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Fredonia, Kansas church fighting to keep food pantry open - KOAM TV 7

Fredonia, Kansas church fighting to keep food pantry open

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FREDONIA, KANSAS -

It is an issue a church has been fighting for the past four months:  feeding the hungry.

They have not been able to do this due to zoning laws in the city of Fredonia, Kansas.

According to Fredonia city administrator Flip Hutfles, the city's zoning laws say the district which the First United Methodist Church is located is in is a single family residential area.

After complaints of traffic impediment the church was shut down as a food pantry, but letting them still run the transition house.

The zoning law says that no one building can be used for two separate purposes.

"It does provide a benefit for the community for the residents, but the city feels the food bank is more of a - has more commercial attributes and should belong in a commercial district," Hutflies says.

"One month we served 279 people out of that food bank," says First United Methodist Church Pastor Charlotte Coates.  "Keeping in mind that the population of Fredonia is about 2,500, that is a significant amount that are needing food."

Pastor Coates says the food pantry is a huge part of their ministry and that shutting it down is a hindrance to that ministry.

"We know that churches are allowed in that zoning area, so it is a ministry of our church and we feel very strongly about serving the poor in this community," Coates says.

"This planning commission, they do not have authority to judge whether something is a church or ministry, they are trying to look at the actual use," says Hutfles.

After Thursday night's meeting went into three executive sessions the zoning board of appeals decided to let the food pantry re-open but still comply with the original zone law - leaving the church in limbo on to keep it as a transition house or open the food pantry.

The owner of the building says the transition house is already in use.

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