Editor: Drive south of Gilbert’s Corner on Rt. 15 in the Rt. 50 and Stone Ridge transition area and turn right on Old Carolina Road. Here generations of families of all races and denominations live in the shadow of Bull Run Mountain. The road frames the Heritage Highway to the east.
Two of some of the last working farms in Loudoun County stand in testament to the preservation of a heritage that once defined the county. Friends of Homeless Animals has established a strong and important foothold here and serves the entire county. Cyclists use this road as an important leg of the peloton that has become a sport as important as the horse sports that have defined Loudoun County for decades. We are a healthy diverse community.
It is not by accident that the cornerstone of this community is Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, which is celebrating its 150-year anniversary by asking for a “by right” addition to a church that will allow its 100 congregants to expand.
The issue before us now is that a new kind of church has evolved, one whose definition is not grounded upon a specific locale. In fact, it boasts that by definition it has no geographical obligations. In theory, this is all embracing. Its noble concept is magnanimous, however, it is asking the rural communities to bear its weight and loose its identity. It is coming from Fairfax County to our community because special exceptions encourage these applicants to come to Loudoun. Ironically, this church will bring nontaxpayers into our county to further tax all of our county services. How does this make sense?
The application before the planning commissioners is to build a 27,000-square-foot church on 10 acres of land, which is largely swamp. Its neighbor, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, has been given permission to build an additional 5,000 square feet on 15 acres. You do the math. This new application is not convenient to its congregation, but rather convenient to a special exception. The site perks for a four-bedroom house.
The applicant is requesting a special exception to allow parking for 150 cars, with an increased vehicle count of 300 cars on Old Carolina Road, a road already pushed to capacity as evidenced through an increase in traffic incidents at the intersection of Rt. 15.
Zoning departments, planning commissioners and county supervisors have been asked to be the litigators in this evolving concept of church. It puts everyone at risk except the applicant, who is able to push forward with the help of savvy lawyers who know how to work the system.
Our rural community has been asked to bear a heavy burden. In addressing issues such as traffic impact, septic systems and sheer size, we are told by attorneys that these statistics can be skewed in anyone’s favor. Our only recourse is to ask that logic comes into play.
Is it naivety or strategy to ask that we believe that a church can grow with services that only occur three hours on Sunday morning? How can a church grow with such restrictions.
Zoning ordinances were put into effect to direct growth to urban, rural or transitional areas as relates to density and infrastructure. It seems now that special exceptions are overriding zoning ordinances and threaten to justify zoning adjustments.
Friends of Old Carolina Road implores our elected officials to stop for a moment to consider the impact that such a decision will have not only on this rural community but on others who will be asked to refer to the precedent that this might establish.
Diana Twining, Aldie