Eldersburg parish seeks to build in rural Balto. County Neighbors say church would draw traffic, pollution to their area

August 20, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

In the latest "mega-church" proposal to hit Baltimore County, an Eldersburg congregation plans to build a sanctuary seating up to 2,000 people -- raising concerns of residents who fear traffic congestion and pollution in the rural area.

Carroll Community Church, a nondenominational Christian congregation that holds services at Liberty High School, wants to build a sanctuary and retreat on the Baltimore County-Carroll County line to accommodate its growing membership.

"We have become a regional church," said the Rev. Joe Duke, whose congregation has grown from 25 to 600 members in the past 10 years. The church, he said, has a contract to purchase 65 acres for a sanctuary and retreat at Route 91 and Mount Gilead Road.

But nearby residents and Baltimore County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a Republican who represents the area, oppose putting such a large facility in the rural area.

"Houses of worship should move to the people, not have the people come to the church," McIntire said.

Carroll Community Church's proposal is the latest in several "mega-church" plans that have raised concerns among residents rural areas.

NB In Granite, residents oppose plans of Bethel African Methodist

Episcopal Church to build a 3,000-seat church near Old Court and Dogwood roads in Baltimore County. The church is conducting land studies for that site, where it also hopes to build offices, a cafeteria and banquet hall, auditorium, gymnasium and health club.

Large churches also have prompted debate in Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties, with some residents saying the facilities are out of character with the rural landscape.

Duke said his congregation has raised $400,000 to purchase the property, and expects to conclude the agreement in eight or nine months, pending completion of engineering studies.

But construction would not begin for five or six years, giving the congregation time to raise money for the project, he said.

Duke said the church plans to start with a sanctuary that would seat 500, and be able to expand to 2,000. The congregation might also build facilities for a retreat.

Duke said the church would generate traffic only one day a week, and far less than the usual flow of weekday commuters who travel the roads on their way from Pennsylvania and Carroll County to work in the Baltimore area.

Woods on the tract would be left undisturbed, he said.

"It would be a positive influence in the community," he said.

But McIntire and area residents say they are worried that the two-lane roads in the area would be unable to handle the traffic the church would generate.

"While I support their efforts to enlarge their church, I find that location totally inappropriate," said McIntire, who met with church officials last week.

Before the plan could be approved, the church would need a special exception from a Baltimore County hearing officer. The church would have to prove that the facility would not harm the "health, safety and welfare" of the neighborhood.

Although a number of large churches have been proposed in rural Baltimore County, the churches either were scaled back or never built, McIntire said.

dTC George Harman, president of the Hanover Road Community Association, which was briefed on the church proposal last week, said his organization is concerned but has not taken a position on the project.

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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