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Troy Planning Commission OKs church addition on fifth try

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published December 23, 2019

 Bethesda Romanian Pentecostal Church received approval for a 15,780- square-foot addition, which will abut homes on Tucker Drive.

Bethesda Romanian Pentecostal Church received approval for a 15,780- square-foot addition, which will abut homes on Tucker Drive.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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TROY — The fifth time was the charm for members of a church seeking an addition.

Saying the applicant, Bethesda Romanian Pentecostal Church, took their feedback as hoped, the Troy Planning Commission approved a special land use and preliminary site plan needed for a two-story, 15,780-square-foot addition in an 8-0 vote Dec. 10.

Planning Commissioner Ollie Apahidean recused himself because he lives near the church, located on Long Lake Road, east of John R Road.

The Planning Commission denied a request for a two-story, 19,167-square-foot addition to the church in a 5-2 vote April 9.

A special use was needed for the addition in a residential neighborhood. Five votes were needed to approve the request, due to a petition from residents opposing the special land use and preliminary site plan.

Planning Commissioners John Tagle and Michael Hutson voted not to deny the request in April. Planning Commission Chair Carlton Faison, Vice Chair Tom Krent, and Commissioners Karen Crusse, David Lambert and Sadek Rahman voted to deny it in April.

Planning Commissioner Barbara Fowler was absent. Apahidean recused himself.

Saying the plan was missing a report on the impact of lighting to adjacent homes — as well as more detailed landscaping and noise reduction plans —  the Planning Commission had postponed for the third time consideration of the addition in a 6-1 vote on Oct. 9, 2018.

Church officials presented similar plans to the Planning Commission on April 25, 2017. The Planning Commission unanimously voted to postpone consideration at that time, saying the plans were too imposing for neighbors. It was postponed again on July 25, 2018, to allow church officials to work on various issues, including the building height.

Community Development Director R. Brent Savidant told the Planning Commission Dec. 10 that the addition is located on the north side of the property, adjacent to Tucker Drive. The two-story building addition includes a fellowship hall, a warming kitchen, a chapel, restrooms, eight Sunday school classrooms and additional landscaping.

“This application is significantly different,” Savidant said, referring to previous plans. The new plans reduced the number of classrooms from 13 to eight and eliminated second-story windows.

Church members said the addition is needed.

Attorney Jamal J. Hamood spoke on behalf of Bethesda at the Dec. 10 meeting. He said he is not a member of the church, but “I think the church has got a raw deal.”

He said the church was there before some of the homes were built. He said the noise would be nonexistent.

“It’s not an inferior structure, by any means,” he said.

Resident Christopher Hausner, who lives on Tucker Drive, said the adjacent residents are opposed to the church “doubling the size of the building. The church has been a bad neighbor for 19 years,” he said, noting that there were dead trees, debris and wood piles on the site in the past. “This will dwarf our homes. Parking is overfull every week.”

Daniel Murza, a resident on Tucker Drive and a church member, said that saying the landscape is horrible is an exaggeration.

“We’ve reduced the scale of the building. It’s much less than it was before because we respect the neighbors,” he said.

“This does not fit in our neighborhood,” said Monica Hausner, also a resident of Tucker Drive.

Simin Timbuc, the church’s pastor, said he does not believe the church addition will negatively affect property values.

“We did our best to reduce the size of the building. Our neighbors have rights. We have rights. We are part of this community. We are Romanian Americans.”

He noted that Romanian Americans are the fourth-largest ethnic community in Troy. “There is only one Romanian Penetecostal Church.”

Timbuc said that while he didn’t like to say it, “It seems to me we live in a hostile community.”

“You’ve listened to the community and neighbors,” Tagle said to church representatives. “You’ve done a nice job here.”

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