Township Church Told To Rethink Proposed Development

Planning Board chairman Michael Orsini told the applicant’s attorney that he thought their project was too big for the space they had.

It’s back to the drawing board for a township church that has wanted to raze its building and rise again from the ashes since 1999.

Macedonia Church of God in Christ was told by the Planning Board that the 4,880-square-foot church it wants to build to replace its current 74-year-old structure was just too big for the half-acre it has to work with.

Officials at the Fuller Street church have been planning for the building’s replacement since 1999, with the efforts gaining steam since 2007.

Board members said they were puzzled by the church’s desire to build a 303-seat building when it has, at most, about a third of that number attending weekly services.

There was also a problem with parking; township ordinance requires 101 parking spaces and the most the church could provide is 63, with 25 of those spots in question, at least in the eyes of Board chairman Michael Orsini.

Orsini’s problem was an agreement the church says it has with RPM Development Group, which is redeveloping the so-called Renaissance area along Fuller and Booker streets, for the church to use 25 parking spots on RPM’s property, if needed. RPM bought that property from the church.

“The board cannot base approvals on agreements that could or could not exist in the future,” Orsini said. “We’ve been burned on that before.”

“My suggestion overall is to downsize the project,” Orsini said. “If you’re going to have as much worship space and seating that you require 101 spaces … and you have 38 on site, you just don’t have a big enough site for what you are proposing. I think you need to talk to your client about trimming this.”

Peter Lanfrit, the church’s attorney, told the Board that the church’s agreement with RPM is “ironclad.”

“It is a written, binding agreement and there was consideration paid,” Lanfrit said. “So, it’s not a wish or a hope or something that will go away.”

Lanfrit later told the Board that the additional 25 parking spaces may not be needed because parishioners park on the street if the lot is full. That prompted another comment from Orsini.

“I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that you said, we might not even need the 25 spaces,” he said. “You have a building with 303 seats, which leads me to say you don’t need that big of a building if you don’t need that much parking.”

Reading the writing on the wall, Lanfrit requested the application be carried to a future date.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take to figure all this out,” he said.

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