Permit for a church in EFU Zone delayed
- Bill Sheehy
- Central Oregonian - Features
Although it is located in an EFU (exclusive farm use) zoned part of the county, with pastures complete with cows and horses all around, the home of Richard and Margaret Szymanski is not your typical farm house. The Szymanski's have applied for a permit to use their property as a "mission retreat and gallery."
>An application for a mission, Bed and Breakfast, interior design business, retreat and gallery has raised many questions which resulted in it being tabled for a month
A six-foot cedar fence surrounds the long, narrow piece of land the house sits on, and once inside that fence it is obvious the house is not typical in any sense. Richard Szymanski is a professional plasterer and throughout the structure that professionalism shows. His wife, Margaret, operates an interior decorating business and those skills and talents are also on display.
Years ago, according to county records, there were two houses on the property. Today there is one long series of rooms connected into a single structure. There is no record in the county planning and building department of any building permits being issued for the remodeling.
At the front of the property is an enclosed swimming pool, at the other end, past the driveway that circles back on itself, are lawns, horseshoe pits and a pond. Statuary, stone lamps and landscaping offer a quiet serenity about the place.
That serenity is no accident, this is the Mission of Commn Belief (sic). A place, Szymanski told the county planning commission, where people can come and relax in a spiritual setting.
"We don't consider ourselves a church," he explained, "that's why we call ourselves a mission."
The application submitted to the county is for a series of home occupations: interior design, gallery and wedding retreat with overnight accommodations, similar to bed and breakfast rooms/suites available at the Mission.
Along with the desire to be allowed to offer spiritual solace, perform weddings and give counseling, there are problems that must be resolved.
Within the EFU zoning, county Environmental Health Director Russ Hansen told the planners, a church and a bed and breakfast are allowed.
"The structure is highly decorated, with the wife doing the interior decorating that people would look at," Hansen explained, "and that could be construed to be a home occupation which is not allowed in that zoning."
The Bed and Breakfast issue, Hansen added, is described as having more than two bedrooms and offers breakfast. That would require a state license and expanded facilities such as an DEQ certified kitchen. A hostel, on the other hand, can be rented on a daily basis and would not require the kitchen. Under state law, however, in both cases the swimming pool would have to meet all safety standards.
Another issue brought forward by Hansen is that, reportedly there are three wells and two septic systems on the property. "There is no record of them. The wells would have to be brought up to state public water system standards. The septic systems could probably be used," Hansen said, "until they failed and then brought up to standards."
Szymanski explained that he might have misspoke in making his application. His using the term Bed and Breakfast was just a generic term, "It is not our plan to operate one. We meant to have an opportunity for, say someone wanted to do a wedding and then honeymoon there. We'd be set up for that."
His wife's interior decorating business, he went on to explain, has its office downtown location, at a Sixth Street location. The gallery concept at the mission would be to merely display her abilities. "Any tours we would give would be for small groups wedding parties or to show examples of my wife's talents," Szymanski said.
Another issue raised by neighbors is parking. There is obviously little room for parking on the narrow property. Szymanski told the planners that typically, there would be no more than half a dozen, possibly a maximum of 10 to 12 vehicles parked there at one time.
One issue that was not addressed during the planning commission meeting was talked about with reporters after the meeting.
According to information forwarded to the planning department by the applicant, the Mission of Commn Belief (sic) is certified by The Assembly of the Church of the Universe.
A search of the Internet webpage for the parent church turned up the following Church Mandate:
Church members are required to use God's Tree of Life, (Cannabis, Marijuana), as a sacrament in their lives and worship. It is required in their search for an understanding of their spirituality and connection with Almighty God.
Church members are required to provide medicinal sacrament to the sick.
Church members are encouraged to surround themselves with the holy Tree of Life, not just inhaling it, but wearing it, growing it, writing on it, eating it, etc. They decide for themselves ways and times to use God)s Tree of Life. (WWW..iamm.com/)
The mission of the Commn Belief involves a different set of teachings, however. In an attachment to the conditional use permit, it was explained the mission "of the commn Belief Monthly Family Potluck Fellowship. Held the second Sunday of the month, the Fellowship is "a get together more with the spirit of a picnic. We do not have a service where people sit down and listen to someone else ideas. Instead people "wander" and enjoy all the house, property and gardens along with conversations with those they choose to talk to."
Szymanski said both he and his wife are ordained ministers and can perform weddings and give counseling. In addition, he is registered with the state as a medical marijuana patient as well as a registered medical marijuana caregiver. By state law, that allows him to grow and provide cannabis for others holding a medical marijuana patient authorization.
"I don't know how far to go with this topic," Szymanski said when asked about that part of his operation. He is registered with the state to use marijuana as treatment and said he wanted to help others in the same situation. "As a spiritual person, I decided to go in this direction. Through our legal medical program, our non-profit mission gives people someplace to go. This is respectable," he added, "and we are respectable."
The county's legal advisor was absent at the Wednesday meeting and because the planning commission wanted to be on firm legal ground, the application before the planning commission was tabled. Chairman Chet Petersen told Szymanski that with his concurrence, the application would be held over. "This will give you an opportunity to better develop a parking plan and answer some of the other issues that have been raised."
The application has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 17.