Church blueprint worries neighbors Davidsonville group studies building plan

August 05, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Plans of a Prince George's County church to build a huge complex on 41 acres in Davidsonville has nearby residents worrying that the building with a fitness center, playgrounds and a game room will be too large and intrusive in the rural community.

"We are a farming community with cornfields and horse farms, so we're just trying to keep this as close to the rural nature as possible," said Peter M. Perry, president of the Davidsonville Area Civic Association. "It's the sheer size of the church and the traffic it will generate that concerns us."

The proposal from Riverdale Baptist Church includes a 110,000-square-foot worship center that will seat 1,500, a family life center with racquetball and basketball courts, an elevated jogging track, children's play areas and a parking lot for 700 cars at the site at U.S. 50 and Davidsonville Road.

Residents are worried that the proposed parking lot will cause "a disruption to the character of Davidsonville," said Perry, who has lived on a 30-acre property in Davidsonville since 1979.

Church officials say residents should not be concerned because their plans are well within the law, and state and county officials are overseeing the project.

The church is working with the state on designing an access road, and trees and landscaping have been included in the plans to screen the parking lot from neighbors' view, said Dennis Y. Howard, director of operations for the 70-year-old church, now in Upper Marlboro.

Officials from the civic association and church say they are working together on a solution.

"This is like building a house," Perry said. "As long as you meet all the requirements, you can go ahead and build your house. But, if a neighbor said, 'I wish you wouldn't build a very big house,' you could listen to your neighbor and compromise. That's where we are right now."

Church officials said they chose Davidsonville because many members were traveling from Anne Arundel County communities to attend services, Howard said.

More than half the 900 people who attend Sunday morning worship every week live in Anne Arundel County, church officials say.

"People have busy schedules, and family time is at a premium," Howard said. "We wanted to bring the church to them. The entire concept is to minister to people, so you have to meet them where they are."

Joanne Hall says she can't wait for the church to open.

She and her family, 15-year members of Riverdale Baptist, have been driving 25 minutes from Davidsonville every Sunday to attend services.

"I know people just want to keep this area rural," Hall said. "But, I'd rather if the property were sold, it be a church being built there instead of a [housing] development.

"Also, for parents who are trying to bring their children up in a church environment, I look at the church and its family center as a positive place," she said.

Church officials hope that other residents will welcome them, said Howard, adding, "I believe that the community will see that we will add something of much benefit to the area."

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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