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Mount Olive Baptist Gets First Approval

Church plans to build new sanctuary.

Mount Olive Baptist Church has been a part of the fabric of Centreville for more than a century, but it's grown and needs more room.

In 2000, it received a rezoning to add more land and a special-exception permit to build a preschool/childcare facility. And in October 2005, it broke ground for a new sanctuary — but then everything stopped.

The design proved too expensive to construct and didn't have enough seats. So the church now proposes a building for 1,100 people initially, with seats for 400 more to be added later. But the changes prompted a whole, new review and approval from Fairfax County.

Now, Mount Olive has received its first blessing along the way from the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee. The Rev. Eugene Johnson was delighted.

"I'm very excited about it," he said. "The journey has been somewhat arduous, so we're very pleased."

Attorney Steve Fox appeared before the WFCCA, Dec. 19, for the fourth time on this matter. But this time, he said, the church has addressed the road issues to the county's satisfaction and the project will now be done in phases.

Phase one would be the sanctuary on the south side of Mount Olive Road, where the church is now. There'd be a child-care area for 100 students on weekdays, an educational area of 14 classrooms for Sunday School and other Christian-education activities, a chapel seating 120, a fellowship hall for 300 people, an administrative wing and 379 parking spaces.

According to the latest proffers, in phase one, the church must dedicate 35 feet of right-of-way along Old Centreville Road and build half of a two-lane section there, including pavement and a right-turn/deceleration lane at the property's entrance.

Phase two would consist of the additional seats for 1,500 total, plus more parking spaces — for a total of 555 — on the north side of Mount Olive Road. At that time, said Fox, "Then we're committed to making frontage improvements to Mount Olive Road."

Access to Old Mill Road would only be allowed on an interim basis during phase-one development — and just on Sundays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. At other times, it'll be closed by a gate or other apparatus, so the child-care center traffic couldn't use it. Right turns only would be permitted from the church to Old Mill.

But access would end when phase two is developed. "The replacement for it will be a connection to the new parking at Mount Olive Road," said Fox. "And there'll be sidewalks there, too." He said child-care drop off would be from Old Centreville Road.

Johnson said the church has two Sunday services now, but hopes to consolidate them into one service, once the new sanctuary is completed. He said the building's brick exterior will be traditional in appearance, but "there's a contemporary seating design inside."

AFTER SEEING the architectural drawings, WFCCA's Chris Terpak-Malm told Johnson, "Your building is very nice. Mount Olive has a long history in Centreville, and I think this is lovely." And although a county staff report wasn't ready at the time of the meeting, WFCCA Chairman Jim Katcham said staff is recommending approval.

"This has been a long road for the church and its representatives, but this application comes before you with great refinements," said Fox. "And a sense of real excitement about it lingers in the air; the members keep asking, 'When are we going to get [an OK]?' Your recommendation is very important to us."

The WFCCA then unanimously approved the plan, subject to the new proffers and an eventual thumbs-up from staff. Addressing the church members present at the meeting, WFCCA's Ted Troscianecki told them, "We appreciate your patience with us and your listening and willingness to tweak and modify. This is the way the process is supposed to work to end up with a better product."

Added Katcham: "We wish you luck, and we look forward to seeing that building rising on the horizon."

Afterward, Johnson said that, when Mount Olive's site plan is approved, the next step will be to get a demolition permit and raze the existing building so the grading for the new one may begin. Then the church will meet at Liberty Middle School until the new facility is finished.

"At our last service at our current location, we'll march out of the old building," said Johnson. "And when the new building's completed, we'll have a dedication and march in. It's our tradition."