The Prince William Planning Commission gave its blessing this week to a 30,000-square-foot church in the county’s rural crescent and a nursing home proposed next to Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School.
Both projects sparked opposition from nearby residents over various concerns, including increased traffic, access to groundwater and a perceived incompatibility with the surrounding area.
The planning commission had deferred in June a decision on the church after hearing neighbors’ opposition. The church will be the new home of Monterey Church, a nondenominational Christian congregation that has about 100 members and meets at Patriot High School, according to Executive Pastor Moe Lawlor.
The church is planned for a 16.57-acre site at 9514 Auburn Road, which is near the intersection of Auburn and Vint Hill roads. The area is zoned A-1 agricultural and is located within the county’s rural crescent. Churches are allowed in the rural crescent but require a special-use permit from the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.
Residents intent on keeping the county’s rural northwest border as rural as possible have objected to large buildings there in the past, most recently in 2017 when the supervisors approved a controversial special-use permit for an All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque, which has not yet been built. The mosque was granted permission to tap into the county’s sewer line.
The Monterey Church sparked a similar but smaller outcry despite the fact that it will operate on a well and septic system. By policy, residences and buildings in the rural crescent are generally prohibited from connecting to the county’s water and sewer lines.
Sherman Patrick, the attorney representing Monterey Church, presented a revised plan on Wednesday, July 24, that reduced the size of the church and eliminated a parking lot.
The building would house a 400-seat sanctuary but would be no more than 50 feet tall. The parking lot will have no more than 180 parking spaces, and the building would be set back 400 feet from Auburn Road to make it less visible from the intersection, Patrick said.
Some residents expressed concern the church could jeopardize nearby private wells by using too much water. But county planning staff said they consulted the state health department’s office of drinking water and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and determined the church would use about 800 gallons of water daily – or about the equivalent of four single-family homes.
The DEQ said the church might have difficulty tapping into a well site on the property that will yield enough water, however, because the property is located on a “diabase” dike. Diabase is a “very hard crystalline rock that is somewhat notorious for producing low well yields … mainly because the rock is relatively young and, in many places, unfractured,” the staff report said.
Before voting to recommend the county board of supervisors approve a special-use permit for the church, Planning Commissioner Don Taylor (at large) asked the church leaders to hold another meeting with area residents to discuss the design of the church building.
Rezoning approved for nursing home
In a separate action, the planning commission voted to recommend the board of supervisors rezone about 9 acres near Va. 234 and Hoadly Road to accommodate a new, 200-bed nursing home.
The area, known as the Geisler property, has been under discussion for development for about 10 years. The owner is requesting the land be rezoned from A-1 agricultural to B-2, or “business-neighborhood.”
The plan, presented by the landowner’s attorney, Michael Vanderpool, includes the 200-bed nursing home and two shopping center buildings, one 7,500 square feet and the other 5,400 square feet.
The planning commissioners, however, recommended that the supervisors approve the rezoning only on the condition that the shopping center buildings be eliminated in an effort to reduce traffic congestion along busy Va. 234 near Colgan High School.
If the plan is approved, vehicles would access the nursing home site from Va. 234. But because of an existing median along the roadway, vehicles heading south on Va. 234 would have to make a U-turn to enter the site.
The board of supervisors has yet to schedule a hearing for either the special-use permit or the nursing home rezoning.
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org