Henderson church, developer reach middle ground on expansion project


St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church and CE Homes have found middle ground after the church sought to construct a new building, which includes a steeple more than 80 feet tall in Henderson.

"We never opposed the church," said Josh Anderson, a manager with CE Homes who appealed the Henderson Planning Commission's initial decision to approve the building. "We wanted to have meaningful dialogue. I'm glad the way it all turned out."

That dialogue developed into a compromise between the church and the appellant, which then led the Henderson City Council to vote 5-0 to deny CE Homes initial appeal at the Aug. 7 meeting.

"I believe the process has worked," Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen said. "I know there are some people who are still not satisfied with the process. I think at the end of the day, we got the two sides together."

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 2300 Sunridge Heights Parkway, had applied for a conditional use permit in 2002 to build the parish hall - which was completed - a church building and a school.

At a June 14 meeting, the Henderson Planning Commission approved an amendment to the use permit to allow the church to construct the school, bell tower and administration building.

The church was required to go back before the Planning Commission to amend its original permit if any construction exceeded 35 feet, which the bell tower would.

CE Homes, which plans to develop near the site, appealed the commission's decision and urged the City Council to deny the permit.

CE Homes and neighbors in the area thought the project was too massive and wouldn't provide adequate parking.

The first public hearing, which was scheduled to take place at the July 17 council meeting, was postponed. In the interim, both parties were encouraged by the council to reach an agreement, which they did.

The church's architects made revisions to the project such as reducing the height of the bell tower by 11 feet.

Hafen said he was glad the groups came to an agreement.

"Federal law is on the side of religious institutions," Hafen said.

Instead of the church digging in its heels, Hafen complimented its willingness to compromise and work with the appellant.

Even though the developers and the church reached an agreement, not everyone was pleased with the outcome or the process.

Gayle Brock, a Henderson resident who lives in the Canyon Edge subdivision next to the site, said she wasn't opposed to the church, just the process the Planning Commission went about to approve it. One aspect some residents were disappointed with was the notification process.

"Many have lost faith in the process," Brock said. "It has been a bad process, including a lack of due diligence by the Planning Commission."

Stephanie Garcia-Vause, the city's director of community development, said there are two ways to send out a notice of a meeting: A public hearing notice is posted on the site 10 days before a meeting and residents within a 500-foot area are mailed notices.

"We actually did 525 feet," Garcia-Vause said. "We try to go a little extra. We also try to be judicious when we send out notices. It cost money, so we try to be good stewards of our resources."

Brock fell in that range and said she was notified.

Brock and other residents who spoke at the meeting said even though 500 feet might be state regulation, because of the height of the building, she felt that the city should have contacted residents at a further distance.

Brock also thought it was a conflict of interest that the Planning Commissioner Sean Fellows voted on the decision at the June 14 meeting despite being a member of the parish. Fellows disclosed at the meeting that he attends the church, according to the agenda minutes.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

 

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