Planners table church request

Published 10:01 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to reflect the correction that Joy Apostolic Ministries will lease a building already on the site, not build one.

City planners faced a tough decision Tuesday — whether to approve a new church that could wind up costing the city money to relocate.

Joy Apostolic Ministries hopes to lease a building on a small parcel at 1931 Holland Road, and the owner, Lauren Lindsay Ruth Properties, is willing to lease it.

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The problem? Preliminary designs for the widening project on Holland Road indicate the city likely would need to acquire the entire lot, demolish any buildings there and pay for relocation expenses for the church when the road project begins.

Members of the Planning Commission were split. Some did not want to make a decision that could be paved over in a few months and cost the city extra money on the project, which already is expected to cost more than $72 million.

But others noted the road project is not yet fully funded, and it could be several years before the city would need to take the land.

Commissioner Donald Mills said it would be wrong to deny the church and community “ministry that could have been conducted in that time frame.”

The commission ultimately voted 5-3 to table the issue for 30 days in order to obtain legal advice from the city attorney. Mills, William Goodman and Arthur Singleton voted against the measure.

Pastor Brenda T. Parrish said during the meeting she is fully aware of the implications of locating the place of worship on the site.

“I don’t think that was fair,” she said of the decision after the meeting. “We were looking at this as a temporary stepping stone to get where we’re going.”

In other business, the commission recommended approval of a rezoning request for the former Obici Hospital site, which wipes the slate clean of the remains of prior development attempts at the 1900 North Main Street lot.

It also recommended approval for a conditional use permit request for Exclusive Pawn and Guns to open in the shopping center at 819 W. Constance Road.

All three items will be heard by City Council on May 15.

A fourth decision, which requires no City Council approval, will allow Walgreens to construct an access driveway, parking lot and “bank stabilization” within 100 feet of the Nansemond River at its coming location near the corner of North Main Street and Constance Road.

The project was protested by Elizabeth Taraski, executive director of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance. She urged the developers to reconfigure the site so the new pavement would be more than 100 feet from the river’s edge.

But Randy Royal of Kimley-Horn and Associates, who is working on the project, said the company had examined several possible layouts and had chosen the one with the least impact on the river.