Prince William Supervisors Approve Large Monterey Church Along Vint Hill Road

| September 5, 2019 | 0 Comments | News

In a 7-1 vote, Tuesday, The Prince William County Board of Supervisors approved a Special Use Permit for the building a 400 seat church in the Greenwich area of the Brentsville District along at 9514 Auburn Road, bordering Vint Hill Road and close to the Fauquier County line.

The SUP would allow Monterey Church to build its religious institution on 16.57 acres in an area designated A1 Agricultural. The Christian church would be 30,000 square feet and 50 feet in height. It would not include a preschool/daycare or private school of any kind. It would have 180 parking spaces. There would be some tree preservation, and natural buffers. The church would be required to have a police officer stationed there on Sundays to mitigate traffic.

As the church would be located within the county’s protected rural crescent, many residents questioned as to whether it fits the character of the rural crescent or whether it is a step closer towards opening the area to further development.

With the exception of Ruth Anderson (R-Occoquan), the the supervisors voted in favor of the approval. Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (R), spoke favorably of the applicant.

“I’m probably the biggest defender of the rural area- if not one of them- sitting up on the dais,” said Lawson, but she explained that the pastors at Monterey worked to fit within the parameters of the area.

They compromised on the size and scale of the church. She was initially disappointed they did not reach out to community members, but they have since rectified that.

She was really impressed that the applicant did not require sewer hookup, which is disallowed by in the rural crescent, but granted on rare occasions via an SUP.

“They said, ‘Mrs. Lawson, we don’t want a sewer hookup, ‘ and I cheered and danced,” Lawson said, telling the room, that in her opinion, “sewer policy is what really preserves the rural area.”

Given that, she said she did not, “anticipate this drawing as much community angst as it has.”

However, the well water became an issue. Residents had concerns that the large church could hurt what they believe is an already fragile aquifer system, which is being further studied in Fauquier. Residents wanted assurance that their wells would not dry up after Monterey moves in.

Staff noted that large churches use approximately half the water of a 4-bedroom single-family home. It is simply because people are only visiting once a week. Additionally, the water use would be far less than a farm, irrigating its land, and that is “by right” use in an A1 agricultural area.

And Lawson said they could not ask for a hydrology report. “We don’t ask for a hydrology report of any application,” and they have to be especially careful as Federal law dictates how religious institutions shall be treated when applying for land use applications.

Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland (R) suggested it would behoove them to further investigate the aquifer system in that area as Fauquier County seems to be doing a better of doing.  However, he said they also cannot delay Monterey’s application.

The majority of speakers during the public hearing expressed their opposition to the church. Some said it would bring more traffic, the architecture (which has not yet been determined) would likely not match the surrounding area of 19th century homes, and use of well water usage might be detrimental.

Monterey Church site along Auburn Road.

Some questions how many more churches are needed in Prince William, especially such large churches, and why they should be built in the rural crescent especially when existing residents do not want them.

Nokesville resident Tammy Spink noted that this may be less controversial than ADAMS Mosque and the public hearing won’t go on until 3 a.m., but the problems with the application are the same. Neighbors still do not want megachurches built in the rural crescent.

There were a few speakers in favor of Monterey moving in. Mr. Foster named numerous Greenwich families that he claimed are in favor of the church. Most of the families have lived in the area their whole lives, including former Brentsville Supervisor Wally Covington. Foster had recommended they all write to Lawson, and she confirmed that she did receive those letters.

Another man noted that the use is preferable to apartments, townhomes or any use that would be more impactful on the rural crescent.

Other than Lawson, and the one comment from Candland, there was no discussion by other board members before the vote was taken.

It should be noted there are plans to widen Vint Hill Road in that area.

© 2019, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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