Christ Church Anglican in Savannah update — many find building too massive

From today’s Savannah Morning News article by Adam Van Brimmer, Christ Church Anglican faces new opposition:

Church representatives obtained three of four variance requests for the project Thursday from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The hearing was contentious, however. The plans pitted church members against neighborhood residents — and neighbors against neighbors in some instances. The project faces additional review by the staff of the Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Savannah city manager’s office and could be subject to additional public hearings before construction can begin.

The most compelling quote in the article comes from Jason Cobb, whose family business would share the block with the large new church: “There’s nothing neighborly about this building.”

Having considered the project as dispassionately as possible, I think the proposed church complex is simply too massive for that site.

There are a number of compelling arguments for it not being too massive, so I’ve attached a number of images below that give some sense of the issues so readers can decide for themselves.

The best argument for the appropriateness of the scale is that there are other institutions nearby with similar footprints.

But consider Wallin Hall and Sister’s Court to the east. Both face 37th Street, and do so rather expansively and graciously. In the case of Christ Church Anglican, a side wall — perhaps with no active entrances as required by zoning — faces the boulevard. The Christian Revival Center to the west clearly presents itself as two separate buildings — one facing 37th and one facing Bull.

And both the sanctuary and the attached parish house require significant variances in terms of maximum footprint. The two buildings, which are attached, have a total footprint of 12,600 square feet. The limit in the zoning district is a footprint of 5500 sf. Even if we view those as separate buildings, they both require variances. Interestingly, in the staff report before yesterday’s ZBA meeting, there’s this ruling regarding the issue of these attached but separate buildings:

The Site Administrator has determined that the coverage proposed should be calculated on the basis of all structures on the property. The petitioner proposes to construct 12,600 square feet of church sanctuary and parish hall/classroom building(s) and to possibly retain the contributing 1,300 square foot (footprint) historic frame structure already present on the structure. This would exceed the maximum 5,500 square foot building footprint by 7,100 square feet (129 percent). There are no extraordinary or exceptional conditions pertaining to the particular piece of property in question that would require the petitioner to exceed the maximum lot coverage by 129 percent.

Clearly, the size of the two buildings violates the letter of the neighborhood zoning code. I think the size also violates the spirit of the code.

One could counter by saying that the lot presents the exceptional condition of being very large and basically linear. But the largeness and linearity of the lot are the direct result of the petitioner’s own choices to a) move or destroy an existing building, b) ignore the historical block design with buildings facing 37th St, and c) combine two parcels (originally 7) into a single lot.

While the proposed complex meets the letter of the code in terms of lot coverage, I think there’s an interesting problem regarding the spirit of it. Given the large entry to the church and the parking along the lane, the property would offer very little visible green space to passersby. Note that one of the largest areas of green space is an interior courtyard that would be invisible from the outside.

For an interesting take on the church from The Very Rev. Dr. William Willoughby of the nearby St. Paul’s (and not a good speller), click here.

Click here for my last post on this issue, which includes a link to one of my City Talk columns.

Here are some pics and images from this link:

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