‘Ambitious’ church hits zoning wall
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Nearly 50 members of the Sandy Creek Baptist Church attended last week's Planning Commission meeting, showing their support for a request to expand their facility by adding an 8,000-square-foot multi-purpose hall to the property.
About two dozen neighbors in opposition to the church's site plan also attended the meeting, which was at times contentious.
The church had asked the commission to approve both the building of the new multi-purpose hall, which will be completed in stages as the church raises the cash needed, as well as a comprehensive site plan which included a number of future facilities on the church campus, including a ball field, a retirement home for missionaries and a new sanctuary.
County staff and commission members made clear fairly quickly that the wide-ranging site plan would not be approved by the group; rather, church members would have to come back to the commission as various projects develop over time for permission to continue to build in the Agricultural zoning district. But the new hall was unanimously approved; Morgan County Senior Planner Allison Moon described it as a structure very typical of church campuses in the area
Church pastor Byron Lee said that the exterior of the new building would be clad to match the existing church structure, in accordance with deed covenants.
A couple of neighbors, including Chris Brandon and Gary Sherwood, spoke in opposition to the church's plans.
“I want everybody to understand that I am not against church business,” said Brandon. “But I want to talk about intent...the potential is there for this whole property to become [something] far from the intent of the buyer and the seller of the property.”
Neighbors contended that the area around Sandy Creek and Hestertown Roads was never intended to be anything but residential and rural in character.
“The church has presented a site plan...that has a real broad brush to it,” said Sherwood.
“I absolutely agree that the site plan is way too ambitious to approve in toto tonight,” said planning commissioner Brian Lehman.
“I agree,” said commissioner Tom Joiner. “I don't know if it's ambitious, but it's not specific.”