A submittal to build an addition to First Baptist Concord’s gymnasium ended after about an hour with a 5-4 vote in favor of the church’s site plan.
However, three residents asked that approval of the addition be contingent upon the church closing the old Belleaire Drive, an access into the church, which they said is too close to the current Belleaire Driv and is causing traffic safety concerns.
“Neither myself nor the (Farragut Neighborhood Preservation Partnership) are opposed to the construction, only the additional traffic that would be added to an already unsafe section of Kingston Pike with too many curb cuts too close together,” Belleaire resident Jeanne Brykalski said. “Now that FBC is requesting approval of another site plan, wouldn’t this be a good time to revisit the long-promised permanent closure and rerouting of the Old Belleaire Drive/CCS driveway?
“The Old Belleaire Drive/CCS driveway curb cut to Kingston Pike was never intended to be a permanent access point for FBC and CCS,” she added. “Once Belleaire Drive was (re-)located in 2008, at FBC’s request, the old Belleaire curb cut along Kingston Pike was to be permanently closed and the driveway rerouted across from Russgate Boulevard, where FBC used to have a driveway.
“To date, this has not taken place.”
Brykalski also asked that the site plan show the construction entrance/exit.
“Anyone who lives in Belleaire, Shiloh, Derby Chase or the surrounding area has heard, has witnessed or has experienced vehicle accidents and near misses that occurred in what I call the danger zone between Belleaire Drive and the First Baptist Concord and Concord Christian School curb cut, or what was once the old Belleaire Drive,” Mary Ellen Brannon said. “It’s an incredibly dangerous combination.”
Meanwhile Alderman David White, who spoke as a citizen, contended the old Belleaire Drive curb cut “is not only unsafe, it’s illegal.”
“We still own the right-of-way,” he added, indicating there is no deed in the Registrar’s office to show the property was transferred back to the church.
“You don’t see the entrance on the final plat,” White added. He asked FMPC to close the road and resolve another access for construction.”
However, Commissioner Ed St. Clair said the Commission should separate the two issues — the church’s addition and Old Belleaire Drive closure.
“This (addition) stands on its merits,” he said. “I don’t see, necessarily, holding it hostage, so to speak.”
Still, St. Clair, who served on the Planning Commission in 2008, “can remember certain commitments, obviously not verbatim … but I think the Town owes it to the citizens of Belleaire to research it … to see what the church is accountable for.
“We need to get to the bottom of it or it’s going to be a continuing, festering issue,” he added.
“I would agree with what you said,” Commissioner Jon Greene said. “I don’t see holding the construction project hostage to the issue of the road.
“We’ve had a couple allegations here about the safety and the danger of that intersection,” he added. “This sounds like an issue, but it doesn’t sound like an issue to be presented to the Planning Commission … it needs to be addressed by BOMA.”
“I think the problem is they don’t have the ability to hold anyone’s feet to the fire unless we have something to hold their feet to the fire,” said Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, also a Commissioner. “This has gone on since 2008.”
”It’s not as simple as sketching out a road,” a FBC representative said. “There is engineering and design to figure in the process. We followed the ordinance with the plan. We satisfied all those criteria.”
While there was a motion, first, to postpone action, and another to approve the site plan subject to the road closure, both motions failed for lack of a second.
While Commissioners Noah Myers, Shannon Presley, Scott Russ, St. Clair and Greene voted to approve the site plan, Mayor Ron Williams, also a Commissioner; Holladay, Povlin and Ron Pinchok voted against the approval.