The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals will continue to hear testimony on Wednesday regarding the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ request to build a 16,558-square-foot church on the Reston/Vienna border.
The church has filed a special permit exception to build the structure at Crowell and Hunter Mill Roads. The special permit exception would allow the church to build a place of worship on land designated residential.
Because it is a special permit, the church would not have to go through the Fairfax County Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
After several postponements over the summer, the BZA heard a first round of testimony last Wednesday, with several speakers falling on both sides of the issue.
Several said the church — which plans 292 seats, a 30-foot roofline and a 70-foot steeple — has a relatively small footprint, and would mostly be in use on Sundays, when traffic backups on Hunter Mill are less likely.
“It is important we all support religious freedom, said John Thoburn, a Hunter Mill resident whose family also formerly owned much of the nearby land (including the former driving range where the new Oakcrest School is under construction).
However, nearby resident Bruce Bennett said the latest plans for the project no longer show a roundabout to control traffic in the mostly residential neighborhood. He said that “just one abject failure in this special permit process that in and of itself is sufficient justification for a complete denial of this application.”
“It has been totally removed and in its place a weasel-worded commitment that is no commitment at all and in fact may have eviscerated the original transportation agreement,” Bennett told the BZA.
Other speakers took issue with the application’s standard of a minimum of 233 parking spaces for the church. They want assurances that the maximum number of spaces would not grow exponentially.
“I have a concern that there is going to be a sea of asphalt,” said one speaker. “This is not a megachurch. Five hundred people on the site at one time is in excess for a low-density neighborhood.”
See all of last week’s testimony on this video on Fairfax County’s website. Additional testimony is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 21 at the Fairfax County Government Center.