More than 20 years after starting services in the Williamsburg area, the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist congregation based out of a sanctuary on Ironbound Road needs a larger building.
The James City County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve plans authorizing an expansion of up to about 17,500 square feet at the existing sanctuary, enlarging the fellowship area and adding space for religious education, outreach programs and administration.
The plans call for phased construction, with the 8,500-square-foot education and administration wing to be built first.
A fact sheet detailing the project on WUU’s website says the congregation will vote in September whether to begin construction. The first part of the expansion, which would cost an estimated $2.7 million, is estimated to be complete by late summer 2016. The scope of the expansion will be determined by the level of funds the congregation can raise.
By approving the plans, the supervisors agreed to issue a special-use permit to WUU authorizing the expansion of the building, additional parking and possibly a second Ironbound Road entrance to the property.
During a public hearing about the project, Ed Oyer, a James City County citizen, said he never hears talk during discussions of development proposals of whether water and sewer infrastructure is capable of shouldering the additional burden each proposal would create.
Supervisor John McGlennon (Roberts) asked if the county’s review process takes water and sewer capacity in existing infrastructure into account, to which Senior Planner Leanne Pollock replied that plans for development go to the James City Service Authority, the county’s water utility, for review. She said JCSA shares such plans with Hampton Roads Sanitation District, which handles sewage treatment.
McGlennon also asked about a comment letter the county received from a neighbor of the church, which expressed concern about the level of noise coming from WUU and the appearance of one of the two houses on the land.
Tom Tingle of Guernsey Tingle Architects speaking on behalf of WUU said the congregation had tried to reach out to that landowner to discuss those concerns but had not had any luck reaching her. He said “we are proposing to move as many activities as we can” from the front of the land to the back, behind the sanctuary.
The supervisors did not offer any comment from the dais before casting their unanimous vote to approve the project.
WUU began in 1989. Its land at 3051 Ironbound Road was purchased in 1993, and construction of the existing sanctuary building was complete by 1995. Its footprint on the 8-acre tract of land also includes two single-story houses, which are currently used for meetings, religious education and administrative offices.
Should the full master plan be realized, one of the houses would be demolished to clear the way for the second entrance to Ironbound Road, while the other would remain in place.
A community impact statement filed with the county by the church says the congregation has grown to more than 250 members.