By Lenny C. Lepola
Almost five years ago members of the Genoa Baptist Church fellowship began serious planning for growth.
On Aug. 7, Genoa Baptist project managers appeared at a Genoa Township Board of Trustees zoning meeting for an up or down vote on a church expansion final development plan, the last step needed before they could turn first dirt on the construction project.
Genoa Township Director of Development and Zoning Joe Clase said the three-phase project’s first application was submitted in 2005 and amended in 2009.
“In phase one, the applicant will enlarge the parking lot entrance to improve ingress and egress, add a children’s theater and 72 new parking spaces,” Clase said. “They also plan to remove the youth barn, propane tank and dumpster and install a trash compactor.”
Clase said phase two would be a façade improvement and phase three would include the addition of a new gymnasium and an additional 48 parking spaces.
“The applicant has had three hearings in front of the zoning commission,” Clase said. “Members of the zoning commission recommended approval with 10 conditions, including the addition of safety signs around the trash compactor, additional live tree screening, mounding and water remediation.”
Greg Rodgers, representing Genoa Baptist, said phase one, the children’s theatre, is the next step in the expansion of the church’s children’s ministry.
“The children’s church today meets in the cafeteria – 100 kids or so,” Rodgers said. “The two-story, 11,000 square foot children’s theater on the southwest side of the building would have open space up-and-down with stages on both levels plus some classrooms. That will be the main focus of the first phase of the project.”
Rodgers said relocating the parking lot entrance to the west on Lewis Center Road would reduce traffic stacking east to S.R. 3; the propane tank removed the church would hook to a natural gas line that crosses the site.
“During phase two, which will probably take place simultaneously with phase one, we intend to freshen up the façade, which hasn’t changed since 2001,” Rodgers said. “We will make the entire face of the building more uniform and symmetrical, and expand our foyer space by an additional 2,200 square feet.”
Rodgers said phase three would be the addition of a freestanding 12,000 square foot gymnasium adjacent to the soccer field west of the main church building that would also serve as a concession area and locker room for soccer.
Two Lewis Center Road residents, Jeff Martin and Dave Kemper, were in chambers to express concerns about the plan as approved by the zoning commission. Martin disagreed with the location of the new church entrance; Kemper questioned the site improvements impact on water runoff on his property.
“I’m excited, I love the plan they’re doing but with one concern,” Martin said. “Our driveway is almost directly across the street from their new access. I understand that their new driveway is more sound, but it provides safety concerns for us, especially during heavy traffic days like voting, school and school events, and church. During heavy traffic, leaving our house and getting to Route 3 is going to be a guessing game.”
Martin said during a zoning commission hearing he asked the church if they would pay to have his driveway moved. He said they looked at it, responded that they would not move the driveway, but would add tree screening.
Rodgers told the trustees that moving the drive would add to the project’s cost.
“I understand expense, but I don’t buy that,” replied trustee Karl Gebhardt. “I don’t think we’re asking for much. Continue your discussions with the Martins.”
Gebhardt also noted that as S.R. 3 continues to develop, the church might arrange a curb cut on Route 3 and be able to abandon the Lewis Center Road entrance.
Kemper, who also had traffic concerns about trucks, cars, motorcycles and 4 a.m. trash pickups, was especially concerned about water runoff caused by grading the new church entrance. He said his property is already wet and holding water.
“If they raise that road and don’t do anything with water, we’re going to be a pond,” Kemper said.
Rodgers replied that the property would be graded and tiled to draw water away from the site.
“The water on our neighbors property is an old agricultural tile problem,” Rodgers added. “With a trash compacter pickups will only be once every month and a half or two months, and we could arrange a schedule so they will not come in at 4 a.m.”
Following a brief discussion the trustees unanimously approved the Genoa Baptist Church expansion final development plan.
After the vote, Gebhardt commended the applicant, site neighbors, and members of the zoning commission for working together to bring the Genoa Baptist expansion’s final development plan to a successful conclusion and also recommended that Genoa Baptist continue to work with its neighbors to resolve traffic and drainage issues.