DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Directly across the street from the Magnolia Place and Pagemore subdivisions in Durham County sits an empty field, with nothing more than patches of dirt, blades of grass, debris from former outbuildings, and a few land maintenance trucks.
The site is the future home of the Triangle Church of Christ, which is currently located in Chapel Hill.
The church applied for a minor special use permit (MSUP) through Durham County in October 2016.
The County Board of Adjustments held a meeting on the matter in January 2017 requesting "A minor special use permit to allow for a place of worship to be located at 2021, 2031, and 2103 Page Road."
The site is zoned Rural Residential (RR) and is located in the Suburban Tier. Per Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Section 5.1.2, places of worship are allowed in residential districts through the approval of a minor special use permit."
Triangle Church of Christ sent letters to property owners within 600 feet of the site, which would include residents of Pagemore and Magnolia Place, and alerted them of the pending construction.
Once the letter was received, Magnolia Place homeowners petitioned their HOA to retain a lawyer in an effort to block the church's construction. A handful of residents showed concern with traffic on the "quiet" part of Page Road and the impact to property values in the neighborhood.
"There can be a positive impact of a church going into a neighborhood," said Magnolia Place resident Caitlin Kempski. "But we already have two. So there's no real additional benefit from a third on property values. Also, increased traffic almost always has a negative impact."
The Board of Directors for Magnolia Place HOA retained a lawyer and contacted the Durham County Board of Adjustments to put a pause on construction in early 2017. Lawyers for the HOA requested a traffic study and home value assessment impact be completed before anything progressed.
Plans for the nearly 22-acre site include a sanctuary, a sports complex, an amphitheater, and 504 parking spaces. "I feel a special use permit should have no more impact than what the permitted use of the land was supposed to be," Kempski added. "Right now on Sunday's we have 60 cars max go down (Page Road) in an hour. (Triangle Church of Christ) would be a huge increase. We were told they weren't going to add any turning lanes or anything to help alleviate the extra traffic."
As part of the church's initial application, lead evangelist Rick Overturf addressed some of the community's concerns.
In harmony with the area and not substantially injurious to the value of properties in the general vicinity: "Applicant's response (excerpt) - The proposed use is complementary to the surrounding area and will not be injurious to the use of our values of area properties. Furthermore, the Victorious Praise Church is located less than 1/4 mile from the site which demonstrates the proposed use is complementary to existing uses in the area."
Will not adversely affect the health or safety of the public: "Applicant's response (excerpt) - Traffic simulation showed delays on this road to be less than one minute. The TIA (Traffic Impact Analysis) concluded that no specific improvements are recommended to mitigate this minor delay."
Effect of the proposed use on nearby properties, including, but not limited to, the effects of noise, order, lighting and traffic. "Applicant's response (excerpt) ...impacts to nearby properties will be minimal. Noise from the site will be minimal as most activities will occur inside the church facilities. Peak traffic produced by this facility will occur during times of worship (non-peak traffic hours) and not present consistent traffic issues during the week as other non-residential uses may."
A member of the board of directors for the HOA said the community feels like "the little guy" in the process. He said the Board of Adjustments for Durham County was going to "rubber stamp" this project until they became involved.
Triangle Church of Christ facilities manager, Rick Fuller, told ABC11 the church plans to resume construction on the site immediately after the May 22 re-hearing on the matter. Fuller spoke under the impression the BOA would approve the church's permit of the site. "It's already done," Fuller said. "We're just waiting it out."
The HOA provided ABC11 with a statement that can be read here.