Church plan for school raises concerns

Traffic congestion fears are voiced at meeting

March 09, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

A proposal to build a school addition to Bethel Assembly Church of God in Savage has some residents worried about possible traffic congestion.

The church has applied for a special exception for a 350-pupil school to be housed in a 12,000-square-foot education wing being built onto the church. About 80 people attended a town meeting this week to learn more about the church's plans for a pre-kindergarten through 12 school attached to the church in the 9000 block of Vollmerhausen Road.

Some residents questioned whether the intersection of Savage Guilford Road and Vollmerhausen would be able to handle an increase in traffic because of a new school.

"My concern and my problem is one of the traffic issue and it has nothing to do with the fact that this is a church or a school," said resident Mary Arber, who attended the meeting and lives about 140 feet from the intersection. "We have reached a saturation point in terms of traffic, and some days we can't even get out of our driveways."

Those opposed point out that there is already significant traffic because of nearby Bollman Bridge Elementary School, Patuxent Valley Middle School and Bethel Christian Academy, which is run by the church. The three schools all are within a half-mile of each other.

Thomas M. Meachum, an attorney representing Bethel, said concerns about congestion are premature and would be addressed in accordance to the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.

"The issue of the volume of traffic comes up during the site development phase," Meachum said. "I would say, in general, we don't think it will be a problem. If the county says it will be a problem, then we will make adjustments to correct it."

Corrine Arnold, who lives in Savage and attended the town meeting Monday, said many residents are anxious to get more data about the project and would like to hold more meetings with church officials.

"People are really concerned about the safety of the walkers in the community and how they might be affected by more traffic," Arnold said. "The feedback that I have received is that regardless of changes they could make, this is a residential area and we really can't handle any more traffic."

Donald Cox, pastor of Bethel Assembly of God, said the educational wing would double as a place to hold Sunday school classes and ministry activities. The sanctuary, which has a capacity of 600, opened last fall and the educational wing is phase two of the project, Cox said.

"Most churches do have an educational wing," said Cox, whose congregation numbers about 300. "It's a $3 million project and to use it only one day a week did not seem like good stewardship to us."

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