last week declined a gas station’s $200,000 offer for a portion of its parking lot, bringing an end to a debate the pastor described as “heated.”
The Rev. Ben Black, the church’s pastor, said representatives were looking to buy roughly 70 feet of the church’s parking lot to use for a GetGo gas station and convenience store the company wanted to build at the corner of Ardmore Boulevard and Braddock Road.
The sale failed by one vote. The congregation, needing a two-thirds majority to approve the sale, voted 39-21 in favor on Sunday, Aug. 5.
“It was very close, very heated,” Black said, adding that he tried to maintain neutrality.
“Whether it sold or didn’t sell, I was more concerned about the unity of the church,” he said.
Dick Roberts, a spokesman for Giant Eagle, said that while the company was interested in locating there, he couldn’t confirm whether the company had its sights elsewhere in Forest Hills.
“We’re continually evaluating opportunities to expand our footprint,” Roberts said.
opened a station in Regent Square this past February. Before plan for the station were finalized, residents petitioned against the change, saying it would take away from the character of the neighborhood.
As a church that has lost a significant portion of its members in recent years, Forest Hills Presbyterian could have used the money from the sale, Black said. But the church also couldn’t afford to lose even more members over the issue. People who opposed the sale, typically nearby residents, didn’t like the idea of additional traffic congestion and fumes.
In the end, he said, the church didn’t want to “alienate the neighbors we’re trying to serve.”
Another point of contention was whether the sale would have been a distraction from questions about the long-term financial stability of the church.
“Some people were worried that it was bad practice to try to balance your church budget by selling part of your property,” Black said.
Councilman Bill Tomasic said council hadn’t been approached about the plan, but he heard that some residents vehemently opposed it.
While he declined to comment on the decision, Tomasic said he doesn’t think residents would benefit much from another gas station. Folks seem to get by fine, he said, and money seemed to be the only issue at stake.
“Not only does money talk loudly,” Tomasic said, “but it also has the largest listening audience.”