Piney Mountain Residents Not in Favor of Church Plans - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Piney Mountain Residents Not in Favor of Church Plans

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A plan to build a church on Piney Mountain is not getting praise from a group of neighbors. They're asking for action from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to keep the church from changing the landscape of their community.

The neighborhood - right off Route 29 - is secluded, wooded and even picturesque. That's what people who live on the mountain say they're trying to preserve.

"It was paradise, it really was. We loved it," said Joyce Walker, who moved to the mountain 35 years ago with her husband. She's built a life and raised a family in the gated community full of greenery.  Now Walker is afraid that's all going to change when a church is built at the base of the mountain.

"It's against our natural environment here," she said.

One of the main concerns the neighbors have is that the entrance to the church will mean a section of trees near the entrance to the mountain will have to be cut down. That got the attention of Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek.

"I became alarmed when I saw site plans with all the trees being cut down between 29 and the church," she said.

Some of the other concerns - laid out in maps and letters to supervisors and planning commission members - are that the church will create traffic and take away from the natural atmosphere that's a staple of the community.

"When you think of churches, you think of little community things," said Ann Mallek, a member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. "This could be a big church and have a big impact."

The residents of Piney Mountain said they don't have a problem with the fact that a church is being built at the base of the mountain, they just want certain aspects for the site plans for the church to be amended.

"There should be a different way of doing things," said Charles Boldt, who lives on Piney Mountain.

There are already several other churches in the area and Walker said those churches are in unity with the community. She said this new church should be no different.

"I believe if it was done properly than it would be more acceptable," she said.

The neighbors also said they're concerned about the plan's critical slopes, and they're hoping for more of a buffer around the church.

"It's clear now their intentions are to put something up here that's clearly visible from 29, that's clearly visible from Dickerson (Street) and is not in harmony with the other churches," Boldt said.

The New Hope Church currently congregates at Sutherland Middle School. The pastor, Mike Henderson, said he doesn't want to create issues with people on the mountain and he's been following all protocol for the approval process. A process, neighbors say, is flawed.

"In a process you check boxes. But there's no box for common sense," said Boldt.

Mallek said the issues these neighbors have need to be addressed.

"This is why, when things go off the rail, it's usually because we have not heard well enough from the voices of the people most directly impacted," she said.

Regardless of the concerns, Pastor Henderson says a little gospel is good for any community and there is always someone who will complain.

On Thursday, the neighbors opposed to the plans for the church will have an opportunity to voice their concerns to the Albemarle County planning staff at a 4 p.m. meeting at the county office building.

There will be an official site meeting in a couple of weeks with planners and the engineer from the church.

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