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Huge Korean Church Still Tries for Approval

The thought of a massive church facility on environmentally sensitive land along Route 29 in Centreville still concerns many local residents. But its proponents are doing what they can to make it more palatable.

WITH 4,000 members, the Korean Central Presbyterian Church outgrew its current facility in Vienna and hopes to replace it with a larger one here, on 80 acres adjacent to Bull Run Elementary. It would go between Route 29 and Compton, Pleasant Valley and Bull Run Post Office roads.

And at Tuesday night's meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee, Joe Drake, development manager for the church, explained the latest changes.

He noted that, in January, the church proposed a 286,000-square-foot project: 2,500-seat sanctuary, 500-seat chapel, daycare center and private school. On weekdays, the facility would house a 150-child, daycare center, plus a 100-child school for grades K-2.

Also planned were baseball and soccer fields and 1,200 parking spaces in three separate lots. And since it's all on RC (residential conservation) land, it needs a special-exception permit from the county. Phase one includes the sanctuary, chapel, gym, administrative space and education area. Phase two adds more offices and a Sunday School expansion.

IN MARCH, the building was reduced to 260,000 square feet, parking consolidated into two lots — with 200 spaces going on permeable land — and the sanctuary shifted from the property's west to east side.

Now, said Drake, "We've reduced the building to 245,000 square feet and the sanctuary to 2,000 seats. And we eliminated the baseball field." The plan initially included vacating part of Naylor Road, but that met with opposition, so Naylor will remain as is.

The church also increased the site's undisturbed open space to about 48 percent. Drake said parking was moved farther north, closer to Bull Run Elementary, "to possibly share our parking with them and their baseball field with us."

"On May 1, we submitted development conditions to neighborhoods for [comments]," he said. "And we created a buffer around the road to preserve the exclusionary use of Cub Run Memorial Gardens." At the request of Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully), the church hired a heritage-resources consultant, to do a cultural and archaeological resources site exploration.

"And we're doing a traffic analysis from Bull Run Post Office Road to its intersection with Centreville Presbyterian Church," said Drake. "We're doing traffic counts at five locations, including weekdays." With a June 29 Planning Commission date, he said, "We're gonna try to resolve all these issues now and move forward with the project."

WFCCA's Dorothy Steranka asked if the 245,000 square feet includes phases one and two, and Drake said it does — phase one is 168,000 square feet.

WORRIED ABOUT any further phases, WFCCA's Georgette Kohler said, "It's hard to approve something if you don't know the end result. Much of the community is concerned about the magnitude of this project. There's no way I can approve something without knowing [when and if you're going to build] phases three and four." Added WFCCA's Carol Hawn: "Don't plan a phase three there and not tell us about it. I don't want to be lied to."

Furthermore, said Kohler, "I have a concern that you don't pay any taxes. What will the church give to the community to offset the traffic congestion it will bring and what we'll have to pay in taxes?"

Drake said the community may use the sanctuary for concerts and graduations, plus the gym. But Rock Hill's Frank Ojeda said Westfield High's gym seats 2,500 and a field house is planned near the rec center, "and anyone can use them. So, to me, what this'll give back to the community is minimal. The money doesn't come back here."

Drake said the church plans a 5-foot-wide trail along Route 29 and will pay for road improvements in front of its property. And, he added, "We're looking at any possible spot improvements that we can do to relieve traffic in this mile-and-a-quarter corridor."

Another option, he said, is "perhaps, a single stoplight at Centreville Baptist Church." He also noted future plans to widen Route 29 to six lanes, but Ojeda said that won't happen "in our lifetime, and I'm concerned about the traffic."

Kohler also wanted to know exactly how many children would be in the school and daycare. "I am a taxpayer, and that's a lot of money we're being asked to funnel into that area for people who mostly don't live in our area, but whose church will greatly impact us," she said.

In response, Drake asked, "What, exactly, are you looking for — short of us going away?"

SO WFCCA'S Chris Terpak-Malm told him. "I'd like to see you no bigger than 1,700 seats," she said. And I don't want to see you close your Vienna church. Keep that one open and have this as an auxiliary church, and then it could be much smaller."

"Meet the 50 percent undisturbed open space requirement," added Hawn. "And it has to be in a conservation easement in perpetuity and left alone." Planning Commissioner Jim Hart said the trail should be 8-10 feet wide and, with such a large site, "There shouldn't be any problem [reaching] 50 percent open space."

He said the size and scale of non-residential uses in the RC "must be compatible with the RC district and have minimal impact on the Occoquan [Watershed]. Therefore, in the RC, there's an upper limit of development."

In return, Drake said, "I believe, if we can address the remaining half dozen questions, we'll be in a good spot." WFCCA will hear the issue again next month.