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Town Approves Church Expansion

Vienna Presbyterian Church is set to expand, although questions on classroom space and parking remain

Although the Vienna Town Council approved Monday evening the site plan modifications for Vienna Presbyterian Church’s proposed expansion, the approval came with some concerns. Greatest among them were parking and the possible use of trailers to accommodate classroom and office space during construction.

Because the proposal presented to the Council included trailer use, some Council members expressed discomfort at approving the three site-plan-modification requests. Only after the language about trailers was removed from the proposal did the three requests pass.

"I can’t see going forward with this thing with a patch-up [parking] arrangement," said Councilman Al Boudreau, who voted against all three requests.

The church’s expansion proposal is to construct one building over much of the existing campus, so that many of the wings built during different time periods would be architecturally congruent and would create a more effective use of space on the existing property. The project to expand the church, bordered by Maple Avenue and Park, Church and Mill streets, began with the construction of the new sanctuary, which was completed in 1998.

"We are literally breaking out and have to be searching for space," said associate pastor Wayne Blaser.

Besides making the church’s campus spatially more efficient, Neal Roseberry of LeMay Erickson Architects said the new building would "string the current buildings together," stylistically.

It "really pulls the architecture of the church together," Roseberry said.

Some Council members found the use of temporary trailers to house classrooms and office space during construction problematic. Although none of the motions to be voted on by the Council dealt with trailers, some Council members feared them.

Under current Vienna code, trailers are allowed in residential zones only if they are used as construction trailers. They cannot be used for residential, office or retail space.

To remedy the debate, Councilwoman Edythe Kelleher offered an amendment to the third motion, which was to remove the page on interim conditions and trailers from the motion. That amendment and the actual motion to lower on-site parking spaces from 167 to 102 once construction is completed was passed 3-2, with Council members Kelleher, Mike Polychrones and Maud Robinson approving the motion, and Council members Boudreau and Vince Olson rejecting it. Vienna mayor Jane Seeman and Councilwoman Laurie Cole abstained from voting in this motion and the other two motions, as they are members of Vienna Presbyterian Church.

The Council also wanted to explore the possibility of a partnership between the town, the church and an adjacent property to create a parking garage that would serve both the church and the town. In addition, Council heard from both Vienna Public Works director Dennis King that storm-water-management agreements between the town and the church were satisfactory, and the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) chair that the church and the BAR would work together on creating specifics for landscape design.

The two other motions, to approve a lot coverage waiver and a parking space dimension request, both passed with a vote of 4 to 1 to 2, with Council members Kelleher, Olson, Polychrones and Robinson approving the measure, Councilman Boudreau disapproving it, and Mayor Seeman and Councilwoman Cole abstaining.

ALTHOUGH THE COUNCIL spent much of the evening debating the Vienna Presbyterian proposal, Council also conducted a public hearing and consequently approved the proposed rental rates for the Vienna Community Center, which hasn't raised rates since 1996. Because no citizen spoke at the hearing for the rates, which were raised to make them comparable with other area community centers, the Council passed the motion to approve the fee schedule changes, with the adoption occurring at the July 7 Council meeting.

The Council also heard from Vienna resident Tom Chittenden, who submitted a letter with 20 signatures expressing concern that the town practice of nonpartisan politics is eroding. For the past 45 years, Council members haven’t expressed a party affiliation in office or on the campaign trail.

"We concluded [that] to wait and see for further disregard would be too risky," Chittenden said.

Mayor Seeman replied that the town manager will put the item on a future fall work session.

The evening also proved to be the last Council meeting for Olson and Polychrones. The Council swore in Councilwoman Robinson and Council members-elect George Lovelace and Sydney Verinder, while thanking Olson and Polychrones for their contributions to the town.

"I consider him a friend and mentor, and I will miss him terribly," said Robinson of Olson, who had served on Town Council for 26 years.

"I know I’ll see you around," said town manager John Schoeberlein to both Olson and Polychrones.