The building at 43 Wentworth St. was built as a church, and should remain so absent a compelling reason for a change. Its future as such is in serious jeopardy following a decision by the city of Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals to grant a variance so it can be used for residential and office purposes.
The decision should be reversed by Charleston City Council, which has the authority to overturn the BZA in this instance.
Councilman Blake Hallman plans to make a motion to that effect at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. He should have the support of his colleagues. Mr. Hallman outlines his opposition to plans for the building in a column on our Commentary page.
The fact that the building is currently occupied by another congregation should bolster the resolve to ensure that this Ansonborough landmark retains its historic use.
The building is owned by a Lutheran church that has moved its congregation elsewhere. In recent years, it has served as home to Redeemer Presbyterian Church, which rents the property, but wants to remain there permanently. While it doesn’t have the resources to buy the structure at present, its membership has expressed a strong desire to undertake a fund-raising campaign.
Why not give them an opportunity to do so?
If Redeemer is successful, the church building could retain its historic use in this historic neighborhood. The structure wouldn’t have to be compromised for another purpose.
And the current congregation would get to stay in a setting to which its members have grown greatly attached.
The decision to allow the building to be used for another purpose has resulted in a cascade of letters to the editor in opposition.
Some critics cite the shortcomings of the BZA action, saying that the proposal didn’t meet the hardship threshold required for the variance. Others decry the decision to sell the building when the current tenant wants to maintain it for its historic use.
Allowing this church to be altered for residential and commercial space shouldn’t be allowed to happen, certainly not when there’s every likelihood that the church can continue to be used for its original purpose.