About 75 members of an Ellicott City church urged the Board of Appeals last night to approve the first phase of a proposal to build a new church in a rural Ellicott City neighborhood.
The Board of Appeals, which has the final say, will make a decision Jan. 12.
"We see ourselves as a part of a growing community," said the Rev. Richard Bradford, pastor of the Ellicott City Assembly of God. "Churches have been the center of communities, and that is our mission, to meet the needs of a growing community. I see us as being a perfect fit."
The congregation wants to build a permanent home on a nine-acre knoll between routes 40 and 144, near Cemetery Lane. The two-phase plan calls for two buildings totaling 45,140 square feet, and a 290-space parking lot.
L Nearby residents have complained that the church would alter
their rural neighborhood, add traffic to already busy Route 144, and pose a hazard to children who play in nearby Kiwanis-Wallace Park.
"Several little kids could get hit," said nearby resident Sharon Dandridge after the 2 1/2 -hour meeting. "I don't think they really took into concern the safety of the kids."
Residents also fear that the proposal doesn't include enough landscaping to protect them from the glare of car headlights.
"Hopefully, some more detailed planning will go into landscaping," said Charles Nemphos, who owns property near the site. "If someone doesn't do some noise planning or light planning, they're going to disturb some people."
Stephen C. Bounds, attorney for the church, said plans include 3-foot berms, evergreen trees and shrubs.
In a 4-1 decision in November, the Planning Board advised against the project, saying it is "too big for the site, not sensitive to adjoining properties and not compatible with the neighborhood."
Under the first phase, 117 parking spaces and a 20,440-square-foot general purpose building would be constructed. The building could accommodate 350 people.
Although the site could eventually accommodate about 800 worshipers and a sanctuary, the Rev. Richard Bradford expects only 350 to 400 worshipers during the next decade. The 3-year-old church has about 160 members now.
"Our vision is never to be 800 people," the pastor said.
Mr. Bradford said the proposed site is ideal because it is affordable and near the Kiwanis-Wallace Park where the congregation used to meet.
The congregation, which has no permanent building, meets at Mount Hebron High School and in the homes of church members. Mr. Bradford said there is not enough space for congregational meals, midweek meetings, music and entertainment.
With a permanent home, the church could hold Sunday school, morning and evening worship services, mid-week Bible study, weekly youth meetings, choir rehearsal, and various monthly meetings, the pastor said.
"We just want to be good neighbors," Mr. Bradford said.