Huge Korean Church Is Denied

Huge Korean Church Is Denied

'It's the overall size and impact in the Occoquan'

The Korean Central Presbyterian Church (KCPC) is a fine organization whose members do lots of good deeds in their community. But whether it's allowed to build a mega-church in Centreville must be decided strictly on land-use issues.

SO IT CAME as no surprise then, Tuesday night, when the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee voted unanimously against it. Although it wasn't something it did lightly.

"To my recollection, we've never denied a church," said WFCCA Chairman Jim Katcham. "It's the overall size and impact [that's troubling]."

In 1982, the Board of Supervisors downzoned 40,000 acres in western Fairfax County so intense development wouldn't adversely impact drinking water in the Occoquan Watershed. And the 80 acres on which the church wants to build is in that area on land zoned RC (residential conservation).

What's proposed is a 205,000-square-foot building with a 2,000-seat sanctuary, 500-seat chapel, private school, nursery school and future child-care center. There's also a 30,000-square-foot phase two for more office and educational space.

Some 982 paved parking spaces are planned, plus 198 more on grass — and a stormwater-management pond so large it would cover 1 1/2 acres. So although this project meets open-space, buffering and building-height criteria, said Katcham, "I think the intent of the downzoning was to preclude this type of large development in the Occoquan."

THE MATTER now goes to the Planning Commission, which will render its decision next Thursday, Jan. 26, and then to the Supervisors who'll have the ultimate say. For more than a year, church representatives have made their pitch to the WFCCA and adjusted their project to make it more palatable to local residents, but haven't completely succeeded.

And although a county traffic study didn't foresee major problems on Route 29 because of this church, WFCCA members didn't buy it. And although Land-use attorney Lynne Strobel said less than 20 percent of the site would be impervious, they were upset that even that much of it would be paved.

"I have a major problem with your paving over 15 acres of the RC, after the Supervisors protected it," said WFCCA's Georgette Kohler. "And I believe your traffic analysis is flawed. It doesn't take into account the conditions of the neighborhood [or its] traffic, or people going to Bull Run Regional Park to use its [amenities] on the weekends."

She also said vehicles from other counties should have been figured into the study, especially since some 21,000 new homes are being constructed in Loudoun County.

"Loudoun and Prince William are building excessive amounts of homes, and their traffic will come through our community — and it counts severely," said Kohler. "And I was amazed that the person who did the traffic study said the 800 extra cars the church would put on the road, Monday-Friday, are a non-item. I believe they are."

Saying she had a problem with "the magnitude" of the church building's footprint, Kohler expressed concern that "this is only the beginning and, in three to five years, you'll come back and ask for another large building." She said KCPC would be welcome if it would "build a church here more in line with the community and the environmental issues."

STROBEL REPLIED that the project exceeds all zoning-ordinance requirements and the church is willing to re-examine the traffic impact. "There's over 60 percent open space, we're providing screening and buffering, we have 57 percent undisturbed space when the county requires 50 percent, and a building height of 60 feet is allowed and we're proposing 42 feet," she said. "And we're meeting all requirements for water quality and retention. What else is an applicant to do?"

Show drawings of what the church would actually look like, replied the WFCCA. "I've been on this board a decade, and this is the first time a church has come before us with no architecturals," said WFCCA's Carol Hawn. "I have no way of envisioning what the front entrance will be, and that concerns me." Strobel said they're working on it and hope to have something to show the county soon.

WFCCA's Russ Wanek had the same complaint. "This isn't an anti-church position," he explained. "I'm mainly concerned that it's in the RC and, as long as this has been going on, [we still have] no architectural renderings."

For WFCCA's Dawn Williams, the issue was clear-cut. "The Comprehensive Plan [calls for] the preservation of water quality and wildlife in the RC district," she said. "[County] staff recommends denial, and I find it hard to go against staff's expertise."

WFCCA's Dorothy Steranka worried that roads such as I-66, would also be clogged if Route 29 backed up because of church traffic from its 4,500 members. But, said Strobel, "Over 60 percent of our members live in Fairfax County."

KATCHAM disagreed with staff's recommendation that KCPC be required to have a park-and-ride on site. "It seems to be an improper burden being placed on the church," he said. But both Kohler and WFCCA's Chris Terpak-Malm contended it would get Prince William and Loudoun cars off the road.

"This is too big, at the wrong place, at the wrong time," said Bull Run Estates' Mark McConn. "This is zoned for 16 homes, and the difference between that and a church that seats 2,500 is huge," said Terpak-Malm. "I sit on the Chesapeake Bay Exceptions Review Committee, and this is just too large for this area."

Added Hawn: "This is a land-use application — no different than any other, just because it's a church. The [RC zoning] says the use should be of a size and scale that doesn't adversely impact the surrounding area."