CLARKS GREEN — The newly reorganized borough planning commission hosted an informal discussion Wednesday with representatives from the Church of Saint Gregory and community members regarding the church’s upcoming building expansion.
Project architect David Hemmler and engineer Tony Bernardi gave a presentation and answered questions about the plans for the new ministry center.
“We’re proposing an addition made up of ministry meeting spaces and some fellowship spaces for our church,” Hemmler explained, later adding, “We don’t have a conference room or meeting spaces, so meetings currently take place in Father (Rev. John) Lapera’s residence…or by putting up tables in the back of the church.”
He added none of the activities to be hosted in the new space are new to the faith community, and religious education will continue to take place next door at Our Lady of Peace School.
“We’re not expanding or adding activities; we’re just simply trying to have a good place to meet and have fellowship,” Hemmler clarified.
Some other details from the presentation include the following:
• The church does not plan to use the new ministry center during the same hours as its regular services. This is important to note, because the number of parking spaces required by law depends on the seating capacity, which will remain the same or less after the expansion.
• The plans do, however, show eight additional parking spots, some of which are ADA (handicapped accessible) spaces.
• The addition, which will surround the church on two sides, was described by Hemmler as “a compact way to expand the church.” It is to be about 22 feet in length and 6,700 square feet total.
• The ministry center is to include: a library/parish resource center, four meeting rooms, the largest of which will hold about 24 people; two small cafe-style rooms, which will feature counters, sinks, coffee makers and small refrigerators; a choir room to accommodate about 40 people a narthex area that seats about 100 and some storage space.
• No additional seats will be added, but seating may be slightly reduced to help accommodate the choir room.
• More restrooms will be added, bringing the building up to current codes.
• None of the new rooms are designed or intended to be rented out.
• The entrance from North Abington Road will not move; however, the plans call for the driveway to be “slightly shifted” to accommodate for a small courtyard, garden and rain garden.
• In order to deal with the increase in stormwater runoff caused by the addition, the plans call for an underground detention system. This, according to Bernardi, will be arch chambers that temporarily store the water before it enters a pipe that will slowly discharge into the existing system.
The issue of water runoff is of interest especially to landowners and residents of the properties adjacent to the church’s parking lot, as pre-existing conditions allegedly already cause flooding to those properties. According to the borough solicitor Al Weinschenk, the borough has received numerous complaints about this in the past.
The church representatives assured those present that the project will not add to this problem, as the purpose of the detention system is to take care of the runoff from the expansion area.
According to a building campaign page on the church’s website, the facility expansion will cost approximately $2.5 million, with an additional $500,000 in renovations and updates to the current structure and $500,000 in renovation and expansion of the campus infrastructure.
During the meeting, Hemmler said the church hopes to submit the official land development plans for the project in two to three weeks.
According to Weinschenk, the project will need to be reviewed by the borough as a conditional use. He explained in the zoning district in which the church stands, a place of worship is considered a conditional use. And, because the proposed increase to the structure is more than 25 percent, it requires a new conditional use approval.
Reach Elizabeth Baumeister at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @AbingtonJournal.