Only one critic attends church expansion meeting – Potomac News Online

Rural Crescent resident Jim Nichols was the only one who showed up for a public meeting Monday night designed to allow residents to air concerns over a proposed 80,000-square-foot church.

The meeting was held at Sudley Springs Worship Center in Haymarket.

The Rev. Ron Pledger, pastor of the storefront church off Washington Street, called the meeting after residents of the Rural Crescent expressed concerns about the new church’s proposed size.

More people would have come, Nichols said, but they assumed anything less than full development of the new site was “not negotiable” after the last meeting.

Pledger and his congregation is planning to build First Baptist Church in the Rural Crescent. If fully built out over three phases, it would include a sanctuary, educational rooms and activities center, as well as a gymnasium and 800-seat auditorium.

Nichols’ questions Monday night revolved around traffic, parking, lighting and well water.

“My concern is safety issues and the road network,” Nichols said. “In the 10 years since I’ve been here there have been six deaths — all teen-agers out of control.”

Nichols said he travels U.S. 15 every day and would have to deal with increased traffic at the intersection of U.S. 15 and Va. 234.

He cited Linton Hall Road, where the roads have only been widened to four lanes in front of new housing developments — then go back to two lanes everywhere else.

Pledger and other church leaders said they did not believe traffic would be a problem, since the church will only be fully used on Sunday morning, Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings, and only 266 parking spaces have been requested.

In the first phase, only 60 spaces would be needed. “That’s less than one golf tournament,” said Hugh Chappell, chairman of the building committee, referring to the numerous golf courses in the western end of the county. If there is more traffic it will come from ever-increasing housing developments — not the church, he said.

In addition, one civil engineer among the congregation said his research indicated an 800-seat auditorium would only use as much water as about three single-family homes and should not be drain on existing wells in the Rural Crescent. The Rural Crescent is an 80,000-acre preserve in the western end of the county set aside for country estates on 10-acre lots. There, only one unit is permitted per 10 acres.

Pledger said the membership is sensitive to the community, but his mission is to bring people to Jesus Christ. Current membership is about 150, and while he is hoping to expand, that is far from certain. “There’s no church the Lord ever started that He expected to stay the same size,” he said. “But unless we bring in the people and the community supports it, it won’t grow.”

Despite the assurances, Nichols predicted a big fight before the county Planning Commission on Feb. 6. “Bring food because it’s going to be a long night,” he said.

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

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