A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Church proposed on Gibson Hill

Written February 2nd, 2017 by Hasso Hering

This is the rendering that accompanied the site plan notice concerning Saint Anne.

Gibson Hill in North Albany would take on a new look if plans by the Saint Anne’s congregation take form. The hill would be crowned by a domed church to house the Eastern Orthodox church that now worships in a former grange hall in Lewisburg.

I came across a public notice of the site plan application for the project when I was idly scanning the latest planning projects on the city website on Thursday night. On Tuesday, the planning division had posted a notice of a public hearing before the planning commission. It is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20. The commission meets in the council chamber at City Hall.

The Saint Anne congregation, represented by its rector, the Very Rev. Stephen Soot, is asking for a conditional use permit to allow construction of an 8,615-square-foot church and a 13,529-square-foot fellowship hall on the hillside northwest of the roundabout at North Albany Road and Gibson Hill. The address is 1033 Gibson Hill Road N.W.

The application asks for an exception from the building height limit in the residential zone. The limit is 30 feet, but the top of the proposed dome would be 60 feet tall. The development code allows height-limit waivers.

As part of the application, the church said it wants to cut down 157 trees on the 2.7-acre site. A parking lot on the church’s west side would have spaces for 66 cars (assuming I counted right on the drawing).

I was unable to reach the Rev. Soot Thursday night, so I don’t know how close the church is to actually building what it wants if the permit is approved. Many years ago, the church proposed a similar project elsewhere in North Albany — with an onion dome, no less — but it didn’t come about. (hh)

Postscript: The Rev. Soot called me back on Friday and filled me in on a couple of points. As for the timing, assuming it gets the conditional use permit, the church pans to construct some of the required infrastructure this summer. In subsequent years, the first building to go up will be the fellowship hall, and finally the sanctuary. Soot says the fundraising has been going well but will have to continue, and he does not expect the entire complex to be finished for seven to 10 years. On the tree issue, the church will keep the large conifers on the perimeter of the site. Many of the interior trees to be removed are very small. (hh)



12 responses to “Church proposed on Gibson Hill”

  1. Grace Peterson says:

    I just looked at that site on Google Street View. There are a lot of trees there! I’m wondering if the church has already purchased the property.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      According to Benton County property records, St. Anne Orthodox Mission bought the property, containing one four-bedroom house built in 1910, in September 2014 for $270,000.

  2. Corie Benton says:

    I am very disappointed to hear this!! I would hate to see all (or most all) of the old growth trees on the “Petty” property cut down. I understood that the church had initially stated that they were going to preserve most of the trees so as to blend in well with the neighborhood. What a shame and disappointment it is now to hear that they have changed their minds and now plan to cut just about all the trees down. – It has always been nice coming up North Albany Road and seeing the grove of trees standing there. It has always given me the feeling , the sense of arriving home safely.

  3. Adriana says:

    Is that the old beekeeper’s property? Doesn’t seem quite large enough for a structure that size.

  4. John Hartman says:

    While the world’s various religions have each staked their claim to being the “one true faith,” it seems increasingly clear that these institutions are becoming more and more politicized. The Eastern Orthodox system has been around a long time and is every bit as political as any other church body.

    Now, the Trumpsters want to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment which grants religious institutions freedom from taxation in exchange for the church agreeing to refrain from political speech from the pulpit on Sunday’s, or whatever day is church day.

    If the Johnson Amendment is destroyed by Trump and his faith-based goon squad, then local taxing authorities should immediately add these now-political institutions to the tax roles. Imagine if St. Anne’s had to pay property taxes on their proposed 22-thousand square foot structure! Imagine the property tax relief regular home owners might receive were religious institutions allowed to preach the Trump Belief System from the bully pulpit.

    • ean says:

      The fact Trump is such a huge ally with the religious people of America doesn’t bode well for future participation in organized religion. If the goal is to spread the gospel the religious right is failing miserably.

      • centrist says:

        DT is portraying an allegiance with a specific portion of “religious” America. Doesn’t resonate with RC, E, A, M, etc
        By the way, many on the religious right are praying for the “end of days” and hoping that he brings this about
        Just sayin’

  5. ean says:

    Kind of seems like a risky investment to build a huge church in the day and age of ever decreasing organized religion participation. Hope they have a good portion of the money already on hand if they are planning on finding a bank to finance any of it.

  6. Joe S says:

    I would rather put my money on the duck


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