Church location stirs debate

A proposed Calvary Church at Montaño Plaza has drawn heated comments from area residents and some confusion from church representatives about what is planned at the site, formerly occupied by a Hastings department store.

The church purchased the building in July before applying for “conditional” permission to use it.The facilitator’s report contains details. The conditional status is granted only if the applicant can prove the use is not “injurious” to the local residents. Many at the 50 people at the latest meeting thought that criteria had not been met.

Calvary Church meeting facilitator report

Suggestions from the audience about possible changes to the plan included limiting the number of attendees at the location, selling the building, or otherwise adopting policies that would ease the potential for congestion. The church later offered responses to several of the suggestions.

Calvary Church response

At the meeting, which was covered by KOB television, church representative Jared Sobczak and architect Devin Cannady responded to questions about the size of the church and the number of people who might attend, as well as the range and frequency of activities in an area with limited access roads and parking.

However, the church’s information was less precise  than evident in the earlier meeting, which was the subject of a  KRQE spot. That gave more detail about what the church plans than was available at the second meeting, with quotes about a possible pre-school, estimates of some 1,500 people attending services, and the possible need to involve Albuquerque police officers to handle traffic.

  • Unlike the larger estimates given at the first meeting, the application for the variance says 800 people will be accommodated; the presenters, however, set the maximum at 750.  The presenters then claimed they did not know how many people would come, saying it could be fewer than 100.
  • Based on what they said were city estimates of four people per car for parking patterns, they said the spaces at the center would  be adequate, particularly on Sunday mornings. Based on the size of the building, their share of the center would allocate them 120 spaces, Mr. Cannady said while allowing that they may need 159. However, he added, as an occupant of the Plaza, they would have permission to use all 1,080 available spaces. Overflow parking on Winter Haven Road was raised as a concern as well.
  • A traffic study, which several attendees requested, was “not required” and “would not be of any help,” said Mr. Cannady. He had no response for how cars would be able to move in and out of the Plaza, which is served by only one light for south-bound exits at the other end of the shopping center.
  • Officials of the church were said to have been unaware of the zoning restrictions when they purchased the building.
  • Initially, they said, one service would be planned for Sundays, but another could be added. Possible activities during the week were not enumerated, except to say that a drive-thru coffee shop left from the previous occupants would continue to be operated.

The Planning Department is scheduled to hear the case on February 20.