Wednesday, June 17, 2009

United Christian Parish Expansion

Over the last few years, the United Christian Parish Church has been working on plans to expand their present building to approximately triple the size of what it is now. The plan includes the removal of the "rectory" house that currently exists on North Shore Drive next to Hickory Cluster (Block 3) and a portion of the existing woods and trees to be replaced by additional parking and a brand new parking lot access onto North Shore Drive. The above drawing (click to enlarge) reflects the church expansion plans as of October '08.

The church has approached HC to ask for a HC vote on a county easement (2/3 of resident "yes" vote needed) on cluster property bordering North Shore Dr. between HC and the proposed new parking lot outlet that would require HC to remove all obstructions to visibility (trees, vegetation, green power box, etc.) back 25ft to satisfy the county by increasing motorist visibility while exiting the church from the new access. To date, the church has offered to pay for the cost of the vote and the costs involved in complying with the easement. The date for the vote TBA.



  1. Sara, one correction: the church has signed an agreement that they would pay all future costs associated with complying with the easement.


  2. What is in it for HC?

  3. What's in it for Hickory Cluster? We lose a large swath of trees, gain a parking lot used one day a week, increased morning traffic behind our house for the daycare, unused, vacated property during the week increasing visibility at night into the back of our homes, and more light bleeding into the bedrooms. 100% of the cluster should vote no!

  4. That is what I was thinking. If there is any advantage to offset these obvious disadvantages, they should be known. Until I'm convinced otherwise, I'm with Ryan in a No vote.

  5. What is the argument for voting yes? I can not see one.
    Jim Livingood, Block 1

  6. What is the position of the Board on this issue, or is there a position?

  7. It would be very helpful if someone with knowledge of all the details would post the pros and cons involved here. Seems to me the Board (Fred) would have the best idea of what is best for the Cluster and share that opinion. If there is an argument for a yes vote I would like to hear it.
    Thanks, Jim Livingood, Block 1

  8. The church came to one of our board meetings and gave a long presentation about the easement. The board has not taken a formal position on the issue but agreed to let the issue come before the members for a vote. We advised the chuch that a 60% yes vote was a very high barrier but they were insistent on going ahead. There was quite a bit of back-and-forth with our lawyer about the easement, and they have compensated us for that cost, so for us to pull out of the vote now would look like bad faith since they have reimbursed our legal fees. We should keep in mind that technically, we are only voting on the easement which involves cutting the vegetation along a narrow strip of land adjacent to the bus stop in front of Block 3 -- we have no say in whether the church goes forward with the expansion plans.


  9. I still do not see what HC would gain from this. Is it simply being neighborly?

  10. Sean has a valid point. What is in it for the cluster? Must have been something positive for the Board to have engaged in a back and forth with lawyers incurring legal fees which now force us to have an election to demonstrate good faith. Still hard to understand why we need an election for an issue that certainly appears to have no upside for the cluster. We could say NO very politely and be very neighborly about it. Enlightenment requested please. Thanks, Jim Livingood, Block 1

  11. There were different opinions, as there often are, and the consensus was to put it up to the membership for a vote. The legal review came later, to make sure we were fully aware of what the easement would mean in the long term as well as ensuring that the process was correct (the easement would actually be with the State, not with the Church). In retrospect it might have been simpler to decline, but that was not a clear majority viewpoint at the time.

    Fred S.

  12. Jim Livingood, Block 1July 21, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    Fred, thanks for explaining the background, etc. What benefit does the cluster receive if we approve this easement other than the Church will pay to maintain it? As Sean put it, what is in it for the cluster? Thanks, Jim Livingood, Block 1

  13. I think the benefit will be less trees and more traffic, sounds great where do I sign up? :-)

  14. WE back right to where the church parking lot would be... and I can't think of anything I'd rather have than people peeking into my home on Sundays...


    Thanks, neighbor, but no.

    Has a vote date been decided yet?

  15. Has anyone noticed from the proposed plans they want to increase the church to 50' high?! The current church is 28' high.
    They also want to put a 80' spire up as well.

    What recourse do we have to put the kabbash on thier plans?

    Or is it too late and all we can do is try to keep them from building their parking lot?



  16. As Sean points out, the plan for the expanded church (never mind the parking lot!) means that we will have a virtual behemoth sitting on the hill above Block three. We need all the tree protection we can get!
    The proposed parking lot will not only compromise drainage in the area behind the Block 3 houses along the property line, but it will mean many headlights shining into windows at night, hugely increased traffic on Sundays and during meetings and other church events. The Church also runs a children's program which could include daily pick-up and drop-off traffic. Add that to Lake Anne elementary's nightmare traffic in the morning and afternoon and we'll have total gridlock.
    I am also very concerned about safety entering and exiting block three. We already have a visibility problem when people are parked on our side of North Shore during the summer. Add to that people exiting the proposed church parking lot, and we are compromised from both directions when trying to pull out onto North Shore. Scary, I think!
    I would love to be a "good neighbor", but I can't see any pluses at all to accepting the Church's proposal, and I see many, many, MANY minuses!
    Alice A

  17. Alice made a lot of compelling points. I have queried RA about the start date for church expansion construction, but receive NO reply. Does anyone know if RA/Fairfax County has provided the final blessing? Have to assume our Board has been active in fighting this expansion. Sure seems to me HC should have a "say" in what happens to them. The Brown's Chapel folks stood up and won. It is a different situation, but they got fired up and got their "say" in.
    --jim livingood, Block 1, HC

  18. I did not realize until today the the Church Expansion has been a "done deal" for months. Also know now that the Board and Block 3 folks worked hard to lessen the adverse impact this Expansion would have on HC. Will go back into hibernation now. Good Night. Jim Livingood, Block 1, HC

  19. So with the vote on the easement approaching, I got real civic minded but just tonight found this page. I'm relieved to see and share the concern. I don't understand why the church feels they need to increase the structures and parking so dramatically and suddenly. Maybe a different site would be more appropriate. I moved to Reston for a certain quality of life and aesthetic. This plan for the bloating church building doesn't fit. (Nor does the high density housing being planned for the Lake.) Stephen, HC


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