Brewer Denies Church’s Request to Expand, Church Decides to Close 

A church in Brewer will be closing next month because the city won’t let it expand.The Rock Church has been holding service in Brewer for three years, but started to outgrow its facility. It also has a location in Bangor and wanted to consolidate the two and expand in Brewer.The church’s lead pastor Kirk Winters said he worked out a plan with his landlord and just needed a permit from the city.But Brewer officials told the pastor the church shouldn’t have been allowed at that location to begin with because of city zoning ordinances. In Brewer, churches aren’t allowed in what it calls commercial business zones.Brewer officials told the church it could stay where it is, but wouldn’t be permitted to expand.The church contacted an attorney who wrote to the city saying it’s in violation of a federal law. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act prohibits the government from imposing or implementing a land use regulation, “in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution.”Winters said, “We went through that process and they still denied us. It was at that point that the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., the civil rights division, began to look into it and have contacted us.”Brewer’s code enforcement officer wouldn’t comment.The Rock Church will be leaving the location in Brewer when its lease expires in April. There are plans to expand at the Bangor location instead.