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Holy Family Catholic Church is working on building a new church. The new building will be located on the property adjacent to the current church on Birch Street between 8th and 9th Streets. The current facility will remain and the new church will be built just to the east of building.
Architects, builders and parishioners have been working for the better part of a year on interior and exterior design plans and the initial site plan was brought to the City Planning commission this past Wednesday night. During the hour long presentation to the Planning Commission, designers laid out the plans for the new church which will include not only a worship space but classrooms and offices as well.
While each member of the Planning Commission in attendance Wednesday night stated they are enthusiastic about the project, they did have some concerns over various aspects dealing with landscaping, storm water drainage and most importantly parking stalls. Vice Chairman Richard Campbell and Commissioner Grant Martin were not in attendance at the meeting.
Current city codes require one parking stall for every 3 seats in a new building. Holy Family is currently proposing 521 seats in the worship area. Using the 3:1 ratio, this would require 174 parking stalls. Due to limitations of the property size, Holy Family is currently proposing 158 parking stalls.
“It’s going to be nice when it’s done, but the parking is a problem,” Commissioner Jason Hoover said. “Rules are rules and codes are codes. Either follow the rules or change the codes.”
Planning Commission Chairman Kurt von Achen said that the church can attempt to get a variance for the parking stall requirement but that would have to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals.
“We can’t grant variances,” von Achen told the Holy Family group. “Our code requires 174 spaces. You can go to the board of appeals or you can ask us to change our code which can take four or five months.”
Dean Grob, president of Grob Engineering Services, did provide a list of other local municipalities parking requirements. While he did state that there are a couple of other cities that have the 3:1 parking to seat ratio, most are anywhere from 3.5 to 4 seats per stall.
Holy Family has purchased property on the west side of Birch street across the current building and has looked at possibly using that space as parking stalls to fulfill the codes. Design Committee Chairman Doug Pickert said that they were hoping to not have to use that space for parking right now as that would drive up construction costs to build a parking lot on this location. He also stated that church leaders were not even sure that the church would be adding all 521 seats at this time. Pickert suggested the idea of a phased implementation of the seating where much of the seating is installed now and down the road adding the remaining seating.
Commissioner Tim Pringle liked the idea of the phased implementation.
“It may be in your best interest to reduce the number of seats at this time, then you don’t need the extra parking right now,” Pringle said. To meet the seating to parking stall ratio currently in place, the church could have permanent seating for 474 worshipers instead of the proposed 521.
Planning Commission member Johnny Stewart also made sure that sidewalks would be added. Currently, there is a sidewalk running most of the length of Birch Street between 8th and 9th, but there is no sidewalk along 8th Street. The Birch Street sidewalk currently ends at the beginning of the parking lot.
“I’m a big proponent of sidewalks,” Commissioner Johnny Stewart said.
The sidewalk would run down the hill from Birch to Ash Street. There is no sidewalk on either side of Ash Street which runs north from the lower end of the church property.
The group representing Holy Family stated they were not in a position to answer definitely as to the concerns of the Planning Commission and they asked for a one month deferral of the preliminary site plan approval to work out the details about parking and other various concerns of the Commission. The Commission granted a one month deferral by a vote of 4-1 with Commissioner Stewart voting against the deferral. Stewart had stated he wanted to approve the plan but with conditions. All other members wanted to see a more definitive plan in place before forwarding their recommendation to the City Commission.
At the July 3rd meeting, the Planning Commission will once again analyze the church plan and then send a recommendation for or against to the City Commission for their consideration.
Church leaders have stated they hope to break ground for the new church before the end of 2013.
(Editors Note: In full disclosure, I am a member of Holy Family Church and sit on a design committee for what will become the parish hall once the new facility is completed. I am not part of the new building committee.)