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Planners approve new church building

Existing Callaway Baptist Church facility will be demolished. Photos by Ron Bailey.

Leonardtown, MD -- The St. Mary’s County Planning Commission has approved a concept site plan for a replacement facility for the Callaway Baptist Church. The new 8,019-square-foot church will be behind the existing building, which will be demolished once the new church is built.

The planning commission members were highly complementary of the plan which calls for creation of a green space in front of the new church where the existing church and parking lot now stand. Consulting engineer Wayne Hunt of Little Silences Rest presented the plan to the commission.

Hunt said the existing church facility had simply become too small for the congregation's needs.

Department of Land Use and Growth Management (LUGM) Planner II Hannah Pinkerton, in her staff report, said, “Staff believes this plan is in keeping with the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan. Staff recommends approval of this Concept Site Plan.”

The only bone of contention was over the amount of property to be dedicated to the Maryland State Highway Administration for the future widening of Route 5 through Callaway. The adjacent shopping center, with the A&W facing Route 5, donated 40 feet in front of their property when that project was approved a number of years ago.

Planning Commission Vice Chair Shelby Guazzo, who was part of the shopping center approval, was insistent that the church continue that right-of-way in front of their property. But the planners were informed in the LUGM staff report that the state had not yet logged in on how much land they would seek.

St. Mary’s County Attorney George Sparling then threw a monkey wrench into the discussion by saying that the courts had ruled that planning commissions could extract more from an applicant than the zoning laws required. In the case of state roads, the state would have to compensate the property owner for what was taken beyond those zoning requirements.

Sparling cautioned the commissioners not to request something that may be considered by the applicant to be a condition of approval.

Callaway Baptist Church Treasurer Robert Leibrand told the planners that the church was willing to donate the 40-foot right of way in front of their property. When time came for a motion Guazzo asked that the church’s willingness to donate the 40 feet be included.

Although Sparling said he had no problem with that, other commission members said they preferred to leave the amount of land open-ended, noting the state may request more or less than the 40 feet. So the motion that prevailed did not include any requirement for a right-of-way donation. Guazzo abstained on that motion which otherwise passed.

Final site plan for the new church will be handled administratively by LUGM.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com

 

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