Gospel Fellowship Church Deacon Gives Testimony
Deacon appears before the zoning board to answer questions regarding the church's traffic impact, use of facility, and schedule of services.
Deacon Lee, minister with the Gospel Fellowship Church, testified before the zoning board of adjustment on behalf of the church Tuesday. Gospel Fellowship Church is currently under contract to purchase the Riverview Racquetball Club once the site plan is granted the variances from the zoning board.
The church, currently located in Bergenfield, is seeking to move into the Riverview Racquetball Club facility on Henley Ave., but was denied by the Planning Board in December. The board cited increased flooding, traffic and the number of congregants as reasons for denial.
Regarding the use of the facility, Lee said that Sunday is the church's busiest day with two services. The first service is from 8:30 am to 10 am and he stated that approximately 50 members attend. Of these 50 members, he said that "only a few" stay for the second service.
The second service is from 11 am to 12:30 pm and attracts approximately 150 members, but when asked about traffic impact, Lee explained that most members arrive for services "two to three" to a car.
Lee also said that following the second service the church offers a light lunch of soup, noodles and/or rice, adding that most of the members from the second service attend the lunch. Lee explained that this food would not be prepared in the kitchen facility, but rather be heated in microwaves.
According to Lee, there is no further activity on Sundays following the lunch. He added that upon completion of lunch members do not all leave at the same time; their departures are staggered, minimizing the impact on traffic.
Lee said that the weekday activities of the church include a morning prayer service Monday through Friday from 5:30am to 6:30am, adding that only a minimal number of members attend. There is also a bible study class Monday through Friday from 10am to noon that attracts approximately 10 to 15 members.
Regarding special events such as weddings and funerals, Lee said that only one wedding has been performed in the past four years at their current location, and he said that he does not expect this number to significantly increase in their new, larger location.
He conceded that there may be additional traffic at weddings because of guests, but said that weddings are typically held on Saturdays, a day when the church has no scheduled activities.
Lee said that if there is a wedding it would be catered by an outside vendor noting that despite the inclusion of a kitchen, it would still not be feasible to prepare that many meals for such an occasion, and it is not the intent of the church to do so. Lee stressed that the facility will will not be used as a catering hall, nor will it be rented for use by non-members.
When questioned about the church providing a nursery school, Lee said that there are no plans for a nursery school, nor do they plan to rent space to an outside contractor who would operate a nursery school.
Lee said that they are proposing a “crying room.” A crying room is usually a glass-encased soundproof room where mothers can take their crying children while being able to watch the service without interrupting it.
Eliot Urdang, attorney for Gospel Fellowship Church, said that although the church's site plan is the same plan that was approved by the planning board when the Riverview Racquetball Club applied for C variances, the status of the applicant has changed.
According to Urdang, and acknowledged by zoning board attorney Scott Sproviero, the racquetball club is considered a permitted use under the town's ordinances and was therefore granted the C variances.
The church is now seeking D variances because a house of worship is a conditional use, not a permitted or existing use as defined by the town's ordinance, and only the zoning board has jurisdiction over D variances. Because of that, Urdang said that the planning board never had jurisdiction to hear the application, and considered their denial to be null and void.
At the July 10 meeting of the zoning board, Urdang said that parking variances were approved for the Riverview Racquetball Club and three permits were obtained from the DEP--all dealing with the flood plain and wetlands waivers. These DEP permits are valid through March 2013.
The site plan application that was approved by the planning board, and is the same one being considered by the zoning board for the church, contains 115 parking spaces. Urdang does not believe that the church will utilize all of those spaces.
"I think that's a carry over from the Racquetball Club application," he told the board.
The hearing of the Gospel Fellowship Church is scheduled to continue at the September 11 meeting of the zoning board.