First United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Sam Huffstuler said negotiations to lease The Chapel in the Pines property continues.
Huffstuler said church officials met with Matthew Lemak, chief executive officer of The Lemak Group, Thursday and are negotiating a one-year lease agreement for The Chapel in the Pines property.
“He is writing up the lease,” Huffstuler said.
He said the church is moving forward with plans to hold Sunday morning services at The Chapel in the Pines this summer in anticipation of finalizing the one-year agreement.
Huffstuler said attorneys will not finalize the contract in time for the church to hold Easter Sunrise Service at the Chapel in the Pines, but he hopes the agreement is in place so the church can begin hosting its Sunday services starting the first Sunday in May.
“We received from him (Lemak) a good faith understanding of a lease,” Huffstuler said.
Typically about 150 people attend the weekly summer services at The Chapel in the Pines when the weather is good. Services are conducted by church ministers in St. Clair County and the surrounding areas.
Huffstuler said the weekly Sunday morning services last 30-35 minutes.
“We start about 8:30 a.m. and finish shortly after 9 a.m.,” he said.
Huffstuler said he will meet with the church board of directors next week to discuss the possible lease agreement.
He said he was not certain about the future of The Chapel in the Pines, but it looks as though an agreement is near for this year.
“We’re hopeful,” he said.
Huffstuler said The Lemak Group wants to finalize its agreement with the city before finalizing a lease agreement with the church for The Chapel in the Pines property.
LeMak said Friday that the city will have control of the parking lot next to The Chapel in the Pines, so it is best to work out the agreement with the city first.
He said First Methodist Church will have to work out an agreement with the city about the use of the parking lot for Sunday services.
“Generally speaking, we are close to a deal,” LeMak said.
He said there was no documented agreement between the church and The Lemak Group for the use of The Chapel in the Pines, so it is important to have a contract in place before the outdoor sanctuary is used again by the general public.
He said The Lemak Group has worked directly with two to three couples who had already scheduled weddings at The Chapel in the Pines through First United Methodist Church.
Those wedding ceremonies will go forward, Lemak said, but “we are going to significantly restrict the future weddings there.”
He was also optimistic that a final agreement between the LeMak Group and First United Methodist Church is near.
“I think we generally agree on the terms,” Lemak said.
Currently, the city is negotiating an agreement with The LeMak Group so it can lease the Pine Harbor Golf and Racquet Club property for the next 10 years. The golf and racquet club is adjacent to The Chapel in the Pines.
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