Next-door neighbors of Noroton Presbyterian Church love hearing the sweet pealing of its bells, but they're a bit concerned about any new noises that may derive out of its proposed renovation.
Noroton Presbyterian applied for a special permit before the Planning & Zoning Commission Tuesday night to construct an addition to and alter the existing church, including modifying the parking lot and playground.
"There really have been no substantial additions to the building since the '50s," said attorney Bruce Hill. "Since the church is 150 years old, it's obviously grown in its membership over the years."
He emphasized that it had outgrown its space.
"The existing uses simply require more space than the church has," he said. "This is not a means of increasing the membership of the church. They simply don't have enough space for the existing programming."
According to architect Dennis Kowal, who's based in Somerville, N.J., the footprint of the building will increase by approximately 6,000 square feet through the construction of a large meeting hall and new entrance at the center of the existing structure. The inside will be renovated, bringing the indoor square footage from 40,527 to 52,669.
"The site will change as well," Hill said. "The plan is to move the existing playground ... to relocate that closer to the actual education space for both security and safety reasons. The parking lot will be reconfigured, though remain at 191 spaces, drainage improvements and new plantings will be introduced, and the lighting of the parking light will be redone to make it less bright and intrusive to neighbors."
Among those neighbors, four spoke to the commission. All expressed their appreciation for the church as a good neighbor, but each shared some misgivings or concerns about the project.
"We are concerned just that in doing all this great expansion, that the catch basin might not do the job it was intended to," said Linda Terhune, referencing past instances of flooding at nearby homes.
"We love being a neighbor, but we just want to make sure," she said, asking the commission to be vigilant.
"As a two-time combat veteran, I personally know that plans sometimes don't work out the way you intend they will," said Craig Schorr, an abutting neighbor to the church property.
"If you have a bigger space, you will attract more people to use that," said neighbor Long Zou.
"They have a lot of volunteer stuff, but their activity is limited by the meeting room they have right now," he said. "If they have more meeting room, does that mean they'll have more activity during the day?"
"That means more traffic, more noise around our properties," he said.
"I think some of these things we have heard responses to, but I want to make sure that the neighbors fully understand their concerns are covered," said commission Chairman Joseph Spain.
The application was continued to Oct. 22, after the church will have had a chance to present to the Architectural Review Board.
Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.