Representatives from Capital Worship Center were hoping Fairfax County would give them a break and not enforce county open-space guidelines so strictly. But so far, no luck.
They pleaded their case, Tuesday night, before the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee. But they left dejected when the group upheld county staff's recommendation that the church either scale back its plans or add more open space to its proposal.
In Arlington since 1967, Capital Worship Center recently sold its building there and many members moved to the Centreville/Manassas area. A branch of the same church meets at Centre Ridge Elementary, but congregants now want a place of their own.
They're asking the county's permission to build a sanctuary, related facilities and a preschool on 11.7 acres at Ordway and Compton roads and Route 28 in Centreville. They need a special permit because it's in the residential-conservation (R-C) district.
Two buildings were originally planned but, at county staff's request that more open space be added, the church now plans to construct one building in two phases. The first phase would be a multipurpose building to seat 500; it would contain a childcare center operating from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. to avoid peak-traffic hours.
Phase two would be a 10,000-square-foot addition with 400 more seats for 900 seats total. Noting the county's 50-percent undisturbed open space requirement for R-C land, Attorney Steve Fox said the church has already gone to great strides to meet it. It added 1.8 acres to its original application and combined two buildings into one, increasing the open space from 37 to 46 percent.
The church also plans 298 total parking spaces — 79 coming in phase two. It's two spaces less than the county wants there; but adding them would reduce the open space so, it seems, the church can't win for losing. Because of parking and because the site has less than 50 percent open space, county staff will only approved phase one.
"That would limit the project to a 500-seat sanctuary," said Fox. "We don't think that's fair or reasonable, because we've met nearly all the county requirements." Furthermore, he said, "There's such intense financial investment that — in order to pay for these improvements, the church needs to continue to grow. It already has 400 members and would be at 500 before [this proposal] got out of [the] site-plan [process]."
And with UOSA (Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority) and a high-density townhouse development nearby, said Fox, it's "not a typical R-C site," anyway. He said the county hasn't always applied its 50-percent rule so rigidly and has approved other applications not meeting it.
He also noted another concession. "We wanted ingress and egress on both Ordway and Compton roads, but VDOT wanted full frontage improvements — which would make it cost prohibitive," he explained. "So we won't use Compton Road; we'd only retain it in the plan as a possibility for the future."
Architect Bill Robson said the original proposal contained 1,150 seats, but was reduced to 900. Said Robson: "We increased the open space, gave up right-of-way along Ordway and Compton, decreased the clearing and grading and added landscaping."
The Rev. Jonathan Kelley reiterated that the church has "invested a lot of money and interest" in the project and wants to "make a good impact" on this community. But county staff coordinator Juan Bernal, also present, was unmoved. "This is the R-C district," he said. "We need to keep as close to 50 percent because of the Occoquan Reservoir."
But the WFCCA's Carol Hawn was upset that Centreville United Methodist, Mount Olive and Capital Worship would all use two-lane Old Centreville Road at the same time, but no one's required to improve the road. "We can't have three churches of this magnitude trying to get in and out of that road on Sunday morning," she said.
The WFCCA then endorsed county staff's recommendation, but said it would approve the church's plan if it could reach 47-percent open space.