Balto. County officials to meet with Bethel church on proposal

Concerns over plans for sanctuary to be topic

July 19, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is scheduled to take its first formal step today toward seeking approval from Baltimore County agencies to build a 3,000-seat sanctuary in Granite that has met with resistance from local residents.

County representatives have reviewed the church's preliminary plans and are to meet with church officials this morning to discuss concerns about the proposal to build on a 256-acre site at Old Court Road near Dogwood Road.

Although church officials hope to build a complex that will include offices, a media center, banquet hall, classrooms and a broadcast station, now they are seeking a sanctuary and 1,500-space parking lot.

One of the city's most influential congregations, Bethel has been trying to expand for years because its membership has outgrown its stately, 213-year-old building on Druid Hill Avenue, which seats about 1,700.

Although church leaders say they plan to continue operating in the city, they want to build a church closer to members in the suburbs.

The church bought the wooded property in Granite for $2.6 million from William F. Chew in March.

Bethel's "megachurch" is far larger than other area churches that can seat a few hundred and residents fear that Bethel's 11,000 members will swamp the community's winding roads and drain wells, said Roz Roddy, a spokeswoman for the Greater Patapsco Community Association.

"Our association will be examining Bethel's plans very carefully," she said.

After this morning's conference with representatives from the departments of planning, zoning, recreation and parks, environment and public works, Bethel will have 10 days to schedule a meeting giving surrounding property owners and neighborhood associations the chance to hear about the plan and ask questions.

Pub Date: 7/19/99

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