PZC starts synagogue application review

Friday, December 5, 2008 6:11 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission began deliberations this week on the application to build a synagogue on Goose Lane that has occupied the body for months.

Some of the commissioners appeared to have made up their minds about Chabad of the Shoreline’s proposal for a new facility at 181 Goose Lane, while others said they were still undecided.

The commission did not take a vote on the topic — that is scheduled for its next regular meeting Dec. 17 — and did not discuss a proposed motion, but held what Chairwoman Shirley Girioni called an “informal discussion.”

Girioni noted that commission members are no longer allowed to receive input, including letters, from town residents or others on the project since the public hearing was closed on Nov. 19.

“The decision can only be made based on what has been in the record and the record was the public hearing,” she said.

At this week’s meeting, commissioners discussed the different criteria for approval of a special permit, which is required for a religious building in any zone.

The property where Chabad hopes to build the synagogue and daycare center currently includes a three-family house and is zoned for residential use. It is bordered by both residential and commercial zones and sits across the street from an industrial park.

Girioni said she thinks the synagogue would fit in with the neighborhood, given its proximity to Interstate 95, satisfying the special permit condition that the building be in harmony with the neighborhood and the town and not impair adjacent home values.

“I think that you have this proposal for a low-impact institutional use, which I think would provide a very positive resource for the town and also provide diversity of culture,” she said. “I think it fits in with that diversity of zones (in the area).”

Commissioner David Grigsby said he does not think it is clear whether the region should be viewed as residential or mixed use.

“The biggest question is, which direction do you want to stand in looking to define what the neighborhood is?” he said. “This is a residential-zoned parcel and this is right where the dividing line falls” between the commercial-industrial and residential areas.

Commissioners also discussed the question of how many people will be using the facility, which had been a point of contention throughout the public hearing.

The applicant’s attorney has said that the plan is for a maximum of 200 participants at a few important holidays every year.

“My concern has always been if the building itself allows for some large occupancy … it could in fact turn out to be a different owner or tenant (in the future) who may maximize the building,” Grigsby said.

Town Attorney Charles Andres said he believes the commission could include a condition of approval limiting the number of people allowed to use the building at one time.

Another key point was the potential increase in traffic at the site, as one condition for a special permit is that the local roads and entrance/exit for the property will safely allow for any additional traffic.

“It’s obvious there’s going to be more traffic there,” Commissioner Ray Bower said, “but the real standard we must measure against is will there be an undue hazard or congestion.”

The other conditions for approval are that the building will have adequate fire access; the lot is large enough for the building and sanitary facilities; and the architectural design does not conflict with nearby properties.

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