Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church Expansion a Delicate Issue for Group

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church Expansion a Delicate Issue for Group

Article excerpt

Byline: Christina Abel

The Ponte Vedra Community Association could take a stand on the contentious issue of the Christ Episcopal Church expansion if only its members could reach a consensus on what that position will be.

The Ponte Vedra Beach community appears to be split on the issue of the church's proposal to expand its parish hall and build a three-story parking garage. As of Monday night's association meeting, so were the six board members.

Christ Church is trying to accommodate a growing membership, which has ballooned from 500 members in the 1980s to 5,500 members today. The major renovation would nearly double the parish hall's seating capacity from 244 to 464, and the dining capacity from 160 people to 420. The proposed parking garage is 25 feet tall, with a 5-foot parapet wall.

In late June, when the community association invited church officials to present their plans at a public meeting, the most contentious issue was the parking garage. Since the church is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, neighbors fear the parking garage could pose height, traffic and safety issues.

Since then, the church has obtained rezoning for two of its parcels, changing the zoning to a residential designation that permits church buildings and multi-family buildings.

Church officials said that rezoning, which took place earlier this month, didn't change the expansion plans but simply gave all of their land parcels a uniform designation.

About a dozen residents showed up at that Ponte Vedra Zoning and Adjustment Board meeting to protest the rezoning.

The opposition left the association, a group of about 670 members who meet to identify and present their concerns about the community to government officials, in a difficult position. Board members couldn't reach a consensus about whether or not to support the expansion, or even to take a stand on the issue -- even one of neutrality.

Eventually, the board members agreed there is a precedent for the association to take a stand on important, controversial community issues. In the past, the group has made recommendations on issues dealing with beach access and parking on Ponte Vedra Boulevard. …

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