Over a year ago, Johnson Edosomwan requested a special-use permit to build a church on property he owned off Chain Bridge Road. On Tuesday, Dec. 14, the City Council approved his request.
"We've come a long way," said Councilmember Joan Cross. "It’s been a long road,"
In September 2004, Edosomwan proposed to construct an 11,000-square-foot church on a 1.17-acre site is located off Chain Bridge Road, just north of Canfield Street. The 200-seat building would be used by the congregants of One God Ministry, Edosomwan’s church. The council denied the request by a four to three vote, with Councilmembers Gail Lyon, Patrice Winter, Scott Silverthorne, and Mayor Rob Lederer opposing.
Edosomwan modified the proposal and resubmitted it in December 2004, but in February 2005, the council turned him down again by the same four to three vote.
Edosomwan then filed two lawsuits against the city citing unfair denial of the application, one as a trustee of One God Ministry and another as Johnson A. Edosomwan, LLC. The first lawsuit was set for trial in mid-January 2006, and the other was refused by a writ panel in October. The council and Edosomwan reached an out-of-court settlement, said Councilmember Jeffrey Greenfield. As part of the settlement, Edosomwan was allowed to file a new special-use permit application.
City staff recommended approval of the request, said City planner Michelle Coleman, because it did not pose any adverse effects to traffic and the surrounding community. But city staff did add conditions to the application: that Edosomwan consolidate the two parcels of land, build a left-turn lane in the median of Chain Bridge Road, and plant trees along the street. At the meeting, the council voted to amend the settlement so that Edosomwan could add these conditions to it.
Councilmember Gary Rasmussen opposed the vote on the settlement because it "never should have been rejected in the first place," he said.
"Almost all the churches in the city are built in residential neighborhoods," said Rasmussen. "Time has proven that they are good neighbors."
Chancery Park Homeowners' Association board member Randy Green said he endorsed the plan for the church. Lyon said that while she still had reservations about traffic and conforming to the community, she would vote to approve the proposal because of the cooperation between the council and community.
"This was a land use issue, pure and simple," said Mayor Rob Lederer. "It's no more different that it was a church than if it was commercial, than if it was a fast-food restaurant."
Greenfield added a "friendly amendment" that all church windows facing Chain Bridge Road be constructed of stained glass, and Edosomwan agreed.
Edosomwan said he felt "excellent" about the decision. "The conditions we accepted to take care of and will take care of when the property is built," he said.
Council also unanimously approved the city’s legislative packet, a list of the city’s desired initiatives for February's General Assembly session. City initiatives included the reinstatement of red-light cameras, restricting the length of time for residential construction, laws against brandishing a machete, and funding for the historic Ratcliffe cemetery, among other things.
The council removed two items from the packet, however: one that suggested eliminating the personal property tax on cars, and another eliminating motor vehicle decals. Silverthorne suggested asking the state attorney general about the feasibility of eliminating the personal property tax on cars.