Church wants to move to Parkway

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Woodbridge wants to move from its current location at Longview Drive off U.S. 1 to the Prince William Parkway.

The move has turned into a familiar county struggle between churches that want to grow, and neighborhoods that are worried about development.

The church has put a contract on 37.5 acres of land less than a mile from Hoadley Road on the parkway, and a request for a special use permit has been filed with county planners.

St. Margaret’s officials say their main goal is to become more visible.

“Our current location is invisible and it’s hard to find,” said Chloellyn Miller, chairman of the church’s building and design committee. “We’re a commuter church and we desire to be a neighborhood church.”

The church is tucked away at the top of a tree-lined drive off Longview. Most of its 400 members live across town, Miller said.

But moving west to mid-county puts it at odds with the long-established Hampton’s Grove community. It’s size would almost double – from 24,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet, with a 200-space parking lot.

Until now Hampton’s Grove residents have been shielded from traffic by a single access point – Wade Lane off Davis Ford Road.

That as much as anything has been one of its selling points.

“Our son can ride his bike up and down the streets,” said Bill Bancroft, who has lived there since 1981.

“We haven’t had to worry about too much traffic coming through. We looked at moving a few times and it always comes back to that – he wouldn’t be any safer anywhere else.”

The potential for increased traffic exists if access roads are built for the church. In addition to Sunday services, St. Margaret’s has been an involved community member for 40 years, opening its doors to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, teachers and other civic groups.

“We want to reach the unchurched and we have always been a good neighbor,” Miller said.

But residents fear an acess road running through their community. Meetings to bring together residents, planners and the church were organized by Prince William County Supervisor Mary K. Hill, R-Coles, in August and September. What emerged was strong opposition to the Davis Ford Road scenario.

The church says it has no intention of accessing David Ford Road. Residents say it is still an option if the county won’t allow a route to be built from the parkway.

The parkway brings another load of fears.

“We’re not opposed to more residential development, but a church opens too many other possible uses,” said George Kowals, who lives on Cleburne Lane in Hampton’s Grove.

Some people believe the county’s real goal is to allow more development along the parkway.

Prince William Parkway was originally built as a throughway for commuter traffic. But fire stations, commercial buildings and housing are increasingly developing there.

County transportation and planning officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

“A church is the least obnoxious of the things that can be applied for with a special use permit,” Kowals said. Others include adult day care, airports, country clubs, bed and breakfasts’s, recreational facilities and commercial kennels.

Staff writer Diane Freda can be reached at (703) 878-4723.

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