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)