Monday, December 14, 2009

Good reasons and real reasons

More churches for Goochland

Goochland has been called God’s county perhaps because there are so many churches here. Two more are on the way.

The Goochland planning commission recommended approval of an application for a conditional use permit filed by Springfield Baptist Church to build a church on an approximately nine acre parcel of land on the east side of Manakin Road just south of Interstate 64. The 8-2 vote —James Atkinson District 1 and Ty Querry District 2 in dissent— came after nearly two hours of public hearing on December 10.

The board of supervisors, expected to vote on the application at its February 2010 meeting, will have the final word on the matter.

Allegedly at issue was the appropriateness of the project for the location. Sadly, in this season of peace on earth, the goodwill to all seems to have translated into goodwill to all as long as they look like me.

Nearby residents trotted out the usual objections to rezoning applications. These include increased traffic, threats to ground water supplies and a building not in keeping with the rural character of the area.

The cemetery on the property was addressed in the application. No one mentioned a deleterious effect on seasonal bird migration.

If every one of the 200 members of Springfield Church uses the bathroom once on Sunday, the church will use about 32O gallons of water. The average home uses about 400 gallons of water every day.

Had Springfield Church kept the size of the proposed building under 10,000 square feet, there would have been no need for the hearing or permit.

Wanting to be open and above board about their intentions, the good folks of Springfield presented the county with a comprehensive master plan for the property looking well into the future. This included an eventual church far larger than the 10,500 square foot phase I structure presented in December. The square footage will be doubled when the congregation has the funds to finish the basement.

Currently, the congregation of Springfield Baptist Church is homeless. Short Pump development gobbled up the site where their church stood for more than a century. That building is now on the Field Day of the Past show grounds on Ashland Road in Centerville.

Although most members of Springfield Church live in Henrico County, their roots are in Goochland.

Detractors pointed out that because the members do not live in Goochland, the church should not be here. They contended that the presence of Springfield Church would exacerbate the burden on law enforcement and fire-rescue volunteers.

Those detractors, many relatively new to the county, seemed unaware that a significant number of the Centerville fire-rescue volunteers, who respond when they call 911, do not live in Goochland either.

Opponents of the project seemed to believe that a 24/7 mega church was to be planted in their midst. In reality, the congregation has about 200 members who plan to worship on Sunday morning and one night midweek.

District 4 planning commissioner Bob Rich, who lives on Rockford Road and travels Manakin Road every day characterized the traffic complaints as a “red herring.”

According to VDOT studies, the traffic count on Manakin Road between Seay Road and Rt. 250, said Rich, is 1,900 vehicles per day. Springfield Church would add les than two percent to that number. The intersection of Manakin Road and Rt. 250 is a mess during weekday rush hour. The members of Springfield Church will not add to that problem with their Sunday morning use of the road.

Rich said he believes that the church is a perfect fit for that parcel of land, which is not suitable for residential use, and that he looks forward to seeing the church built there.

The CUP application included a payment of $5,000 toward funding the eventual traffic signal at the interchange.

It was interesting to note that people who spoke against granting the CUP to Springfield Church said that they were in favor of residential development with a density of one home per two acres. It will be interesting to see how much enthusiasm they can muster when rezoning plans for several hundred homes on the east side of Manakin Road materialize. That kind of development will shovel lots of cars into rush hour traffic and have a significantly greater impact on ground water than the church.

District 4 planning commissioner Jim Crews complained about the blue standing seam metal roof on the proposed church. He thought it should be a different color or shingled. Because the church is outside the Centerville village overlay boundaries, it is not required to adhere to any set of design standards. It is not appropriate for planning commissioners to address such matters.

Did anyone bother to listen to the architect for the project when he explained that the metal roof was chosen for low exterior maintenance on a heavily wooded site?

Detractors, who presented a petition against the CUP contended that the design of the proposed church is not in keeping with the rural character of the area.

There is a relatively new home on Manakin Road whose size, according to county property records it is 4,499 square feet, has no effective vegetative screening and is of modern design. Its owners were well within their rights to build their house as they saw fit and plunk it in plain sight.

Tucking the proposed Springfield Church in a wooded area hard by the interstate will have far less negative impact on the rural character of Manakin Road than the McMansions that have sprouted in plain sight there in recent years.

Even though the project is required to build only a right turn lane, that little bit of road improvement will make more room for traffic near the Rockford/Manakin Road intersection.

Presumably all residents of the subdivisions on Manakin Road south of I-64 understood that they would be living in enclaves with a single point of main road access and moved there anyway. Why are they worried about that now?

Querry said that he believes that the proposed structure is too large for the area that he could support a smaller building.

Supporters of Springfield Church spoke with gentle dignity about the positive aspects of the church. Members pledged to be good neighbors and a blessing to the community.

Perhaps the most interesting comment came from a Goochland resident who lives near the Hindu Center on Three Chopt Road. She remarked that religious enclave is a very quiet and good neighbor that has not had a negative impact on area traffic nor the neighborhood in general.

Those who spoke against the CUP were well within their rights to object. However, too many of the comments seemed tinged with hidden meaning for comfort. The objections raised to Springfield Church could apply to any of the residential communities in the same area.

On that same night, the commissioners considered another CUP application for the Grace Chinese Baptist Church to build on 22 acres on the north side of Broad Street Road just west of its intersection with Rt. 612. Grace Baptist plans to build on an open field at grade with a main road.

Again, neighbors of the property raised concerns about the size of the proposed building, 11,680 square feet; traffic; a natural gas transmission line that transects the property and drainage issues.

Ken Joyner, who owns the adjoining property to the east, reminded the commission that he was required to go to great lengths to preserve the existing rural character of the area when he sought a CUP and asked that the same standard be applied to Grace Baptist.

Gary Clower, a landscape architect who lives on Shallow Well Road, observed that the proposed structure is very imposing and not in keeping with the architectural vernacular of a farm community. He suggested a cluster of smaller buildings on the site.

Because many details were not addressed, and the application did not include a site plan, the commission voted to defer action on this CUP until its January 21, 2010 meeting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Correction: Grace Chinese's proposed CUP application has a conceptual site plan which meets the CUP requirement. Also, the proposed church building could not be as imposing as the 100+ feet communication tower located next to the proposed property.