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James City Planning Commission sacks proposal for Peninsula Pentecostals church

Virginia Gazette

An application to build a large church in Grove didn't get approval from the Planning Commission Wednesday evening.

The Peninsula Pentecostals, a Newport News-based congregation seeking to build off Pocahontas Trail, brought more than 100 congregants to the Planning Commission meeting to voice support for the plan.

Tim Trant, an attorney with Kaufman & Canoles, argued that after everything the congregation has gone through to build the worship house the Planning Commission should lend its approval.

But a measure to recommend approval failed on a split vote, with Commissioners John Wright, Robin Bledsoe and George Drummond backing the plan, and Chairman Rich Krapf, Christopher Basic, Tim O'Connor and Heath Richardson voting no.

"Through those trials and tribulations, I have learned many lessons from my client on faith in the face of tremendous adversity.... and unscrupulous opposition without malice toward those who seek to undermine their hopes and dreams," Trant told Commissioners during his opening presentation.

Trant disputed planning division staff findings that the church would adversely affect traffic. Also at issue for county staff was the building's impact on the cheapest possible route to build the Skiffe's Creek Connector.

Commissioner John Wright said the property had sat vacant for some time and he was unconvinced there would be any movement on the Skiffe's Creek Connector in the near future.

Members of the church who spoke Wednesday argued that the congregation, which is estimated to bring more than 2,500 attendees for all of its services, would make a positive impact on an economically depressed area of the county.

"This is not a 'we want something' church, this is a 'we do something' church," said Detrick Sanford.

"I grew up here in the surrounding area," said David Green. "I’ve seen many different lives change in so many different ways."

The land is designated for industrial use under the comprehensive plan, which Krapf and Richardson cited in their decisions to vote against the proposal.

But Commissioner George Drummond said he thought the church would be a positive addition to the neighborhood and wouldn't deter economic activity.

"It’s a shame that a church has to go through all this to get approval. But if you had a gunshop, it wouldn’t require all of this, I’d rather see a church than a gun shop on that property," Drummond said.

The proposal for the church will now go before the Board of Supervisors in April.

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