Board grants special-use permit for new sanctuary at UCF

This architect’s rendering shows the proposed design for Unified Coastal Fellowship Church’s new sanctuary, to be constructed at 2900 Bridges St. The Morehead City Board of Adjustment granted the church a special-use permit and variances to be able to construct the new building. (Contributed graphic) 

MOREHEAD CITY — The Unitarian Coastal Fellowship Church will soon be getting a new sanctuary thanks to the Morehead City Board of Adjustment’s decision last week to issue a special-use permit for the new building.

The BOA, which is quasi-judicial in nature, met in person and via Zoom Dec. 10 for a joint November and December meeting to hear the case for granting the special-use permit. The church, located at 2900 Bridges St., also requested variances from parking and setback requirements, with issuance of the special-use permit contingent on the board approving those variances.

UCF member Tom Cullison appeared before the BOA to provide background on the case. As he explained, the church purchased the property on Bridges Street, which houses a sanctuary, Sunday school/office building and a shed, in February 2019. He noted various congregations have occupied the property over the years, and the sanctuary has been in use continuously since it was built in 1956.

“UCF has utilized this sanctuary and Sunday school building for various church purposes beginning on March 14, shortly after the purchase,” Mr. Cullison said.

UCF completed renovations on the Sunday school building in early 2020 with plans to do the same for the sanctuary building. However, during that planning process, the church realized constructing a new building altogether would be the better route.   

“Our original intention was also to renovate the existing sanctuary, however, after careful consideration and input from many local and eastern North Carolina tradespeople, it became obvious that replacement with a modern facility is financially, functionally and aesthetically a much better option,” Mr. Cullison said.

“Not only were there significant mold, structural damage and electrical system issues beyond what was determined during due diligence, a second elevation survey of the property confirmed that the sanctuary slab of the existing building was below grade, meaning that any time significant rainfall occurs this building would be flooded,” he continued.

The BOA also heard expert testimony from attorney Russell Alexander, who represented the church; Robert Jameson, project manager for Smithson Inc., the design-build firm working with UCF on the new building; and Chase Cullipher of the Cullipher Group, which is also part of the design team.

The presentation of evidence and ensuing deliberation lasted more than an hour, but in the end, the BOA found the request satisfied all special-use criteria outlined in the Unified Development Ordinance. With unanimous votes all around, the board granted the parking and setback variances and the special-use permit.

In other business, the BOA also approved an order for issuance of a special-use permit for a self-service storage facility at 1109 N. 20th St. The board also approved minutes of the Oct. 22 meeting.


Contact Elise Clouser at; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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