After discussing it at a meeting a month ago and amid concerns from nearby residents, members of Forsyth County’s Planning Commission voted to move ahead with a proposed 24,000-square-foot church to be built along Bennett Road.
At a planning commission meeting on Tuesday, members voted to approve a conditional-use permit with conditions for Iglesia Luz Y Vida. After holding a public hearing in October, Tuesday’s meeting was for decision only.
“I spent six months of my life talking and looking and researching for tonight,” said Bettina Hammond, chairwoman of the board and representative for District 4, where the property lies. “It’s really important that we make a recommendation and do the right thing. There are so many things that went into this. There isn’t a planning commissioner that I talked to that did not say how hard the decision was on this.”
The proposal will now go to Forsyth County Commissioners. According to a county website, the item is scheduled for the commissioners’ meeting on Dec. 20.
The church had been proposed on an 8-acre plot at 6225 Bennett Road with a 24,475-square-foot building and 134 parking spaces but members of the commission approved conditions for a 4,476-square-foot building and a minimum of 32 parking spaces, which Hammond said represents the church and parsonage.
Other conditions include any new structure on the church requiring a similar conditional-use permit, a requirement to have employees of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office provide traffic control for big events and landscaping standards.
Hammond said she had “a lot of personal opinions” but the decision was made as a planning commissioner rather than a neighbor.
“I knew from the planning commission and throughout this whole process the community did not want this next to them. That was very clear,” she said. “But we had an applicant that turned in an application that was approved by staff, it conformed to the [unified development code], it conformed to the comp plan.”
She said the decision was “very, very difficult” and that she wanted to protect neighbors from encroachment.
Tuesday’s meeting was clearly contentious for some in the community, with some opposed to the development wearing shirts and carrying signs reading, “Keep it Rural.”
At last month’s meeting, speakers on both sides of the issue voiced concerns.
Local homeowner Andy Coleman summed up opposition to the permit as being about issues of setting precedence, structure size, parking spaces, traffic and inadequate septic and sewer systems.
“As you see here tonight, our community has banded together in large numbers to protect our property rights and see to it that our appointed and elected officials hear our voices," Coleman said at the time. "Better due diligence should have been practiced before purchasing this land.”
Iglesia Luz Y Vida Church pastor Martin Acevedo told the commission at that meeting that the church would function just like any other church in the county, with several services and activities throughout the week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at different times.
“We believe that we are going to be a blessing to the county,” Acevedo said. “We believe that we are going to be a blessing to everyone.”