Church Special Use Permit Approval Denied

Church Special Use Permit Approval Denied

City Council revokes special use permit it approved two weeks earlier.

On Tuesday, a little after 7 p.m., the Fairfax City Council meeting started, with the council waiting a few moments for some presenters that were delayed by the weather. However, the real meeting didn’t start until after the 9 p.m. closed session meeting.

The final agenda item called for comments by council members, and they had a lot to talk about.

“I would like to re-address the issue of the church that we addressed too hastily two weeks ago,” said council member R. Scott Silverthorne.

Two members of the Council, Gail Lyon and Patricia Winter, were absent from the meeting for the vote to approve a special use permit for the One God Ministry Church which would allow it to build a church on 4280 and 4282 Chain Bridge Road, an area currently zoned for residential use.

“I’d like to make a motion to reconsider the permit’s approval,” Silverthorne said.

“The motion in question is just a motion to reconsider the approval of a special use permit,” said mayor Rob Lederer.

Councilman Jeffrey Greenfield asked if it would be possible to defer the vote to take back the approval until more information and input from the community could be received, possibly until the council’s Oct. 26 meeting.

“For everyone to have a chance to work out their problems and concerns and try to figure out how to make this work, maybe we should re-advertise the meeting,” Greenfield said. Another public hearing might bring more concerns to the attention of the council and allow for better communication between the church and community, he said.

“If the motion to reconsider is approved, it would become a motion to consider the request of the church,” Lederer said. “We could decide on this tonight, we could hold another public hearing. There are several options as to what we can do now,” he said.

“In terms of getting everyone here to discuss the issue, I tried to do that two weeks ago,” said Silverthorne. He had requested the council defer the decision on the special use permit until Tuesday night's meeting, but had been voted down by the other members of Council.

A vote was taken to reconsider the special use permit, and was denied by a vote of four to two, with members Joan Cross and Greenfield voting against the motion.

“This brings a new motion to the floor, to approve the special use permit again,” Lederer said.

“I intend to vote no on this motion, it’s not consistent with the comprehensive plan for the city and from a traffic standpoint it’s not in following with the area,” Silverthorne said.

“I’m also voting no,” Lyon said. “I feel the community on both sides of where the church would be need to be taken into consideration. We need to look at the traffic impact,” she said.

Greenfield suggested an alternate motion to reconsider the approval "in fairness to everyone so that people have the opportunity to testify on the issue," he said. "We could start the process over and allow the applicant to work with the community."

A vote was taken to defer the motion to an Oct. 26 public hearing, but the motion was voted down, four to three, with council members Winter, Lyon, Silverthorne and Mayor Lederer voting against the motion.

GREENFIELD PRESENTED an alternate motion for approval of the special use permit with two conditions, that the church not conduct meetings during the week before 7 p.m. and not allowing overflow parking on School Street. That motion did not receive a second from any council member and was defeated without a vote.

A vote on the original special use permit was defeated as well, by a vote of four to three, with the council members voting in the same way.

The council then approved a motion to deny the church a special use permit at all by a vote of four to three, with council members Lyon, Winter, Silverthorne and Mayor Lederer voting against the motion.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to address something brought up at the last meeting,” Lederer said.

It was mentioned that Lederer received a donation of $250 from the church, which he went back and researched in his financial records.

“My records do not show that I received a donation from them at all,” he said. “If I had, I would come clean about it, but my records do not indicate that at all.”