A Different Standard?

I am writing about the July 22 article regarding the First Baptist Church of Clarendon's proposal to build a high-rise church and apartment complex on land that is zoned for a much smaller building ["Affordable Shelter for a Church, and People," Extra].

The article left readers with the impression that the church seeks a change in zoning mainly to build a high-rise affordable housing complex. But the truth is that only a small portion of the building will be used for affordable housing. The majority of the building -- for which the church seeks $4 million in county funds -- will be devoted to a new place of worship for the church and to market-rate (that is, non-affordable) apartment units intended to generate income for the church.

Those of us who would live next door to this oversize structure think the church is being held to a different standard than any other neighbor. I live only a few hundred feet from the church, but I could not tear down my house and rebuild it with a 100-foot structure that contains a terrific new home for me, even if I am willing to devote a few floors of my enormous new building to a worthy cause. Nor do I think the county would give me millions of dollars to help build my fancy new home. Zoning regulations exist so landowners and their neighbors know what can and can't be built on a piece of property. Why should the church be held to a different standard?

A similar affordable housing project in nearby Cherrydale is only four stories high. The church's proposed building would be much smaller if it were devoted only to affordable housing rather than to a new church and market-rate units.

My neighbors and I support the church's desire to create more affordable housing, and if that was its number one priority, the building would be only a few stories high and neighbors would be lining up to help build it. It is the part of the building devoted to a high-rise expansion of the church and commercial apartments to which we object.

Mary Renkey