Church's big plans worry some in Kingsville

August 08, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Kingsville residents will get a chance tonight to express their concerns about a church's plans to build a 42,000-square-foot worship center in their northeastern Baltimore County community -- a proposal that helped spur attempts to impose limits on the size of churches moving into rural areas.

Officials in the Greater Kingsville Civic Association complain that the Grace Community Church's planned project would become a hulking landmark and place heavy demands on well water.

"It just boils down to the size," said Karen Stuebing, a member of the civic association board and former officer in the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy, an environmental group. "This is just a huge project for the area."

Opponents complain that church officials have refused to scale back their plans.

"We have not made it any smaller because we feel that is the space we need to handle the future growth of the church, as well as to do the ministries we feel we have been called to do," said the Rev. Rick Marsh, a pastor at the church.

Marsh said the church has bowed to other community concerns, such as moving the planned buildings farther from Belair Road.

The project's first phase would include a 500-seat sanctuary, followed by an addition seating another 400, as well as Sunday school classrooms, offices and an 11,000-square-foot multipurpose building.

Grace Community is a nondenominational, evangelical church that has grown to attract about 500 worshipers for Sunday services at a Carney elementary school, Marsh said. Seeking a permanent home, Grace, like an increasing number of growing churches and synagogues, looked to rural areas for relatively inexpensive land. The church paid $300,000 for a 16-acre tract on Belair Road near Cheryl Avenue, Marsh said.

The project was among those cited earlier this year when the County Council considered a bill that would have severely limited the size of new religious buildings in rural areas. But the bill was withdrawn after religious leaders strongly opposed it as too restrictive.

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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