Troy Planning Commission to church: Addition is a no-go

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 16, 2019

 Bethesda Romanian Pentecostal Church asked for and was denied a 19,167-square-foot addition, which would have abutted homes on Tucker Drive.

Bethesda Romanian Pentecostal Church asked for and was denied a 19,167-square-foot addition, which would have abutted homes on Tucker Drive.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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TROY — The fourth time was not the charm for members of a church seeking an addition.

The Troy Planning Commission denied a request for a two-story, 19,167-square-foot addition to a church on Long Lake Road, east of John R Road, April 9.

The Planning Commission voted 5-2 to deny the special use and preliminary site plan that Bethesda Romanian Pentecostal Church had requested.

Church members say the addition is needed for a multipurpose high school-size gym, Sunday school classrooms and a kitchen at a site adjacent to Tucker Drive.

A special use is needed for the addition in a residential neighborhood. Five votes were needed to approve the request.

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

Planning Commissioner Barbara Fowler was absent. Commissioner Ollie Apahidean recused himself because he lives within 900 feet of the requested addition.

“I’ve got an issue of compatibility,” said Krent.

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 Troy Planning Commission 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 of last year to allow church officials to work on various issues, including the building height.

Tom Kalas, an attorney for the church, told the Planning Commission at the April 9 meeting that the plans had undergone significant changes since they were first submitted in 2017.

“We’ve reviewed the landscaping, added plantings and provided a noise study,” Kalas said. He noted that the kitchen would not be used to prepare meals, but to keep food warm after it arrives at the church. “We are not asking for any variances but a use that’s allowed under special land use. We believe we meet ordinance requirements. We’re excited. The parishioners are excited. It’s a much-needed addition to the church.”

Resident Christopher Hausner, who lives on Tucker Drive, adjacent to the site, said landscaping on the site has not been maintained.

“This is a one-family residential area. They are trying to build an NBA court.”

“It’s a multipurpose room … a high school-sized court,” Hutson said. “I see nothing wrong with this project.”

“I don’t know that it’s an unreasonable development for this particular piece of property,” Tagle said. “These people have a right to do what they’re doing. These people have a need.”

“I struggle with this project being compatible,” Faison said, and Lambert noted that the building is very close to nearby homes.

“I don’t think the church has demonstrated they have been good neighbors,” Crusse said. “Maybe the church has outgrown the lot on which it sits. This is one of the more difficult decisions we face as a Planning Commission.”

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