Mega church in Towson will cause traffic issues

May 18, 2011

A parcel of land located in the middle of the Hampton Garden community is up for sale. The property is 12.71 acres and owned by the Belvedere Christian Church. The church is selling the land due to their loss of membership and their inability to function as an independent religious operation. Over the last 10 years, the church has seen their membership fall from 200 to 20. The lost of membership has been attributed to the "passing" of members and members moving to other geographic areas and joining other religious institutions. Loss of membership is a natural occurrence of any organization. Survival is dependent upon an organization's ability and success in attracting new members. Belvedere Christian Church was unsuccessful in accomplishing that task.

Most churches are "community oriented." Church members traditionally have come from the surrounding geographically local community. Belvedere Christian Church was unable to recruit from the immediate area and their isolated location made them unattractive to anyone outside the local communities. Thus, the church lost its ability to function as a viable church and is in the process of "redefining" itself.

The First Mount Olive Freewill Baptist Church has showed an interest in the property. In 2007 Mt. Olive's center of worship was hit by lighting and the resulting fire rendered the structure unusable. They are in need of a new facility to continue their mission of providing spiritual guidance to their followers. Mount Olive has approximately 4,000 members. To have developed such a large and loyal following, the Right Bishop Oscar E. Brown is both admired and acknowledged by the Hampton Garden community as a truly remarkable religious leader. In today's world, most church leaders would be considered highly successful when administering to congregations of 300-400. To attract and maintain a church following of 4,000 members is a genuinely magnificent accomplishment and is a testament to Bishop Oscar E. Brown's skill as both a religious/spiritual leader and manger of a large and prosperous organization.

The Belvedere Christian Church property is located about halfway between the Baltimore Beltway and the Loch Raven reservoir and is within the protected watershed area. The Hampton Garden community has no municipal waste water service. The current septic system, serving the existing church building, is failing and is inadequate in size to support the size of structures anticipated to replace it. There is no public transportation service to this area. The only way to access the Belvedere Christian Church property is by private vehicle, you travel one mile north of I-495 on Providence Road and then about three-eighths of a mile on Valewood Road and one-eighth of a mile on Cheverly Road.

Providence, Valewood and Cheverly roads are all small two lane winding roads with no shoulders and no sidewalks. Once at the church property the only way out is, west on Valewood and south Providence, there are no other through exits from the Hampton Garden community. It is typical of most large events to have arrivals slightly spread out, however most people leave an event/service at the same time. The anticipated high volume of additional traffic (900 cars per service at 3 services per Sunday) generated by a church of this size, both during arrivals and departures, will generate bottle necks and extremely heavy traffic congestion. Few people enjoy sitting and waiting in traffic when arriving or leaving a service or an event. This situation will negatively affect the current residents and the Mt. Olive church members.

Baltimore County building code personnel have advised the community that the parking requirement is one parking space for every four seats in the building. On a normal day, not all of the vehicles will be carrying four people, thus during services and large-scale events, the volume of cars will overwhelm the available parking spaces in the church parking lot and church members will be forced to park on the residential streets. The Belvedere Christian Church property is located on the highest elevation level in the community. The overall area is hilly and all of the roads have an incline. Cheverly Road rises about 50 feet in elevation from its intersection with Valewood to the church buildings over a distance of about 120 yards (360 feet). This incline is equivalent to the slope of the lower deck seating in M&T stadium. Most people only walk up and down this slope for about 20-30 feet to their seats.

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