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Ministry retreat center on hold

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A proposal to build a cabin-oriented retreat west of Columbus is on hold after nearby residents questioned how it could affect privacy and property values.

2 Tim 3:16 Leaders Ministries Inc. proposes building five 1,000-square-foot cabins at 7162 W. State Road 46, behind Nienaber’s Farm Market in Harrison Township.

The project would cost about $1.5 million and would be paid for with grant money and donations from several churches, said Andy Robison, who represents the ministry.

Robison and his wife, Denise, sought a conditional use from the Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday for permission to build the retreat in an area zoned for agricultural use.

About a half-dozen nearby property owners asked when the retreat would be open, how emergency vehicles could access the wooded site and where the cabins would be placed on the property. They also were concerned whether the retreat would affect their property values, especially if the ministry decides to expand.

Jean Reynolds, who lives just east of the property at 6740 W. State Road 46, said she is worried that no one would be managing the guests staying at the retreat, allowing them to be noisy and to wander on to other people’s property.

“We have had trouble in the past with people riding their horses over on our property,” she said. “Then you have liability for accidents and things like that. It’s a major concern for us.”

Lisa Burns, whose mother, Barbara Norton, owns the property at 303 N. County Road 500W, which is southwest of the proposed retreat, worried that expansion could allow more cabins and more people closer to their property and potentially hurt property values.

“I don’t know how the neighbors feel about having cabins in the area that is proposed right now, but that is not really anything I think I would be comfortable with,” she said.

Board member Dave Fisher asked to continue the zoning appeals board hearing until Aug. 26 to give the ministry more time to respond to the questions and concerns, all of which he thought could be addressed.

“None of the folks here said they didn’t want it to happen. I think, generally, they want more information,” he said. “I have already made a list of things that I would really like to have addressed.”

Board chairman Eric Frey agreed, saying he would rather have the questions answered than the board adding several conditions to the plan because they weren’t sure how certain aspects would work.

The retreat would be located in a wooded area that would be accessible from a long and winding driveway that hasn’t been built yet.

Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Matt Skinner said he was concerned about whether fire trucks could get to the site if one of the cabins caught on fire.

“I’m going to have a hard time getting any piece of emergency equipment back there to help in any kind of an emergency, from EMS to our engine,” Skinner said. “It would be a mutual aid call. At least three tankers (and) two fire engines would show up, and that’s going to be pressing the issue.”

The 98-acre site includes a house, a 3-acre lake, one small cabin and a barn that could become a meeting center.

The land needed for the retreat would be purchased from Brent Clifford, who lives in the house, and is included in the overall cost of the project, Robison said.

The proposal calls for the cabins to be used by clergy struggling with issues such as burnout or needing rejuvenation and for individuals and couples needing a quiet place for Christian reflection and Scripture study, Robison said.

The camp could house up to 12 people at a time, he said.

The project has preliminary approval from the city planning department, with the condition that no one would stay at the retreat area more than two weeks over a six-month period and that septic system approval be given prior to cabin construction.

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