Tree of Life Church in Montgomery wants to expand, but some neighbors raise concerns

Posted at 6:11 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 19:27:42-04

MONTGOMERY, Ohio — A church wants to expand so everyone who comes to Sunday services can fit in the santuary without spilling into an auxiliary room.

But neighbors say they’re concerned about additional traffic, noise and stormwater runoff.

The City of Montgomery planning commission approved a 20,000-square foot expansion of the Tree of Life Church in a 5-1 vote Monday night. That vote proceeds to city council.

The church, which moved to 11 acres at 6477 Cooper Road in 2014, says it needs the expansion and tried to meet neighbors in the middle.

“The expansion is necessary,” said Pastor Joel Urshan. "We’ve really maximized our current worship facilities.”

The church says 30 people routinely can not fit in the sanctuary. The addition would allow the church to sit current and new churchgoers and add a welcome center.

“The existing church congregation is around 400 people,” said Assistant City Manager Tracy Roblero. “The addition would allow the church to go up to approximately 880 people.”

But Jacqueline Frericks, who’s lived in the area for four years, says she’s concerned about increasing traffic.

“The kids all play outside. We have a bunch of kids in the neighborhood, so we just don’t want there to be extra traffic and noise,” Frericks said.

Steve Silverman, a Montgomery resident for 27 years, has concerns about stormwater runoff.

“The water could flow back toward the neighborhood if there’s a really heavy storm and the water doesn’t get handled by the system,” Silverman said.

Roblero agrees that the church tried to meet the concerned residents in the middle by shrinking its plans.

“The church has reduced the size of the proposed addition from the original application back in November by approximately 10,000 square feet due to concerns from neighboring residents as well as from our planning commission,” Roblero said.

“We lowered the ceiling height of the sanctuary dramatically,” said Urshan. “We reduced the impervious surface - all in response to those concerns of the neighbors.”

The city council could schedule a vote at its next meeting on May 22. If city council approves, it goes back to the planning commission.