Is a church-run child care center a permissible activity on church property zoned exclusively for church or residential purposes?
Yes, concluded the Missouri Supreme Court. The court acknowledged that the zoning ordinance did not allow child care facilities in the neighborhood in which the church was located, but it concluded that such an activity was a permissible "accessory" use.
The court observed: "The day care program is subordinate to the principal use of the church. It was created by the governing body of the church and funded by the church. The governing body determined the curriculum for the program and hired a director.
The record shows that the church operates the day care to attract new members to the church and accomplish its mission of preaching the gospel and serving the community. Similarly, the day care is subordinate in area to the principal building and use of the church. The day care service contributes to the comfort and convenience of the church parishioners by providing child care for them.
The day care proper is located on the same lot as the church and it is located in the same zoning district." Accordingly, the child care center was an accessory use of the church under Missouri law and was a permissible use of church property. City of Richmond Heights v. Richmond Heights Presbyterian Church, 764 S.W.2d 647 (Mo. 1989).