Church wins vote to have faux brick

Published 10:24 pm Friday, November 18, 2016

First Baptist Church Mahan Street on Wednesday cleared another hurdle on its way to building an addition to its current structure.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council bucked a 5-0 decision of the Historic Landmarks Commission, which had supported the church’s request for the construction — as long as it used brick in the construction.

But the church requested to be able to use a synthetic, faux brick product in order to cut costs and have more resources available for ministry, its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Steven Blunt, said at Wednesday’s meeting.

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“We have no interest in building anything that we believe will take away from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Blunt said. He also said the church aims to build something it can afford that will also reflect well on Suffolk.

The new, 12,700-square-foot building would include a 450-seat sanctuary, a lobby and child care rooms for use during worship services. The existing building, which includes a 246-seat sanctuary, will be converted to office and administrative uses.

“Our current edifice has stood the test of time and has now seen her better days,” Blunt said of the current building.

The Historic Landmarks Commission had noted concerns about the artificial appearance and durability of the synthetic material. The commission evaluates all exterior changes and new construction in the historic district for the appearance, texture and character of the historic materials.

The Colden House, which previously stood on the corner of Mahan and North Main streets, was demolished to make way for the church addition. It was built of brick.

Glen Trematore, chief executive officer and principal of Church Development Services, said the synthetic product is widely used, and that his company has been using it for more than 20 years and has not had any problems.

“It’s a product that’s been widely accepted, and we hope you will view it in the same light,” he told the council members.

Trematore also said the synthetic product has the ability to create an airtight seal, which should help prevent water intrusion, a problem from which the church’s current building suffers.

“We don’t build anything that’s not going to be around for a long time,” Trematore said.

Trematore brought a sample of the product to the meeting, and Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett was impressed.

“I couldn’t tell the difference,” he said, just before making a motion to approve the move.

Councilman Mike Duman supported the move but admitted he had reservations about going against a unanimous Historic Landmarks Commission vote.

“We are setting a precedent, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

In other business at the meeting, council unanimously approved a subdivision on C Street with a maximum of 70 attached homes, and a public assembly use at 7742 Quaker Drive.