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ZONED OUT

These days it takes something extra to get a building permit.

Wanted: suburbs, cities, and villages where churches are free to build.

The city planning commission of Plymouth, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, seriously considered a proposal that would require all members of Plymouth churches to be residents of Plymouth. They considered another proposal prohibiting churches from building sanctuaries seating more than 300 people. On the advice of their legal counsel, both proposals were dropped.

The ordinance that did pass, though, required churches to buy a minimum of ten acres before they could construct a new building. In Plymouth, where population has grown from 30,000 to 60,000 in six years, houses average $200,000; property comes at a steep price. In effect, the city ordinance raised an almost unscalable economic barrier before new churches.

"You're looking at $2 million to start a first unit," says David Hoffman, pastor of St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church in Plymouth.

"Among Plymouth's city staff, more so than elected politicians," says ...

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