P&Z weighs proposed church

The proposed new home of Sound the Trumpet Baptist Church edged closer to becoming a reality at the July 5 meeting of Monroe’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

Revised plans call for the removal of 500 square feet of paved surface at the site. This was done in response to a state requirement to reduce impervious surfaces by 2% when an existing site is reconfigured. That 500 square feet exceeds the total required, say its designers.

“The site has a total of 18,740 square feet of impervious surface, and two percent of that is 375 square feet,” said project engineer David Bjorklund, managing principal of Monroe’s Spath Bjorklund Associates. “So, we are going to more than comply with this requirement. Also, we were able to do this without interfering with the number and size of parking spaces.”

The removed pavement will be in the rear of the building and will be landscaped with mulch and plants. Bjorklund asked the commission not to require his team to replace an area of cross hatched pavement with landscaping on the eastern end of the parking lot.

“A landscaped island would interfere with drainage to the culvert (located at that end of the lot),” said Bjorklund.

The Monroe Health Department may require an inspection of the building’s 18-year-old septic tank, but Bjorklund doubted that it would need to be replaced. “It is very oversized for the use it has had over the last 18 years,” he noted.

An office on one side of the building is never occupied by more than two people, he pointed out, while the space the church wants to use has been empty for years. The state’s “Call Before You Dig” utility hotline may also be able to pinpoint the location of the building’s water line.

One note of disagreement was on the landscaping at the front of the building.

“We would like to keep the landscaping that faces Route 110 as-is so the building is visible and the church will attract new parishioners,” said Bjorklund said.

Santos Montanez, the congregation’s pastor, pointed out that the front of the property has a significant slope. The property’s owner, CBL, Inc., removed a host of dead trees recently.

“Every one of those trees died because of the slope,” said Montanez, noting that his small congregation cannot afford the expense of installing trees — only to have them die back in a few years.

“We will take that into consideration,” said P&Z Chairman William Porter, noting that this topic would be discussed when the commission deliberates.

Porter also pointed out that an uptick in church membership would likely increase the number of parking spaces required — bringing the congregation back to the commission for an update on parking.

“I understand that you have a small congregation, but hopefully, it’s going to grow,” said Porter.

P&Z Administrator Will Agresta requested that Bjorklund and Montanez provide a layout of the church’s interior, including the location of seats, the pulpit and other fixtures.

“I also would recommend that you put trees in front,” said Agresta. “This property is highly visible from the street, and trees are not going to affect that.”

The application will be on the agenda for deliberation at the July 19 meeting.

New occupant on Route 25

The commission unanimously approved a request by Norman Nagy, owner of a parcel at 550-560 Main Street at the corner of Verna Road. Nagy sought approval for the closure of a small section of gravel driveway that opened onto Verna Road. He also wants to install three paved parking spaces, which will support the new occupant of a small commercial building on the site.

“It’s a log cabin with 180 square feet,” said Nagy. “Inside are an office and a small bathroom.”

The new occupant will be Norwalk Marble and Granite, LLC, whose owner wishes to expand the company’s geographical reach.

Nagy’s plans call for the installation of three ornamental trees; there now is a single flowering dogwood at the site. Currently, the business owner has no plans to display any large samples of granite outside the building. Should that change in the future, Porter noted, Nagy and the business owner would need to come back before the commission.

The commission also approved a five-lot industrial subdivision and the construction of a 1,650-linear-foot public street on property at 36 Timothy Hill Road. The building’s engineer, Kevin Solli of Solli Engineering, had sought a waiver to the requirement for street trees and sidewalks in the development, which was granted in the commission’s approval. The owner will still install trees, but in wetland areas away from the street.

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