Immanuel Church plans to move to East Greenbush


EAST GREENBUSH – Immanuel Church is going to city council to seek approval of the site plan for a new 11,000 square foot church at 4 Onderdonk Ave. near Columbia Turnpike which was first proposed in 2019.

At the time, city officials found that churches weren’t allowed in the business district along Columbia Turnpike, but that’s expected to be fixed when the city’s rezoning work is complete later this year. , said supervisor Jack Conway.

The city has become keenly aware of a 2000 federal law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) that protects “individuals, places of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmark laws,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s webpage explaining the statute.

“The project is moving forward,” Conway said.

Pastor Brad Guenther said the city appears to be welcoming the planned $2.6 million investment to build a new church at Onderdonk Avenue and Columbia Turnpike. The church is moving from rented space at 1955 Ferndale Road in Schodack.

“I can’t say enough. They’ve been fantastic,” Guenther said of the city’s reaction to the project.

The city apparently unknowingly fell into trouble with federal law when it rezoned the Columbia Turnpike business district and left the churches out of its permitted uses. Officials in 2019 said that appeared to be a mistake.

One result is that Conway can recite the requirements of RLUIPA. He said the city is making sure to take the appropriate steps to open the churches.

“Religious assemblies, especially smaller or less familiar ones, may be unlawfully discriminated against in view of zoning codes and also in highly individualized and discretionary land use regulation processes,” according to the ministry’s website. American Justice.

“Zoning codes and landmark laws may unlawfully exclude religious gatherings in places where they allow theaters, meeting halls and other places where large groups of people gather for secular purposes,” continues the website.

Immanuel Church has Baptist roots. About 190 to 200 people regularly attend Sunday service, and the congregation sees another 100 watching remotely via computer, Guenther said.

The church has reached out to the community to help with the historic Greenbush Cemetery next to its intended location and to undertake other activities, Guenther said.

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and Columbia Turnpike Congregational Church are within the CBD area, but were built before the 2008 zoning update. And nearby is the popular Melvin Roads American Legion Post No. 1231 at the 200 Columbia Turnpike which draws crowds to various events.

City Council will hold a public hearing at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, August 10 at City Hall, 225 Columbia Turnpike, on the major site plan for the project, which calls for a 12,000 square foot church building on the site. of 6.4 acres.

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