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DUNKIRK – A request for an occupancy permit for a church at the former Frank Aquavia American Legion Post on Lake Shore Drive was granted based on the understanding that the church would not alter the character of the neighborhood.

The Pillar of Fire Fellowship Church, now located in a home on Roberts Road, wanted to relocate to the Legion Post.

The permit for the church was initially denied by the city’s code enforcement officer because there were not enough parking spaces for the church.

There is parking for 69 vehicles in the lot. The current occupancy is rated at 162 persons.

Ed Gould from the Legion Post explained that membership has declined and the officers could not afford to operate the facility any longer. The building and lot were for sale for about 10 months and the church was the only serious offer. Gould said the Post has serious financial debts that still need to be met and the proceeds from the sale would help to meet the obligations.

“Financially, they are in bad shape and if they don’t sell it the building will deteriorate,” said Charles St. George, who represented the real estate agency that listed the property. “This is a hardship case.”

The group also heard from Jeffrey Wentz, pastor of the congregation, who said he wanted to have a permanent facility in the city. He said the parking will be adequate since most of the parishioners attend as families. He said he formed the church about 18 months ago and there are 42 members in the congregation.

Wentz said he hoped to gain early entry to the building and hold services within a week or two. He would not disclose the purchase price for the property. He said his church group will maintain the property and hopes to offer youth services from the location.