Joe Drake, development manager for the Korean Central Presbyterian Church, told residents Tuesday about the latest revisions to a plan to locate this giant 4,000-member church in Centreville.
The church will submit the changes to the county on April 28. But the sheer size and scope of this project on environmentally sensitive land along a road packed with traffic still has both citizens and Fairfax County staff worried.
"We have technical concerns in terms of making this work, in regard to open space and transportation," said Tracy Swagler, project manager for the county. "We also have philosophical concerns that it's too big for this area and too big for this type of planning district."
Having outgrown its current facility in Vienna, the Korean church wants to build a 2,500-seat church on 80 acres off Route 29 in Centreville, adjacent to Bull Run Elementary. And Drake returned for the third time, Tuesday night, to try to sell the idea to members of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee.
The site is between Route 29 and Compton, Pleasant Valley and Bull Run Post Office roads. The church needs a special-exception permit from the county to build a place of worship, daycare center and private school on RC (residential conservation) land. On weekdays, the facility would be used for a 150-child, daycare center, plus a 100-child elementary school for grades K-2.
Phase one of the project is construction of 175,000 square feet for a sanctuary, chapel, gym, administrative space and education area. Phase two adds 85,000 square feet for more offices and expansion of the Sunday School program.
"The only comparable facility like this is McLean Bible Church, which is in an urban setting and not on RC land," said Swagler. "Nothing this large has ever been approved in the RC."
Drake said the revisions show phase two being built "in more of an easterly direction, creating more of a buffer. We moved the sanctuary from the northwest corner to the northeast corner, and the gym's now on the eastern face of the building, instead of the north." The youth education and activity area was also shifted from the west to the east side of the building.
"We consolidated the parking from three to two lots and took 200 spaces and designated them for overflow parking, with a grassy surface, instead of impermeable pavement," he said. "And on the western side, we're looking at shifting the building 20 feet to the east so there'll be 80 feet between it and the property line."
Previously, the church considered a possible dedicated access to nearby Cub Run Memorial Gardens and proposed moving Naylor Road down and rerouting it up to the cemetery or providing access into it from Route 29. Local residents opposed that idea, so Drake said the church plans to leave the road as is, but will maintain it. And, he said, "We'll probably create an additional buffer between Naylor Road and our property."
The church reduced the size of its building from 286,000 to 260,000 square feet and, by leaving Naylor Road alone and moving over some ballfields, it increased its amount of undisturbed land to almost 35 acres. Drake said the church is even considering bringing sewer and water to nearby homes that don't have it.
These statements made the WFCCA's Carol Hawn livid. "The RC shouldn't have sewer," she said. "That's why it's the RC." Furthermore, she added, "You must meet the county's 50-percent undisturbed open-space requirement or I will not approve [this application]."
By sloping the sanctuary toward the southeast now, he said, the building height will decrease to 40 feet high, "so it'll be barely above the tree line, looking from Route 29." He said county staff wants the church to do a more extensive traffic analysis of Route 29 from Bull Run Post Office Road to the Centreville Baptist Church. And, said Drake, "We'll do additional traffic counts."
WFCCA's Judy Heisinger and Hawn objected to the church still planning an exit onto Compton Road, and Drake agreed to remove it. Heisinger also requested traffic counts be done on Wednesday and Sunday nights "because traffic backs up on Route 29 then."
Worried that Naylor Road is possibly in the path of the Tri-County Parkway, Heisinger said, "If it goes in, then that cemetery is landlocked. We have to protect Naylor, and its closeness to the building is a concern."
WFCCA's Russ Wanek also expressed his views. "County staff isn't the only one concerned about the [building] size — I don't like it, either," he said. "Reduce the actual footprint and have some multi-use areas inside."
Drake said the church already did that and emphasized that, unlike religious denominations with multiple churches, "the Korean church is a one-church organization," so it must be large enough to accommodate everyone.
Bull Run Estates' Mark McConn said it would be three times Bull Run Elementary's size, out of character with the RC and its traffic would hurt local stables. "Why should this area be made to pay for the inconveniences you'll cause everybody?" Added Centreville's Pat Ferguson: "You're asking a lot for our community to absorb all this, without any road improvements or tax money for [them]."