A battle over whether churchbell chimes should ring out over affluent residential neighborhoods west of Tysons Corner has taken an unexpected twist.
Residents of the Woodside community in McLean won a victory in September when the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals rejected the proposed move of Providence Baptist Church to their neighborhood.
But in a rare action, the board decided to grant the church a new hearing on a revised proposal Nov. 19 -- much sooner than the full year that most applicants must wait before getting a second chance. Churches are allowed in residential neighborhoods by special permit from the zoning appeals board.
The Providence church is now located about 2 1/2miles away at the edge of the Tysons Corner shopping center at the intersection of International Drive and Rte. 7. The church wants to move to a seven-acre triangular site at the corner of Lewinsville Road and Rte. 7.
Members of the Woodside Citizens Association and the planning and zoning committee of the powerful McLean Citizens Association both oppose the move because of the size of the church and the chimes it uses.
"We have $150 million invested in our homes, and the churchplans to invest only $5 million," Ernest Berger, president of the Woodside Citizens Association, told the McLean zoning group last week. He said the church's investment "pales against" that of area homeowners.
The move of the church from its Tysons Corner site to Lewinsville Road is part of a complicated land deal. Linpro, a Washington-area development company, has a contract to buy the church site at Tysons Corner and plans to build an office building on the site, which is in front of Bloomingdale's fronting on Rte. 7, if the church can find another location.
Linpro bought the land at Lewinsville Road and Rte, 7 to facilitate the church's move. The proposed new church site is across Brook Road from another church and includes an existing private school.
The site is across Rte. 7 from the National Wildlife Federation. Chruch members said only one side of the proposed new church site abuts a residential neighborhood.
A spokesman for the church told the McLeans citizens group zoning committee that the church has reduced the size of the sanctuary, increased open space, expanded its landscape plan and is now willing to build a turn lane from Brook Road onto Rte. 7.
Church leaders said loudspeakers would not be used in connection with Christmas nativity scenes. The church is well-known for its Christmas nativity scenes at Tysons Corner. Church officials said use of the loudspeaker was appropriate at Tysons Corner but would not be at the new site.
Church leaders also explained that the chimes are part of their worship service and would be rung only as worshippers entered and left the church.
However, civic leader Lilla Richards said the chimes and the size of the building are out of character with the neighborhood.
Church officials said they are willing to give up hosting a Monday night bible study group if that is necessary to win approval to move to the new site.
The church also is willing to relinguish courses in English as a second language now offered by Fairfax County in its building.
But that decision would have to be made by county education officials, a church spokesman said.