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Church’s Project Warm can continue to stockpile firewood

A few months back, you reported on the potential for Westminster Presbyterian’s firewood charity to be shut down if the city didn’t approve changes to its conditional use permit. How did that all turn out?

— Frannie L.

We can only guess that it’s our annual wildfire season that has you thinking of Westminster Presbyterian’s Project Warm in August, Frannie, but your question is timely.

At its July 19 meeting, Medford City Council voted to dismiss an appeal by a resident who complained about the wood pile.

The Planning Commission decided to amend the church’s conditional use permit, allowing it to keep the significant amount of wood it distributes in colder months to residents challenged by finances, physical disabilities or a combination.

Back in December, one neighbor said the wood pile was contributing to a neighborhood rodent problem by giving the critters a place to hide. The city, after checking on and dismissing the rodent concern, told the church that zoning did not allow it to hold that large of an amount of wood on its property. Since then, the church has been trying to secure a conditional use permit to continue the program.

The Planning Commission approved the permit, but the same neighbor appealed the decision, said Planning Director Matt Brinkley.

Brinkley said the appeal is in a second reading phase.

Three City Council members abstained from voting because they are Westminster Presbyterian Church members, he said. The second reading will likely go to another vote with the same abstentions and outcome, Brinkley said.

“As far as the city is concerned, this land-use issue has been decided,” he said.

Barnabas Sprinkle, lead pastor of Westminster Presbyterian, said he was grateful to the city and the Planning Commission for their decision to allow the program to continue on-site.

“I’m glad they listen to citizen complaints, but in the end I think they made the right choice,” he said.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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