Grace Fellowship Church has abandoned controversial plans to build a new church on Seminary Avenue in Brooklandville after concluding that the property it was considering may not get county approval for the amount of parking the congregation needs.
Church leaders posted an announcement and a video on their website notifying members of the decision and saying they will look for another location.
In the meantime, the church will remain at its current location, the converted John Deere tractor showroom at 9505 Deereco Road in Lutherville-Timonium, one of Baltimore County’s early examples of adaptive reuse.
“When we started this process, we had high hopes that this property would accommodate all the needs of our congregation for many years to come,” lead pastor Shea Strickland says in the church’s three-minute video, referring to the Seminary Avenue parcel.
“We want to inform you that after a long and thorough process, including much prayer and counsel, we’ve decided that it is in our church’s best interest to end this process and to pursue a site other than Seminary Avenue,” said Brian Pabst, the lead elder.
Pabst said in the video that the reason for the church’s decision is that Grace is still growing and it became clear the Seminary Avenue site may not be able to meet its needs.
“Over the past several months, we have experienced new momentum and growth in our weekend services,” he said. “Since July, our average adult worship attendance has grown by 300 people.
But amid that expansion and attempts to work through “development and environmental challenges” with the property, he said “it’s become increasingly difficult for the site to accommodate our present and future parking needs. Due to the county’s strict development standards, we’ve been advised by our experts that adequate parking to meet our growing demand would not be approved.”
The church’s building committee is now looking at other options, Pabst said. “In the meantime, we are asking you to continue to please pray that God will open the door for us to acquire an affordable property that can accommodate our present and growing needs.”
The church had proposed to build a 78,000-square-foot worship center on a 21-acre parcel on Seminary Avenue, just east of Falls Road.
The church leaders said Grace spent more than $450,000 to pursue the Seminary Avenue property. The breakdown of costs includes: legal expenses ($102,000); civil engineering fees ($93,000); a traffic study ($33,000); environmental scientist fees ($19,000); surveyor fees ($8,000); architecture fees ($64,000); and a non-refundable $150,000 down payment for the property.
The project has been controversial with many area residents, who expressed concerns about the environmental effects of a large construction project on the surrounding area, including a nearby stream called Deep Run.
On their website, the leaders of Grace Fellowship Church said community opposition to the project was not the reason for their decision.
“Although our relationship to the community and neighborhoods close to the Seminary property site is of high importance to us,” they said, “we ultimately reached the decision based on our growing needs and the reality that the property’s limited ability to meet those needs would not be approved by the county.”
Church leaders said they will be looking for property near their current location.
“Many in our congregation live relatively close to the immediate surrounding areas of our current location,” they said online. “Our desire is to stay close to our current location to maintain a continuity of presence in our current community.”