The Rock gets 60-day delay to modify expansion plan

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By Matt Gunn

A decision on a rezoning request for The Rock of Southwest Baptist Church — a process that began in late 2006 — will have to wait even longer.

The Jefferson County Planning Commission gave the church an opportunity to adjust its official development plan to account for community concerns by granting a 60-day continuance Jan. 23. The Rock will return March 26 with a submittal that addresses sight corridors, the building envelope and other issues that may stand in the way of its proposed expansion.

“I think we certainly heard in very general respects what the applicant is proposing,” said planning commissioner Jim Spanstra. “I’ll just say that, to be successful next time around in this commission, I think that we’d be looking for the applicant to address substantially the comments we heard.”

The Jan. 23 hearing was a continuance of a Jan. 9 hearing, in which residents of Westridge — The Rock’s neighbors — voiced a number of concerns over the church’s proposed expansion. Case manager Alan Tiefenbach recommended against rezoning based on the official development plan, or ODP, the church submitted prior to the first hearing.

A main reason why Tiefenbach recommended against The Rock’s plan was concerns over compatibility with an established residential neighborhood.

“The proposed rezoning is not compatible with allowed and existing land uses in the general vicinity of the project area,” Tiefenbach’s report reads. “There are no churches embedded within a residential neighborhood at a scale even close to the church’s present size. With surrounding lot sizes between 0.14 and 0.27 acres, and house footprints between 1,100 and 2,200 square feet, the 43,000-square-foot footprint of the church on an 8.23-acre lot will dwarf the surrounding community.”

The report goes on to say that, even though restrictions are written in the current ODP regarding building materials, architecture and signage, the road that feeds the church — West Alamo Place — does not have the capacity to handle increased traffic.

The Rock’s management has contended all along that the rezoning and subsequent addition are not meant to bring new followers to the flock but rather to alleviate space concerns for youth programs and consolidate to two Sunday services.

The Rock offers children’s, junior high and high school ministries, called The Pebble, Detour and Refuge, respectively. An integral part of The Rock’s plan is to build a youth center on the open space to the west of the existing building. The church bought that land from Jeffco Public Schools in 2001.

Part of the rezoning effort is to pull both tracts under the same zoning to allow the second building, which church planners say will be one story with a walkout basement.

Church representatives said the 60-day continuance could give them time to include more restrictions as to sight corridors, considerations to safety along the border between the church property and Westridge Elementary, and the building envelope.

“We believe we could do our part quickly in turning that around,” said Tim Price, church administrator.

Since the first community meeting regarding The Rock’s proposed rezoning, the main concerns of neighbors have been the size and potential for more traffic.

Adjusting the building envelope – a key to the architecture – would add further restrictions to the ODP.

Some in attendance at the Jan. 9 meeting noted there is nothing to prevent The Rock from scraping the current buildings and creating something new. More restrictions on the building envelope could alleviate that concern.

“We just want to make sure that our intent is to build next door to the original building,” Price said.

Those changes could also mean that The Rock submits renderings of the future construction for the March hearing.

“And if you bring us a rendering ee that’s going to go on the record so people can hold that against you,” said planning commissioner Alan Fox.

Commissioner Spanstra allowed Eric Struble, a representative of the Westridge Homeowners Association, a chance to speak before a motion was made for continuance.

“Basically, the nieghborhood’s position on this is, we’d like to get some closure,” Struble said. “We think it’s been drawn out long enough.”

The commission, however, gave The Rock a chance to make significant changes to its plan. Spanstra said that if the changes are primarily in response to public comment, it might not warrant a second round of public testimony at the March meeting.

The Jan. 23 meeting was originally scheduled to be the second of two meetings for The Rock that day.

An earlier meeting was slated before the Board of Adjustment to determine whether the planning department was just in its assessment of The Rock’s adjacent property. When the church bought that land from Jeffco Public Schools, it was with the understanding that the land was zoned Denver R-1 because of a previous annexation. The planning department says the land reverted to Jefferson County zoning because there was no previous development.

The rescheduled appeal is set for Feb. 20.

Contact Matt Gunn at matt@evergreenco.com. Visit www.columbinecourier.com for breaking news and updates.