Approval of new gas station saves Bradenton church

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BRADENTON - The Bradenton City Council has approved plans for a new gas station and a church is being saved in the process.

The council approval will allow Faith United Church of Christ to sell nearly two acres of its land to an Indiana based convenience store and the money from that sale will give the church the ability to keep its doors open.

"The viability of the church was definitely in the balance and we were very worried," says Reverend Brian Bagley-Bonner.

Reverend Brian Bagley-Bonner is the head of Faith United Church of Christ, and he said they fell on hard times. "The economic downtown of the last year, we had several members lose jobs, some deaths, and just the economic downturn really affected our ability to pay the mortgage."

Bagley-Bonner says the church was on the brink of foreclosure, and after much thought they came up with an idea to save their church. "So the congregation, after much discussion and much grief about losing that dream, decided to sell a portion of our land.

That portion sits right on the corner of State Road 64 and 48th Street Court East.

It would be sold to Thornton's Inc. to build a 20-pump gas station, but there was a problem. The sale was contingent on a construction approval by Bradenton commissioners, and residents who live in the area were strongly opposing it. "I’m very upset about it. My main concern is the traffic. We only have one way in and one way out and the draw that that’s going to have is a concern of mine," says Sandy Crain.

Some residents are also concerned about the possible increase in crime or the trash from people littering. "If they're going to have a convenience store there, they going to get off the bus, their going to buy something and the trash will wind up in our yards," says Crain.

Both sides presented their concerns at Wednesday’s commission meeting. "It was ironic to be in a civil court during Holy Week, when we remember Jesus," says Bagley-Bonner.

Commissioners unanimously approved the project and in turn saved the church. "It’s nice to be on the winning side of this. We also know it troubles our neighbors, so we can’t really fully celebrate because we know there are some folks who don’t think it’s a good thing."

Rev. Bonner says he plans on reaching out to committee to do whatever it takes to help them come a little bit more comfortable with this move.