The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals this week rejected a request by Christian Fellowship Church on busy Leesburg Pike in western Fairfax that would have doubled the size of the church's facilities.
The proposal had generated strong opposition from nearby homeowners over the last six months.
In a rare denial of a church expansion bid, the BZA balked, apparently because the church has on several occasions not complied with the county code in the operations of its present building.
"It seems to me, that over the course of the years, the church has shown a conscious indifference to meeting the county code," as well as conditions imposed by members of previous boards of zoning appeals, BZA member Paul Hammick said.
Apparently the church has been operating a child-care center for more than two years without the proper permits. The reason the county has not taken action has been this pending application for expanded facilities, which also asks for permission to operate a day-care center for 99 children.
This week's action came after the BZA staff had recommended approval of the proposal.
The church faces Leesburg Pike between Reston and Colvin's Mill. It is readily identifiable because of a very large American and religious flags that fly over its entrance.
Last August, the church filed a request with the BZA for a special exception for a child-care center for 750 children, but that was quickly reduced after public reaction was highly critical. At that time, the BZA staff had recommended denial of the expansion. That prompted the church to ask for a delay of the BZA decision.
Action was again delayed in late fall to give the church time to clear up violations of existing permits and because of improper advertising of public hearings.
After a three-hour public debate, the BZA denied the request, which was opposed by more than 200 residents of the Colvin's Glen and Colvin's Forest subdivisions, both of which have been built in the last six years. The church was in place prior to construction of most of the homes.
The church was asking for, in addition to the day-care permit, a 20,000-square-foot addition and use of three temporary trailers while the new addition was being built.
"CFC has been unable to meet the requirements of its existing operations," said one BZA member. Problems with the impact of existing parking lot lights on nearby homes and a failure by the church to plant trees that conform to county standards were also cited.
Speaking for the church, which has a rapidly growing membership that is said to top 2,000, attorney Billy R. Hicks told the BZA that violations in the past have been cleared up, but problems with completing the required fencing had been delayed by this week's cold weather.
"We are tremendously overcrowded," Hicks argued. "There have been certain violations, but all have now been corrected." Many church members were on hand to support the proposal.
Pastor James Ahlemann said his church "needs this space to serve our existing congregation." A Herndon teen-ager said the church offers "a good place for teen-agers to go."
Although area residents also complained about the increased traffic the addition might generate and showed slides of Sunday morning traffic, the board's decision apparently was based on past violations.
Those violations include improper grading on the original site, which residents complained had generated the need for the church to acquire an additional five acres to accommodate a storm water retention pond. The church has done that and the BZA approved use of that five-acre site, which is not contiguous to the main church land, for storm-water management purposes only.