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Cedar Grove Zoning Board Continues With Church Expansion Proposal

The Cedar Grove Zoning Board of Adjustment continued to hear expert testimony from Site Engineer Calisto Bertin during its Tuesday night meeting.

The Cedar Grove Zoning Board of Adjustment convened on Tuesday to continue a hearing on an expansion proposal from St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church.

The church, located on 5 Woodstone Drive aims to completely demolish the existing 15,000 square foot church to rebuild a 24,000 square foot church while adding additional parking and a second driveway. The church would also include classrooms for religious teachings.

The existing priest's residence and community center, located across Woodstone Drive, would not be altered.

The Board heard expert testimony from Site Engineer Calisto Bertin, who testified as to required variances for the proposal, impervious surface coverage, tree removal and drainage.

“Water percolates through the topsoil and goes down to the rock and dissipates,” said Bertin. “When the water moves through the ground it gets filtered.”

However, with the additional parking lots, the water will not be able to absorb into the ground, causing concern from High Point residents who already have water problems in the condos directly West of the property, they said.

To address this issue the proposal calls for a system of underground catch-basins and pipes to reduce and channel the water runoff.

“Water from the parking lot goes into underground basins and goes through pipes which decrease in size to limit the amount of water that can flow through,” said Bertin.

These basins will reduce the volume and velocity of of the water, while also filtering the water of any grit, oil or contaminants before running into nearby drainage ditches.

The application has drawn a strong reaction from residents, although noticeably less residents were in attendance. At the Dec. 11 meeting, every seat in the council chambers was filled, with residents standing in the back and down the aisles. About 50 residents attended the three and a half hour meeting on Tuesday.

A number of residents opposing the expansion have sought legal representation from Attorney Anthony Fiorello, who represents about 30 families and the Bradford Bath and Tennis Club, located at 21 Woodstone Drive.

The church will need a variance for its 53-foot roof, which exceeds the 35-foot height limit by about 18 feet. The proposed church would also require a separate variance for the 61-foot steeple, which exceeds the maximum height of 45 feet.

“This cathedral will stand out starkly around its neighbors,” said Fiorello.

Nearby residents have cited water run-off from the parking lot, additional traffic on the surrounding roads, additional noise and pollution as well as a potential negative impact on property values as their concerns if the application were to go through.

“This project is too big for the area,” said Ed Loftus, who has lived in his Westview Terrace home for 15 years.

“There is obviously going to be more water runoff and we are concerned about blasting,” said Westview Court resident Robert Meyer, a client of Fiorello. “But the real crux is still the traffic."

The Board has now heard expert testimony from a church priest and a site engineer but will still need to hear from an architect, traffic expert and a planner before they will be able to reach a decision.

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 12 at 8 p.m.

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