The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 7-1 Tuesday to approve a special-use permit for a new church in the county’s rural crescent near the border of Prince William and Fauquier counties.
Supervisor Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan, was the only supervisor who voted against the permit.
The 30,000-square-foot Monterey Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation, is planned for a 16.57-acre site at 9514 Auburn Road, near the intersection of Auburn and Vint Hill roads. The area is zoned A-1 agricultural. The church can be no taller than 50 feet.
Monterey Church currently has about 100 members and meets at Patriot High School, according to Executive Pastor Moe Lawlor.
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 also 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 sewer line.
County residents who live in the vicinity of the proposed church site again expressed concern during the supervisors' Sept. 3 meeting that the church could jeopardize nearby private wells by using too much water.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality determined the church would use about 800 gallons of water daily – the equivalent of about four single-family homes.
Sherman Patrick, the attorney representing Monterey Church, said during his presentation to the board that the church would only use an estimated 329 gallons of water per day.
The special-use permit does not permit the church to use groundwater for irrigation or landscaping purposes, and any private wells on the site must be located at least 50 feet away from a neighboring property owner’s well.
The congregation modified its original plan for the church after an initial meeting with the Prince William County planning commission in June. The church was originally slated to occupy 55,000 square feet, seat 900 people and include two parking areas. One parking area has since been removed, and the building and occupancy scaled back.
The planning commission voted July 24 to recommended that the board of supervisors approve the special-use permit for the church.
Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, said the reduction in the church’s size was a good compromise.
“I don’t think everyone in the room here tonight is satisfied, but I am,” Lawson said.
Reach Daniel Berti at firstname.lastname@example.org