Church sights set on growth

New site plans from a northside church looking to double the size of its current building could address traffic concerns raised by residents of the area.

If approved, the church would become one of the biggest in Columbus.

The main entry point to the Sanctuary’s existing parking lot at 3939 Central Ave. is located about 100 feet off Central Avenue on Pinewood Drive, resulting in a hard, fast left turn across traffic when entering the lot, neighbors said.

The Columbus City Council approved rezoning of 9 acres owned by the church along Central Avenue at its Feb. 2 meeting, clearing the way for the congregation to present specific site plans to the Columbus Plan Commission at its Wednesday meeting this week.

Site drawings submitted to the Columbus Plan Commission include a traffic study which specifically addresses the issue of traffic from church attendance. The plans are nearly identical to original conceptual designs drafted in 2013, Sanctuary pastor Marvin Mitchell said. The only major changes to the site plan include a slight modification to a circular drive near the building entrance. However, this change does not fall under the purview of the plan commission, Mitchell said.

The proposal would move the main parking lot entrance about 270 feet off Central Avenue along Pinewood Drive. A second entrance would be located east of the main entry, providing additional access to handle heavy volume or emergencies. Parking options would also be limited in areas of the lot closest to Pinewood Drive, with the aim of encouraging drivers to pull smoothly toward the back of the lot without backing up near the entry point.

Plans also call for extending sidewalks along the southern edge of the property to accommodate safer pedestrian access for both regular use and to encourage nearby parishioners to walk rather than drive to the church.

“We thought this would be really nice for walkers,” Mitchell said.

Several new members of the congregation living in nearby neighborhoods had expressed interest in walking to church during warmer seasons, he said.

The traffic study found that 149 cars turn from Central Avenue onto Pinewood Drive between 10 a.m. and 12:05 p.m. on an average Sunday.

Variances sought

The church will be requesting two variances to local zoning laws as part of the site plan.One involves placement of the main parking entrance. The church contends, in its waiver request, that it cannot meet a city prohibition on building a parking entrance within 100 feet of an existing driveway. Church officials claim the high density of single-family homes and condominiums along Pinewood Drive make meeting the requirement impossible.A staff report from the City of Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department agrees, stating that no locations along the street meet the requirement. It further states that access cannot be denied to an existing parking lot.

The other waiver request involves placement of a large trash container near the back edge of the parking lot.

According to the staff report, under local ordinances, the container would technically be located in the church’s front lawn, which is not permitted. However, the report recommends allowing placement of the container, as the location is not visible from any major road. It would also be screened from neighbors by landscaping elements.

Site drawings show more than 22,000 square feet in renovations and expansions to the Sanctuary, including a new, larger worship area, welcome area and leadership center. The church also plans to expand its parking area to accommodate more parishioners. Existing worship facilities will be converted into a youth ministry.

The new additions would make the Sanctuary one of the largest church facilities in Columbus. For comparison, the sanctuary at First Christian Church has seating for 900 parishioners. Site plans for the worship area at the Sanctuary include seating for 1,000. Plans are being drawn to allow another possible future expansion of 500 seats to the sanctuary.

Regular Sunday services currently attract around 400 people. The church calendar available on the congregation’s website shows nearly daily events ranging from regular choir practice and three separate youth ministries to regular Spanish-language service specifically aimed at the Latino community.

Since opening in 1932 with a congregation of eight adults and two children, the church has been known as the Apostolic United Pentecostal Church and the World of Pentecost. It has been in its current building since 1979.

If you go

Columbus Plan Commission meeting

When: 4 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Council Chambers, Columbus City Hall at 123 Washington Street