Black Rock Church plan wins wetlands permit
FAIRFIELD -- Three years ago, Black Rock Congregation Church's plan to build a new sanctuary -- swamped by neighborhood foes who called it a "mega-church" -- was rejected before it even got to the zoning stage of the land-use process.
On Thursday, the church was granted its wetlands permit for a revised, scaled-back design that has attracted scant neighborhood criticism, and now moves on to review by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.
Plans call for building a two-story, 85,000-square-foot sanctuary, with a first-floor footprint of about 55,000 square feet, to replace the existing church. The church now has a footprint of 34,000 square feet.
Inland Wetlands Commission approval was granted after just one hearing, rather than the multiple, heated hearings the larger proposal was subject to before it was denied in early 2006.
A lengthy list of conditions was attached to the wetlands permit, however, and in addition to TPZ approval, the plan also needs backing from the State Traffic Commission.
The wetlands panel members agreed unanimously to approve the application, although not all of them agreed on all of the conditions recommended by the town's conservation staff.
For example, moving a piped watercourse was considered vital to protect the vernal pool on the property by some of the panel members. "With the amount of blasting, I'm afraid they're going to hit that pipe," said Landon Storrs. "They're probably going to expend more energy trying not to hit that pipe than they would in moving it."
The staff recommendations made reference to possible future development on adjacent property with regards to the piped watercourse.
But Kate Maxham said the church's experts are "confident" they wouldn't hit the pipe. "And I don't see how we can require someone to move a piped watercourse in anticipation of something that might happen in the future on another piece of property," she said.
The recommendation to move the pipe was kept in the conditions of approval, but one to install a wooden fence around the conservation easement was removed. "It gets pretty expensive and it really doesn't serve any purpose," Chairman Stanton Lesser said. "I'm satisfied with monuments at the proper intervals to show where the easement is."