Monday, August 8, 2022

Newport News Church Submits Plan to Build Almost 130K Square-Foot Building in JCC Industrial Land

A drawing shows one of two proposed layouts for the Peninsula Pentecostals site at 9230 Pocahontas Trail. In both layouts, the building (black outlined shape on the left) and parking (shaded gray) are in the same location. (Drawing by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., courtesy James City County)

The Peninsula Pentecostals, a Newport News church looking to purchase a piece of James City County’s industrial land, has submitted to the county a conceptual plan for a new church building that will include a daycare center and parking.

Currently, James City County is involved in a process to overhaul its zoning ordinances for the industrial district following a number of what the county is calling inadvertent omissions. The Peninsula Pentecostals are accusing the county of trying to block its plans to build a church because the county proposed eliminating churches as a by-right use in the industrial district.

As the church is working to push the county not to approve the zoning changes, it has also submitted a plan laying out the church and daycare facility it intends to build, as well as parking lot.

The plan submitted to the county shows a plan to construct a 129,750-square-foot building — that’s more than half the size of the Williamsburg Outlet Mall — at 9230 Pocahontas Trail to include a 2,400-seat sanctuary, a secondary worship area, classrooms for Christian education, a nursery for childcare, administrative offices, music rooms, a gym, meeting rooms, a kitchen and reception hall and an outdoor recreational area with playgrounds, picnic areas, walking trails, ball fields and courts. A child day care center is listed separately in the plan description.

A 7,200-square-foot garage or shed is also included in the plan, as are 480 parking spaces. One entrance drive from Pocahontas Trail into the parking lot is also included in the plans.

Included with the conceptual plan submitted to the county is a letter from the church’s attorney, Tim Trant of Kaufman and Canoles. The letter details the process the church has gone through to the point the conceptual plan was submitted, including speaking with county staff about their intention of purchasing the land and their plans to build on it through two Planning Commission Policy Committee meetings and one Planning Commission meeting and public hearing, which was continued to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“Beyond being nefarious and illegal, the efforts of the county to subvert the development of a church on a portion of the property has caused substantial financial and emotional harm to my client and has jeopardized its equitable interest in the property,” Trant wrote in the letter to the county.

He continued to say he remains optimistic the county will allow the church to build as planned under the current by-right uses allowed in the industrial zone. If the county does not allow the church to build by-right, Trant asked the zoning ordinance changes “not apply to any property and land use for which a landowner or contract purchaser … has submitted a conceptual site plan.”

As it stands now, county procedure requires the Development Review Committee, comprising five of the six current planning commission members, to review any plans including a building of more than 30,000 square feet.

Leading up to a DRC meeting, county staff reviews applications, inspects the site and considers the impact of the plan on the surrounding land uses. County and state agencies, such as the Virginia Department of Transportation, the fire department and the James City Service Authority, review and comment on the plan and then staff makes a recommendation based on all comments and observations. Staff then presents the information to the DRC at its meeting and the DRC, following discussion, makes a decision to recommend approval or denial, or defers action.

The DRC’s decision would then go before the Planning Commission for a vote.

The Peninsula Pentecostal’s plan was received by the county Monday and has not yet been reviewed.

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