BIG PLANS

BIG PLANS — An architect’s rendering shows the planned DeBary church, which will be nearly 10,000 square feet. 

A church will grace a prominent spot in a gateway to DeBary.

Grace Baptist Church won the City Council’s unanimous approval of its request to build a meeting house on 5 acres at the southwest corner of Enterprise and East Highbanks roads.

“I simply ask the council to give this positive consideration,” Grace Baptist Pastor Jacob Samples said Nov. 20. “We welcome all people. ... We look forward to meeting the needs of newcomers.”

The congregation now meets for worship at Gateway Center for the Arts, 880 North U.S. Highway 17-92 in DeBary. Samples said Grace Baptist Church now has “about 150 to 200 people that regularly attend,” and he is anticipating growth and meeting the needs of all people “from the cradle to the grave.”

The site of the church is already zoned for general commercial use, but a house of worship requires a special exception, thus the appeal to the City Council for permission.

“A church anywhere in our city would require a special exception,” Mayor Karen Chasez said.

The council approved Grace Baptist Church’s proposal, with the condition that it may not open and operate a private school on the site.

The prohibition against a parochial school comes as the Eagles Club is already poised to build a new meeting place with a bar close by. State law forbids a public or private school to be located within 500 feet of an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.

Although the church will be exempt from property taxes, it will be responsible for paying a city-imposed stormwater assessment of $4,000 annually.

“This will be one of the largest churches in DeBary,” Chasez said, adding she welcomes churches as social assets for the city. “What I value is their contribution to the community.”

Chasez also highlighted the economic benefit of having the church in DeBary.

“After the second service, what do you think the people are going to do? They’re going to go out and eat, so I welcome that for our restaurants,” the mayor said.

Some laughter and a few amens came from the Grace Baptist parishioners in the audience.

The City Council voted 5-0 for the special exception for the church.

Samples said Grace Baptist Church “is an independent Baptist Church,” not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention or any other conference.