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October 21, 2009 > Planning Commission approves church facilities

Planning Commission approves church facilities

By Shavon Walker

Members, friends and potential new neighbors spoke on behalf of three churches applying for conditional use permits during the Milpitas Planning Commission. All three were granted with similar stipulations. The churches had one thing in common: the desire to hold their services in a location that would free them from scheduling constraints and other issues.

Second San Jose Vietnamese Alliance Church (SSJVAC)
Pastor and applicant Hung Pham noted the church's present location only allows services on Sunday afternoons and has very limited space for Friday night activities. He also mentioned SSJVAC's desire "to build people...gather people them up and scatter them to serve the community."

The main issue with the prospective new site is parking. Its location would be on the same property as the Indian Community Center (ICC) and Kaiser Permanente. Staff member Tiffany Brown explained that only 62 of the 92 parking spaces available for their section of the building are needed. The church is willing to color-code its spaces so worshippers know where to park. There would be no congestion problems associated with the ICC's farmers' market and the SSJVAC's congregation. The market and church service would be held simultaneously.

According to Brown, the SSJVAC's request fulfills the intent of Milpitas' General Plan by "[encouraging] development of adequate civic, recreational and cultural centers and is a location that would coincide with neighboring uses." Moreover, the SSJVAC's request was submitted before April 30, 2009 and, thus, considered under the previous zoning ordinance. This makes it consistent with a 2009 zoning ordinance that prohibits places of worship in an industrial district but allowed a grace period until April 30.

Andrew Nguyen, Lindsey Nguyen, Lynn Hahn, Barry Fernald and Phung Nguyen all spoke in support of the church. Anil Godhwani, co-founder of the ICC, emphasized the willingness of both groups to work together.

The Commission asked about the church's activities and events and its impact on traffic. The permit was granted subject to three conditions. First, the church must create a parking plan for emergencies or special events. Second, it must communicate with Kaiser and the property's other tenants to devise a parking plan with them. Finally, the permit will be reviewed at the end of six to twelve months.

Wellsprings Community Church
Staff member Cindy Hom stated that the church would use 73 of the 82 parking spots available during weekday, peak hours. At the weekend, parking would drop to 26 parking spots. The area is zoned for office use but the church is allowed to use it under the current zoning laws.

Henry Cord, consultant for Wellsprings Community Church, noted it is a fifth of the size of the SSJVAC. Saturday nights are busiest for Wellsprings Community Church from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. This, coupled with the church's small size, would cause fewer parking and traffic issues.

Mike Blancett, applicant and head elder of Wellsprings Community Church, acknowledges they currently share parking space with Spring Valley Bible Church, which has priority, but wishes his church could worship without having to adhere to such requirements. He is willing to speak with anyone who might have an issue with their presence in the new facility and wishes to be "good neighbors."

Robert Robinson reiterated issues with parking. Patrons have occasionally blocked the cul-de-sac, where he and other residents live, and asked the Commission to bear this in mind when making their decision. Mary Stuart, representing the property owners, pointed out the health club has its own parking, separate from the parking near the cul-de-sac and the church's potential location. Ms. Nguyen, from Lathrop, expressed her support for the church's new location. The permit was granted and will also undergo a six to twelve month review. Commissioner Tabladillo also wants the church to establish an open dialogue with other tenants.

Living Word Church
Living Word Church wished to amend an existing conditional use permit. Staff member Cindy Hom exhibited the plans to consolidate the church and seminary uses. The only issue with parking would be the need to make 40 percent of it compact only. There are many methods that can be used to accomplish this; the church has not yet decided on a suitable one.

Applicant and architect Eugene Sim wishes to use the space as efficiently as possible. The Commission had no questions and granted the permit with the compact parking requirement.

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