Plans Approved for Coptic Church Near Aldie

Plans for a church in Aldie that have faced opposition from some in the area won approval with a relatively quick and uncontroversial vote at the Board of Supervisors on Thursday.

St. Pope Cyril Coptic Orthodox Church, which has been sharing space with an Antiochian Orthodox church in Chantilly, won approval for a new 19,000-square-foot building in Aldie. Several members of the congregation have said they live in the Aldie area and commute to the church in Chantilly.

“For the past five years … we have prayed and dreamed of a permanent location for our church,” said Dr. Raymona Ondos. “We’re very happy that our church will be in Loudoun County, Aldie, because of its scenic beauty and quiet nature. It will allow us to honor God’s creation.”

The church has faced some opposition from people in the Aldie area, where even after repeated revisions, it would be the biggest building in the area—larger than plans for either Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church or the county’s controversial plans for a new fire station at the Aldie Tavern.

Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, which shares a property line with the Coptic church’s land, is approved for up to 17,000 square feet, but so far has only grown to just less than 5,400. The county’s fire station plans—which look set to be relocated once again—are for 18,000 square feet.

The congregation originally proposed a 36,000-square-foot building with seating for 600. Since then it has been whittled down to 19,000 square feet, almost 50 percent smaller than the first application, with seating for a congregation of at most 450. It will also be limited to a height of 35 feet and sit 635 feet back from the road, screened by trees.

“We’ll make the dream come true by having a permanent location for St. Cyril Coptic Church here in Loudoun,” said Rowe Hanna.

The Piedmont Environmental Council was among those opposing the church. Field representative Evan McCarthy said the building is still too big.

But county supervisors were unanimous in their vote to approve the church’s plans.

“There is no sound reason to not approve this church,” said Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).

Supervisors were appreciative of both the applicants and their opponents, pointing to how much the application changed leading up to its approval.

“It’s just been a really nice process, and I think it shows when the applicants come in with good motives, what can be accomplished, and also when people who are originally in opposition work with us, what can be accomplished,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run).

After concerns from the community about traffic, the Coptic church has agreed not to do many things common to churches, such as a daycare or food bank. It has agreed not to create traffic during peak congestion hours. The church will also put everything outside the construction zone on the 10-acre property into conservation easement, maintaining 77 percent of the property as open space.

Senior Priest of the church Father Tadrous Saleab said he didn’t “want to miss this chance to express my gratitude.”

“The church has a tradition to be a good citizen and to care about their neighbor and show love to everyone and anyone,” Saleab said.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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