By Anna Guido
LIBERTY TWP. - Lakota Christian Church wants to expand, but not if means losing the faith of neighboring homeowners.
The church has revised its expansion plan to meet 15 of 19 concerns of nearby property owners and is seeking a conditional use building permit May 13 from the board of zoning appeals in this Butler County township.
The board rejected the original expansion plan Jan. 14. Since then, church officials and residents of the abutting Woodmoor Terrace subdivision have met on several occasions to discuss the planned 27,000-foot expansion.
"We were made aware of numerous things the neighbors wanted addressed," said Barry Shelley, chairman of the church elders. "We've tried to see everything from their perspective, and we tried to respond to all of their concerns."
Steve Hall, treasurer of the Woodmoor Terrace Homeowners Association, disagrees. Hall said the church has ignored "issues of substance," including the location of the proposed expansion.
The church wants to expand north, closer to Woodmoor Terrace, instead of east into part of the church parking lot and an open area.
"What they've done so far is put a shade around a light and cut down a dead tree," Hall said. "They talk a real good game, but when it comes down to action, they're very light on action."
Hall said the church also has refused to guarantee that the expanded facility will not be used as a school or day care center, which homeowners believe could harm property values.
Shelley said the church has complied with all "reasonable requests" from the homeowners association, and has not asked for any variances.
Township zoning supervisor Barry Tiffany said the first plan was unanimously rejected because it was not compatible in size and scale to adjacent property.
Lakota Christian Church is on 15 acres at Hamilton-Mason and LeSourdsville-West Chester roads. The 40,000-square-foot, two-level church was built in 1993 and expanded in 1997. It is among several churches to open or expand in Liberty Township in recent years to serve the area's growing population. They include St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish and Princeton Pike Church of God, both of which had opposition from nearby homeowners.
The board of zoning appeals meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Liberty Township Administration Building, 6400 Princeton Road. For more information, call 777-4761.
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