It's been a long time coming, but Mount Olive Baptist Church finally has Fairfax County's blessing to build a new sanctuary. The Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously gave it the go-ahead.
"After this process, we're very excited and happy that we've gotten approval," said the Rev. Eugene Johnson. "And we thank God for what's been accomplished."
In 2000, the church received a rezoning from the county to add more land, plus a special-exception permit to build a preschool/childcare facility. And in October 2005, ground was broken for a new sanctuary.
HOWEVER, the design was too costly to construct and lacked enough seating. So the church drew up a new plan with 1,100 seats to start and another 400 added later.
But the changes set in motion a whole, new review from the county. And now, after countless meetings and painstaking scrutiny from various entities — and almost a year after unveiling its revised proposal — Mount Olive has gotten a green light.
The project's first phase entails construction of the sanctuary on the south side of Mount Olive Road, where the church is now. It also includes a child-care area for 100 students on weekdays, 14 classrooms for Sunday School and other Christian-education activities, a chapel seating 120, a fellowship hall for 300, an administrative wing and 379 parking spaces.
The building will have a traditional, brick exterior, but a contemporary seating design inside. 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 consists 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. And at that time, the church would have to make frontage improvements to Mount Olive Road.
Access to Old Mill Road will only be allowed on an interim basis during phase one, Sundays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Right turns only will be permitted from the church to Old Mill. But access ends when phase two is developed and there's a connection to the new parking at Mount Olive Road.
"We anticipate beginning construction sometime in the spring," said Johnson. Then if all goes well, Mount Olive would greet its members for the first services in the new sanctuary in spring/summer 2008.
"We are very pleased the members have been so supportive and in attendance at the various county meetings," said Johnson. He also praised Bull Run Civic Association President Judy Heisinger for speaking in favor of the church's plans during Monday's Board of Supervisors meeting.
And with the county's OK, he's glad the congregation can now breathe a collective sigh of relief. Said Johnson: "Since it was the second time around for us, we're just so happy to see it over."
Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) said he knows the delay has been frustrating for the church but, in the long run, "I think they'll be happier they got a little bigger sanctuary and a little better plan that meets their needs. Mount Olive has been such a tremendous asset to the community for such a long time, and it's nice to see them finally getting their permanent plans in place."