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The closed Abiding Word Lutheran Church along Range Road in Rapid City on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. Developers want to purchase the building and use it as a bible college. The building is not zoned properly for this use. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Journal staff)

The John Witherspoon College wants to open in Rapid City, but the church it hopes to buy for a campus is in a part of town where higher education facilities aren't allowed.

The Rapid City Planning Commission will discuss today whether to change city ordinances to allow colleges and universities as a conditional use in a medium-density residential zone among other options that would allow the school to locate at the church.

The college has signed a contract to purchase the Abiding Word Lutheran Church at 4021 Range Road, adjacent to a neighborhood of single-family homes. It plans to open next fall and offer two associate degrees and a one-year diploma.

If higher education facilities were allowed as conditional uses in such zones, they would be considered on an individual basis by the planning commission, a process that allows for public comment.

"I don't think it would be harmful to add as a conditional use," Brett Limbaugh, director of the city Community Planning & Development Services Department, said Wednesday. "The planning commission is not obligated to approve anybody."

Also at its meeting at 7 a.m. today at the City/School Administration Center, 300 Sixth St., the commission will consider plans from National American University to move its Rapid City campus to 5301 U.S. Highway 16 South, also home to the university's administrative offices.

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City staff is recommending approval of the plans.

Contact Barbara Soderlin at 394-8417 or barbara.soderlin@rapidcityjournal.com.

 

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