The Korean Central Presbyterian Church has reduced the size of its proposed church complex by 30,000 square feet. But the idea of a 205,000-square-foot place of worship along Route 29 in Centreville still has local residents worried.
Land-use attorney Lynne Strobel presented the latest plans Dec. 20 during the church's sixth appearance before the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee. Revisions were made in response to comments and suggestions from the committee, neighboring residents and county staff.
The site in question is 80 acres of environmentally sensitive land between Route 29 and Compton, Pleasant Valley and Bull Run Post Office roads. So the church must obtain a special-exception permit from the county before it could build there.
Envisioned is a two-phase project. "Phase One is a 175,000-square-foot [sanctuary] building, including a rectory, so someone will be living on the property," said Strobel. "The cellar will be about 5,600 square feet. Originally, it was 15,000-18,000 square feet, so it's been reduced by a third."
But cellar space isn't counted in the building's size, so the most important change is that the church decreased its phase-two building for classrooms for youth groups. It's now planned to be 30,000 square feet. Said Strobel: "It's been reduced in size substantially as it evolved."
And instead of only being a one-story building, the sanctuary will now be two stories at one point and will have a smaller footprint and lower elevation than was initially planned.
The Korean church outgrew its current home in Vienna and wants to relocate its 4,000 members to a new place of worship next to Bull Run Elementary. Besides a 2,000-seat sanctuary and 500-seat chapel, on weekdays the facility would also house a private school for grades K-2, plus a nursery school, each with up to 100 students each.
But that's not all. "We plan a future child-care center, and we may come back with a new application for it," said Strobel. "And we also plan a play field — not lit, and just for kids to run around."
Although the county requires just 625 parking spaces for the church, the applicant is providing more than 1,000 spaces — a combination of mostly paved spaces, plus 198 overflow parking spots on grass pavers.
There'll be three entrances from Route 29, with the main one aligned with Centreville Presbyterian Church, across the street. And the Korean church proposes to install a traffic signal with two left-turn lanes leading into the site at this entrance.
"There's 57 percent undisturbed open space, and 50 percent is required," said Strobel. "So we've really tried to do a good job of providing this, especially in the perimeter. And there's about 50 percent tree cover, where 20 percent is required."
Although, legally, the main building could be 60 feet high in that area, she said, the church's will be 42 feet high. "There's a buffer around the church building, and we'll retain the existing landscaping," she added. "And in deference to the community, we've eliminated the park-and-ride lot and provided a better, 100-foot buffer along the fence to the left of the church."
Regarding the historic Naylor cemetery on the site, Strobel said the church will preserve the right-of-way to it and will provide a permanent entrance and exit easement for it.
She said the church also met with the current neighbors "to try to work out the problems they had" with the church's application to build here. For example, she said, "Regarding the Bradford property to the west, [with] the existing and to-be-added landscaping, fencing and parking, we're providing a good setback and buffer for it."
Donna Bradford said she's also glad the park-and-ride was dropped and "we appreciate that the church will bring sewer and water to our property."
Stobel said the church truly made a good-faith effort to address as many of the problems people had with its application, as possible. But, she added, "[County] staff will probably restrict the application to Phase One only, and there'll be limitations on the hours and the number of children."
"Quite honestly, I think staff is going to disagree with us on this application — not because we haven't addressed their concerns — about, for example, traffic and stormwater management — but philosophically, because of the number of seats we're proposing in the RC [Residential Conservation District]," explained Strobel. "So I think this is an area where we'll have to agree to disagree."
Noting that the proposed sanctuary building will be fairly low in scale, all in all, she said, "I think it'll be a very fine project." However, the WFCCA members still had valid concerns.
Ted Troscianecki said that, in light of the potential additional traffic on Route 29 there from the Battlefield Bypass — whose route has not yet been chosen — "we need to reassess the traffic impact" this new church could have there.
Chad Baird, the church's traffic consultant, said that traffic studies and projections showed that the traffic volume on Route 29 can't get through, as it is, during evening rush hour. Nonetheless, he said, statistics revealed that the traffic impact from the new church would be "within acceptable limits to the county and VDOT."
Troscianecki also wanted to know what hours the church building would be in use, how it would be used and by who, and "will others use it when the church isn't? This is a huge facility, and I want to better understand what are the guidelines for use by others."
Dr. T.S. Park, a church elder, fielded this question. "We haven't had any past record of others using our facility, except for a senior center that's part of our church. [It consists of] about 100-150 people taking classes once a week. But if the local community wants to use it, we'll let them."
"There's a community benefit to what you're offering," replied Troscianecki. "The thing that makes me very uncomfortable is that this is a huge financial investment, and there's a temptation to have activities in it to offset its cost. I don't see any limitations or boundaries in place."
Agreeing, WFCCA's Chris Terpak-Malm said "the proffers are silent" on things such as extended hours of operation for special events such as weddings and teen functions. "You're creating a huge space that, I know in the future, you'll get a lot of requests for," she said.
But Strobel said she doesn't think the church "has any desire to turn this into a rental hall. It's OK if an HOA [homeowners association] or Cub or Girl Scout group meet there, but we'll work on writing a condition and setting some parameters."
As for the hours of operation, Park said Wednesday services usually end at 9 p.m. but, knowing how people often like to stay and chat with each other, he added, "We thought we'd turn off the lights at 11 p.m."
Strobel said Sunday hours would be 6 a.m.-8 p.m. because people come at different times and stay. "It doesn't mean everyone's going to come and stay the whole time," she said. "These are just the outside limitations." She also noted that Friday services would run from 7-10:30 p.m.
At-Large Planning Commissioner Jim Hart also raised an important question. "When the revised Alternative G for the Battlefield Bypass came out, there were concerns that it would go through the northwest corner of this property and a portion of the parking lot and conflict with the northernmost entrance," he said. "If the CTB [Commonwealth Transportation Board] chooses it, do you have a 'Plan B'?"
Civil engineer George Clausen said church representatives "didn't have a good feeling for where it is and hadn't yet dealt with the possibility. But, if necessary, they could enlarge their parking lots and move the grass parking lot."
"It seems to me that's a pretty major constraint affecting the site, and it may mean some changes to the undisturbed open space, the entrances and the buffering," said Hart. Strobel said the church would look into it and perhaps create an overlay "to show this could continue to work."
The Korean church will return to the WFCCA on Jan. 17; it's also slated for a public hearing, Jan. 12, before the Planning Commission.