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Pastor, congregation protest idea of pushing churches out of downtown


November 8, 2012
Morning Journal News


Staff Writer

A plan to revitalize downtown Salem through a privately-formed Technical Advisory Committee bore the wrath of a local church pastor who urged city council to be wary of the idea.

Pastor Francis Burkhart of the Tri-County Church of God, located in the former Gurney building on South Broadway where the Strouss store used to be, addressed council members Wednesday night, accompanied by at least 25 members of his flock.

Burkhart spoke out against the Technical Advisory Committee being formed by downtown building owner Scott Cahill. Cahill held a meeting a couple of weeks ago at the Salem Golf Club regarding the T.A.C., with the public invited.

The pastor attended the meeting and said the idea sounded good on the surface to revitalize the downtown, but he believed it could have "some dangerous consequences," noting the group wishes to influence city council regarding zoning.

"I think it's a manipulative scheme," Burkhart said, comparing the idea to "The Music Man" and Bernie Madoff.

In a previous story about the T.A.C., Cahill said the whole idea was to work with the downtown property owners to get their buildings rehabbed and desirable and filled with tenants on all floors. Several subcommittees were being formed to focus on various areas so the group can put together a plan to present to city council in February.

Cahill also explained that part of the plan would be to look at current building codes and developing minimum standards, possibly requiring action by city council.

According to Burkhart, someone asked during the T.A.C. meeting about the churches located in the downtown area and it was said that "churches don't belong in downtown Salem."

"I took offense to that," Burkhart said, adding that the block where his church is located was the site of the first church in Salem and sits at the heart of Salem.

He also mentioned that other churches are located in the downtown area, such as Emmanuel Lutheran Church next to city hall and the Salem First United Methodist Church across the street from city hall. According to Burkhart, the point being made at the meeting was that churches don't belong there and "need to be relocated."

Another issue he raised dealt with the idea of the minimum standards to allow the occupancy of an entire building.

"I don't want somebody coming in and telling us we have to put apartments over our church," he said.

No comments were made by council on the matter.

In other business, Councilman Clyde Brown asked city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst about his request to get a light at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Southeast Boulevard due to safety concerns over traffic accidents there.

Kenst noted that the city electrician was figuring out the costs for a flashing light, which would not need the approval of the Ohio Department of Transportation. He also talked about having an engineering firm conduct a study at the intersection.

Councilman Brian Whitehill asked Kenst to remind citizens about the rules for leaf pickup. Leaves have to be bagged and placed on the curb lawn for pickup.

Councilman Dave Nestic relayed a couple of issues brought up by constituents, with one being people who walk their dogs in the downtown streets and don't clean up after them. Another concern was whether there were any rules regarding what time refuse haulers can pick up trash, noting some are coming through at 3 a.m. and waking people up. Councilman Rick Drummond said he had reviewed the ordinance and didn't see anything in the law about set times for trash pickup.

Council approved the final readings on two ordinances to vacate an unused portion of Butcher Road, from the Pershing Street extension to East State Street and to vacate a portion of land used as access to East State Street Sewage Pumping Station.

Council also held first reading on an ordinance for several appropriations and transfers.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at



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