Reuse of a former church building was approved by the Schuylkill County Zoning Hearing Board.

The former Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church building, located in Branchdale, Branch Township, was purchased by Ronald R. Coles. He applied to the zoning hearing board for a special exception from the county zoning ordinance so that he could operate in the building a music studio to give lessons or instructional on musical instruments such as piano, organ, trumpet and voice. He also said he would teach related music use such as recording and creating music CDs and DVDs.

The building would also serve as a place for student musicians to perform and give recitals, as well as for guest artists and musicians to present master classes and concerts.

He also plans to rent space for community meetings, for small or growing church congregations and for weddings and funerals. The facility is not to operate after 9 p.m.

Schuylkill County has seen many church properties offered for sale and it revised the county zoning ordinance in 2010 to established a section for providing an adaptive reuse of former places of worship.

Section 402 (A) (1)(a) zoning ordinance of 2010 may allow the conversion of the church buildings into offices, personal service use, community centers, wedding chapels, banquet halls, funeral homes, or other uses that the zoning hearing board determines are similar.

The applicant shall not be required to show proof of hardship to gain approval. Parking for the activities are governed by Section 601 of the new ordinance. This section states each use that is newly developed, enlarged significantly changed in the type of use, shall provide and maintain off street parking spaces.