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Church closes land deal, enters building phase

Members of the Hope Lutheran Church gathered this week on the property along County Road U on which it will build a new home in the future. Front row left to right: Elise Forward, Hanna Forward, Spencer Ziebarth and Lisa Ziebarth. Second row from left: Jeff Rodewald, Karen Hamilton, John Hamilton, Sammy Brill, Gwen Paulson, Betty Lou Oppegard, Karen Rodewald and Milo Oppegard. Third row from left: Dan Wunrow, Laura Anderson, Verna Tweiten, Richard Jackson, Karen Brohaugh and Carolyn Jackson. Back row lef...

Hope Lutheran Church finalized the deal April 12 with previous owner Arcon Development to buy 8.25 acres along County Road U near the Sterling Ponds subdivision where, someday, it will build a new church.

Jeff Rodewald, president of the congregation, said the church's lender -- the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Mission Investment Fund -- would like for it to pay off the land before building.

"Realistically, I think we're probably three years away," Rodewald said about when Hope Lutheran would begin building.

He says the church is entering a fundraising phase and may form a building committee this fall to begin analyzing the congregation's needs. The church's known plans include building a church and parking lot on five of the eight acres.

Rodewald said discussions continue about how Hope Lutheran might use the other acreage.

Though all realize the usage is far into the future, the other three acres could transform into a daycare, community, youth or senior center.

"Now we're starting to talk about how we can use the land between now and when we build," he said.

The open land could serve as community garden or recreational open space or be a place to teach environmental education. Rodewald says the members plan to hold outdoor summer worship there when the weather is nice.

Hope Lutheran expected the land deal to be complete at the end of last summer. However, after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) redrew its flood-zone maps, it included some of the church's build-site land.

"Just a small part of our land was classified as a flood zone," said Rodewald about less than two acres, adding that the new classification does not affect Hope's building plans, but it did delay the land deal longer than the church expected.

Rodewald praised City Engineer Reid Wronski and all the "people at the city" for doing a great job in working with FEMA and the state updating them on the elevation of the property.

He said Hope Lutheran, which began in 2004 and became recognized by the ELCA in 2006, has around 200 members and still meets at its long-term-but-temporary home, the Newman Center on Cascade Avenue.

Rodewald said the space works well, but church members look forward to someday having more space, especially for education.

Rodewald said the congregation just began the process of calling a new pastor by forming a committee for the task. Interim Pastor Mark Hendrickson has been with Hope since last summer.

He says the congregation has also undertaken visioning work. While he's involved in most tasks via his leadership position, Rodewald said multiple committees are responsible for all the different aspects of church work.

He said, "We have a very active congregation, very involved."