After much debate over the last several months, Clifton Park’s Planning Board approved Northway Church’s proposal to build a 40,000-square-foot church on a 6.8-acre lot at the southwest corner of Ushers and Pierce roads Tuesday evening.
The project includes a parking area large enough to accommodate more than 400 cars and a 7,500-square-foot outdoor patio at the church’s entrance. The church is currently located at the North Country Commons Plaza, next door to the Upstate Concert Hall.
Residents filed into Clifton Park’s Town Hall Tuesday evening for the last of a series of tense Planning Board meetings which addressed the fate of the Northway Church in the southern Saratoga County town. The church’s expansion has been a contentious issue in the community as many residents have expressed concern over the building’s aesthetics, traffic hazards and potential impact on smaller area churches.
Noting the religious land use and “institutionalized persons law” of 2000, the deputy town attorney, Paul Pelagalli, explained that the board’s ability to regulate the land’s use was limited. In order to halt the construction of a religious institution, Pelagalli said, there has to be direct, immediate adverse impacts on the community.
The town hired an independent consultant, Peter Faith, to evaluate the proposal and its impact on local traffic. Faith discussed the difference between a traffic inconvenience and a traffic hazard, and said he did not expect the church to cause a traffic hazard. “I don’t think this church would create anything unusual,” he said. “The peak traffic on Sunday will still be less than the peak hours during the week,” Faith added.
Though the meeting was not a public hearing, the board allowed a few residents to ask questions regarding the proposal. Most of the questions pertained to the potential increase in traffic.
At earlier meetings, there was some confusion regarding the number of services that would be held at the new Northway church location. Though the church usually has two services, it recently added a third to accommodate a growing congregation. A representative of the church explained the church will return to two Sunday services once they are in the larger space.
Pastors Buddy and Debbie Cremeans brought the non-denominational church to Clifton Park and settled in the North Country Commons Plaza in 2002. In the 14 years since, the Cremeans have expanded the Northway Church, which also broadcasts on television, to locations in White Plains, Massachusetts and Delaware. Cremeans submitted the project proposal to Clifton Park’s Planning Board in May.
Reach Gazette reporter Cady Kuzmich at 269-7239, firstname.lastname@example.org or @cady_kuz on Twitter.