Planners require turn lanes

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2012

City planners on Tuesday upheld an earlier decision to require a church on Nansemond Parkway to install turn lanes in order to operate a daycare facility.

Tabernacle Baptist Church, located at 3621 Nansemond Parkway, hopes to run a daycare at the church to provide a service to the community and help supplement the church’s income. But those plans could go awry if they have to pay to have turn lanes constructed, church officials said during a Planning Commission meeting.

“I would just like to ask for your vote of confidence,” said Nathaniel Scates, a retired pastor of the church. “We are desperately in need of child care in this community.”

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The commission formerly approved the application and sent it to City Council, but a change in the operating hours meant to eliminate the need for turn lanes necessitated the application’s return to Planning Commission.

Church officials hoped that by opening earlier and closing later, they could avoid heavy traffic hours and therefore not have to install turn lanes, said Erika Hoggard, a member of the church.

Hoggard noted that another church nearby used to run a daycare and did not have turn lanes installed.

“We’re asking y’all to give us the opportunity to go forward,” she said.

Planning commissioners expressed concern about the safety of the children who would use the facility.

“For a child, a life is priceless,” Ronnie Rountree said. “I can’t see taking a child’s life for the sake of a few dollars.”

Stan Perry agreed.

“I think most of us have traveled on that stretch of highway,” he said. “It’s a great service to the community, but if there happens to be an accident in that service, it’s not worth it.”

Planning Director Scott Mills said all new buildings along Nansemond Parkway now are required to have turn lanes. The church itself was built when there was less traffic on the road and therefore no need for turn lanes with every new building.

The resolution to approve the permit with turn lanes required passed 6-1. Commissioner William Goodman voted against it.

“I think we need to be fair in things of this nature, especially when we are dealing with churches,” he said.