Wrightsville Beach planning board rejects church pavilion

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A Wrightsville Beach church and its neighbors couldn’t reach agreement over a proposed outdoor pavilion, prompting the town’s planning board to reject the church’s applications for the project, though it could still be considered by the board of aldermen.

The board’s 4-1 vote against a conditional use permit for St. Therese’s Catholic Church’s proposal for an outdoor facility comes nearly a month after it postponed a decision to give the two sides time to negotiate.

At the Tuesday, June 6 meeting, while participants said the talks were “amicable,” they ultimately didn’t reach an agreement.  While the architect for the church presented some points of compromise they were willing to make, neighbors said they ultimately believed the additional building  would bring more traffic, noise and light to the neighborhood.

The planning board held the public hearing to consider a conditional use permit at St. Therese Catholic Church at 209 S. Lumina Ave. The permit would be for the building of assembly space that would include a 3,817 square foot multipurpose pavilion, providing 2,545 square feet open air, covered deck and 1,272 square feet of conditioned support space. The assembly space would be located behind the church’s sanctuary.

Several members of the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board said they had hoped that the neighbors and the church would have come to an agreement. The church can still have the town’s board of aldermen consider the conditional use permit, which could be on the board’s agenda as early as August.

Board member Jeff DeGroote said if the pavilion were closed instead of open, it may cause less of an impact on the neighborhood.

“An enclosed facility would solve a lot of the problems and concerns,” concurred board member Jim Smith.

John Sawyer, the project architect, said the church was willing to add paneling to help protect intrusion on the neighbors. Sawyer also said that the building wouldn’t be as big as neighbors worried.

“It’s not as tall as the neighboring house and it’s not as tall as the sanctuary,” Sawyer said.

One resident who spoke didn’t oppose the project, but said there were concerns the building’s lighting could impact turtles and other wildlife. Sawyer said the facility would be outfitted with directional LED lighting that wouldn’t be visible from the beach.

Kevin Small, a member of the church’s finance council, said the building had been paid for through church funds and wouldn’t be used to grow the membership. He said it would be used to hold events for as many as 16 regular activities, including the parish social and overflow for holiday services.

Email terrylane@luminanews.com

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