Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fairhope Baptist Church Expansion Plans OK'd

Fairhope, Alabama

At its November meeting, the city's Board of Adjustments and Appeals granted a variance to the "maximum lot coverage allowance for a principal structure" -- to allow the expansion of the church's main building located at 300 South Section Street (R -2 zoned property).

The city's zoning ordinance sets a 37% maximum coverage for R-2 and the current building covers 33% of the lot; but the proposed expansions would increase that to 41.43%: the church requested it be changed to 45%.

The existing building is approximately 46,388 square feet and the proposed additions would add another 12,000: the church owns another 112,530 square feet of nearby property being used for parking as well.

Planner Smith said that while there appeared to be no extreme circumstances in this case, it could be surmised that because there is no specific mention of lot coverage requirements for places of worship in the city's zoning ordinance, some hardship could be claimed: Staff made no recommendation and left it up to the Board.

5 year master plan; new buildings in blue (north is up)


Scott Hutchinson of HMR Engineering who represented the applicant said other cities have more specific requirements for coverage (Daphne's is 50%) and if the other church property is considered (used for parking lots) only 23% would be built upon.

He said no expansion is planned for the grassy parking lots (master plan above) -- just the two blue colored buildings on the White Avenue side.

Northwest corner view of new buildings


presentation committee
Rapid church growth, and security concerns for pre-school and other childrens' programs were cited by various other speakers; and one group gave a 3D walk-thru video tour of the proposed expansion (video below).

Making sure there is one main entrance, "one spot to drop off and pick up children" (one way in, one way out) -- and "repurposing" other parts of the existing building for current needs is how one described the master plan.

Retired pastor Jerry Henry also emphasized safety of children: "It used not to be a problem in Fairhope ... but ... its increasingly a problem in our world ... need to keep our children and babies secure."


Rev. Henry 
Church representatives said they had already met with adjacent property owners in the neighborhood to discuss the plans and some fencing and shrubbery were to be added to allay concerns.

One Nichols Street neighbor spoke at the meeting and said he did not really oppose the proposal but already had concerns about the large scale of the existing building compared to surrounding neighborhoods: parking issues on Nichols Street and other traffic issues generally were his concerns as well.


Nichols St. neighbor's concerns
Citing the long-time benefits of the church to the community, and infrequent use of the facility for worship (only Sunday, Wednesday, etc.), the Board voted unanimously to approve a 42% lot coverage variance -- not the 45% requested.

No time-frame for construction was mentioned.


Anonymous said...

Neighbors don't want to complain as they know it is a done deal. They are sucking the life out of the neighborhood and looks like it will soon be a giant parking area with a massive structure blocking the sky.

Anonymous said...

not so bad livin' by a baptist church.
could b a lot worse.

Anonymous said...

The parking spaces on the south side next to the playground are a real safety issue and should be addressed by the city. They block the west bound lane and obstruct the right of way.

Anonymous said...

I live in the neighborhood and attended this meeting. It was a complete joke. The Board of Adjustment members literally fawned over the Baptist Church representatives as if they cheerleaders for the Baptist Church. When people spoke up in favor of the Church's plan, it was never pointed out that no one in favor of it lived anywhere even close to the area. That Board is useless and I hope that Karin Wilson will replace this set of aging idiots with people who have brains.

Anonymous said...

The parking spaces on the South Side were addressed at the meeting because a concerned neighbor on Nichols introduced it. The stupid Board basically said that the spaces were only used on Sunday and Wednesday (not true) and that no one should be speeding through a residential area anyway! Meanwhile, the Church has one of its members (not a licensed tree company) cutting back the beautiful oaks that had been in the lot on the corner of White and Church. Now that the massive buses won't have room to park on the asphalt, the oaks have to go to accommodate them in their 'additional parking lot'. Where is Jennifer Fidlar, defender of trees, now? Any private citizen would have been fined $10,000 by now, but the Church can clear cut the city before anyone will do anything about it!

Anonymous said...

A Church has been there for way longer than most have lived in the area. You knew there was a church, if you did not like it you should have bought outside the city in Barnwell.Just don't know how the people in Fairhope have become so rude and salty.

Publisher said...

Please refrain from personal insults or your comment may be deleted.

The city's tree ordinance does not apply to private residential property ... like this ... outside of the central business district.

Anonymous said...

The problem with churches anymore is that they're not really churches. One would think you go to church to worship and learn the bible in a modest facility. However, from what I see some church congregations in Fairhope pride themselves on building the largest and most physically intrusive facilities known to man kind. I hear rumors that the FAA may require one particular church in downtown Fairhope to put up aircraft warning light on top of their extremely tall pointed steeple. Someone said you can see the steeple from Spanish Fort. In my opinion, the Methodist and Catholic churches (I'm not a member of either) fit into downtown Fairhope nicely and kind of blend in. They are quaint, pleasing to the eye and most importantly not massive. On another note, what's up with the white lights in downtown Fairhope? Looks like we have mismatched lighted palm trees this year on Section Street. Editor, can you please take some pictures of the palm trees and post them on this blog to start a discussion?

Anonymous said...

The church may have been here first but it was not this large and had not torn down so many houses for parking.

Anonymous said...

Aw c'mon. It is not so bad.

Try listening to my neighbor's dogs bark all day and night

That is a problem!

Publisher said...

We posted some observations about the downtown tree lights to our Facebook page earlier this week ... .

Unknown said...

Get ready Fairhope! Here comes Six Flags over Jesus.

Anonymous said...

The Baptist Church has gone from being a good neighbor to becoming the neighborhood bully!

Anonymous said...

Would you like big white buses parked in your neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

WHERE are the neighbors? So sad to see magnificent trees butchered to make way for large buses. Additionally no tree surgeon did the job and we neighborhood taxpayers had to pay for city employees to remove huge piles of limbs along the curb FOUR separate times. Is the mayor informed? This is how the charm of a locale is ruined! Speak up neighbors, PLEASE!!!!

Anonymous said...

If you cannot beat them well you may as well join them! There will be room for YOU to worship also in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Pray for the Baptist haters!

Anonymous said...

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
Romans 16:17 | NIV

Anonymous said...

The Board of Adjustments just passed this without questions. Will the City Council or Mayor or anyone with any responsibility be looking at this? It seems that with such a high profile property adjacent to downtown that there should be someone held to account for this destruction of the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Easiest way to find a Hypocrite, any church on any Sunday.

Publisher said...

Uh ... that's about enough.