hold after action this week by the city council.
Council members, at their Nov. 2nd meeting, voted 4-0 against approving a revocable permit for property improvements at 425 W Main. Ward 4 Council Member Aric Gilliland abstained after his motion to postpone action failed.
Frontline Fellowship Church has purchased the site with plans to open a new church in downtown Yukon.
Aaron Owen, president of the AC Owen Construction, explained the church’s construction team is seeking the revocable permit to:
- Take one Main Street parking space in front of the building for a fire department connection,
- Install a fire suppression (sprinkler) system to meet the life safety code for “assembly use” in the two-story building, and
- Rebuild an existing ramp, outside the north exit, that already encroaches about 5 feet into the rear alley. The new 5-1/2-foot ramp would meet city code.
The permit application was filed by Klaas Reimann-Phillipp and Common Works Architects, to act on behalf of the church.
Frontline Fellowship Church has five Oklahoma City-metro congregations, including one meeting at 10 W Main.
Lead Pastor Chad Puckett explained why Frontline wants to open a new Yukon church in the 400 block of W Main – surrounded by retail businesses.
“Our conversation has largely been around, ‘How do we love this city, how do we help the whole block and try to be good neighbors?’ in every sense of it,” Puckett said.
“And how we can be a blessing to the block as well.”
Yukon City Council Member Jeff Wootton asked why Frontline Church leaders choose the 425 W Main location – which Puckett indicated they first identified two years ago.
“We looked all over the place and at all sorts of different options,” the pastor replied. “We continued to be drawn back to an area of the city that seemed like it needed real love, not just visually. It’s a great spot in the city, an area that our heart is drawn to.”
Part of Frontline’s mission is to serve the “marginalized” – people “on the edges” who need help, Pastor Puckett explained.
Parking concerns were shared, especially if the church were to host weddings, funerals and other events.
Frontline plans to place a parking lot north of the alley behind the building with space for about 35 vehicles that retailers could use during the week, Puckett told council members.
“We’re also talking about getting parking agreements with some local businesses,” the pastor added.
Frontline is “a church for a city”, according to its website:
“Frontline Yukon was planted in the spring of 2020 out of a desire to see the mission of loving God, loving people, and pushing back darkness multiplied into the streets of Yukon and beyond.
“We love this community and, more importantly, Jesus loves this community. We gather on Sundays to worship Jesus and celebrate what He’s doing in our lives and in our city. As the church scatters, living lives on mission and in community together during the week, our hope is to see Jesus lifted up in apartment complexes, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces.”
Frontline’s Yukon congregation has about 250 members.
Several Main Street property and business owners addressed the city council about having a church in the middle of downtown Yukon.
Sue Leach, who owns 451 W Main and 453 W Main, said church representatives had not approached her or her employees about their plans. She voiced her objection to council members.
“One parking spot’s going to make a big difference,” Leach said. “We’re retail. We pay sales tax. We provide employees’ salaries.”
Leach also believes the ramp in the rear alley would restrict trucks from delivering merchandise.
Grady Cross, who owns two Yukon Main Street businesses, expressed strong opposition while saying church representatives didn’t approach him either about their plans.
“My biggest question is, ‘How are we supposed to shop Yukon with the prettiest historical building we have here?’,” Cross said. “There’s no shopping at a church.
“I feel it’s a little arrogant. We are single business owners, fighting for our lives right now. And you guys (Frontline) want to bring a tax-free church, one of 80 that’s in Yukon. How does that help us with retail?”
Micah and Preston Spicer recently purchased 419 E Main as an investment with plans to lease the space to a retail business.
“We need the love of God now more than ever before,” Preston Spicer said. “My wife and I are not necessarily opposed to (the church).
“There’s still concerns about parking for the retail spaces.”
The Spicers asked whether the one angled Main Street parking space designated for the fire connection could be moved to the west closer to the Frontline’s building. Owen agreed.
They also wondered whether rebuilding the ramp in the narrow back alley would impact their covered parking space on the east side.
There are no plans to change the building’s historic exterior façade, Owen told the city council.
Pastor Puckett added, “(We plan) to preserve as much as we possibly can. We want to respect the history of the building (and) we want to respect the tile work that’s on the floor and the tin that’s on the ceiling.
“The entire building itself is a beautiful spot. We’re doing everything that we can to maintain that.”
A DIFFICULT SITUATION
Before the council voted to deny the permit, Councilman Gilliland said this was a difficult situation.
“There’s nothing that says a church can’t move into this facility,” Gilliland said. “Whether due diligence was done on every single issue or not, we don’t know.
“They buy the property because the occupancy, the type of establishment, meets all requirements for that area of town.”
Now, the church must receive the City’s permission to add the fire department connection (that eliminates a parking space) in front and rebuild the ramp in back.
Gilliland asked Frontline’s lead pastor what would happen if the permit was denied.
“We’ve tried – over the course of time – to work with the City, (Assistant City Manager Mitchell) Hort and others to try and satisfy the conditions that are required,” Puckett said. “There are a lot of requirements. We knew that going into this. We’ve done our best to try to satisfy those requirements.
“If we were not able to satisfy the requirements of the city, I would have to take that back to my leadership team.”
Gilliland hoped the council would postpone the item Nov. 2 so church representatives could address the neighbors’ concerns and amend their permit application.
“I have personal experience with Frontline Church some years ago at a difficult time in my life,” the Ward 4 representative said. “I’ve seen the work that they do up close and personal. I think they could be an asset to the city.
“I understand the concern the church would take up retail space that could provide revenue for the city.”
With the city council’s denial of the revocable permit, Frontline’s plans that were submitted for review have been shelved.
“They are not allowed to do any work until the reviews are done,” Hort advised council members.