Blaine Planning Commission reviews church request

A Lino Lakes-based church is moving forward with plans for a new 38,250 square-foot house of worship in Blaine’s premier residential development.

These artist renderings show the exterior views of a 38,250 square-foot house of worship that would eventually be built south of 125th Avenue in The Lakes. Map graphic courtesy Blaine GIS
These artist renderings show the exterior views of a 38,250 square-foot house of worship that would eventually be built south of 125th Avenue in The Lakes. Map graphic courtesy Blaine GIS

Chain of Lakes is a new northern metro faith community. The congregation currently has 25 to 30 families worshipping at the Lino Lakes Community Center.

Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area has negotiated a purchase agreement for a nine-acre piece of property on the northern edge of The Lakes south of 125 Avenue.

The Blaine Planning Commission reviewed the church’s preliminary plat and conditional use permit (CUP) after an April 10 public hearing. Both were unanimously approved.

According to Shawn Kaye, associate city planner, Chain of Lakes church members have been searching for a more permanent home to build a new church.

Meridian Bank has a large outlot at the far northwest corner of The Lakes that was planned and approved for Rottlund Homes to build a 110-townhome project.

Churches are allowed in all Blaine residential zoning districts as conditional uses, Kaye said.

The church’s CUP would provide zoning approval needed to build a facility, although it is not clear when the church would start Phase 1 project construction of its new facility.

The building would include some offices, a multi-purpose room, an entrance or lobby area, a chapel, kitchen as well as eight classrooms, a gymnasium and meeting rooms. Phase one would also include the construction of 97 parking stalls and accesses to both 125th Avenue and Edison Street N.E. The building master plan includes seating for approximately 367 people in the sanctuary. Chain of Lakes currently conducts one Sunday morning service at its existing location and would propose the same schedule at its new Blaine location.

Midweek programming for adults and children would typically take place on weekday evenings once the church is finally built.

“It may be three to five years before the congregation would grow to the point where investing in a new building would be practical,” Kaye said.

During her presentation April 10, Kaye said the proposed church site does share access with Alamo Street.

A cross-access agreement will be required for the shared access with future townhomes in the area.

There is another private drive on the southwest portion of the site, near Yancy Circle and Zumbrota Drive, which encroaches onto church property.

According to Kaye, this loop access will remain to serve existing townhomes and will require an access and maintenance easement.

The church will not take access from this drive.

The city will monitor traffic levels and patterns for the church and reserves the right to require the church to provide on-site traffic management should the need arise.

All site lighting shall be down lit and shielded. Pole-mounted lights are limited to 20 feet in height.

Kaye said the Chain of Lakes Church CUP would remain valid for two years after council adoption.

However, if construction does not start within the two-year period, the church will need to request an extension of the CUP.

Because the church does not intend to build in the near future, Kaye said a sign within 50 feet of Edison Street identifying the site as the “Future Home of Chain of Lakes Church” would be a final CUP requirement.

Planning Commission Chairman Joe Ouellette read two letters into the public record that stated opposition to the project.

Gayle Connnett, 2921 123rd Circle N.E., and Thomas and Sandra Ashely, 2952 123rd Circle N.E., informed the city they didn’t want the planning commission to approve the CUP.

During the public hearing, Theresa Olsen, 12320 Zumbrota Circle N.E., spoke as citizen representative of two homeowners associations from The Lakes.

“The boards for Crown Cove and Crown Cove North met last evening [April 9] to consolidate our thoughts about this,” Olsen said.

She asked questions related to residents’ concerns about increased traffic, pre-development land maintenance and the church’s use of temporary structures, namely tents.

“We’d like to request parking be prohibited on both sides of Edison Street from where the walking path crosses on the south around the curve to the east to the most easterly outlet of Alamo Circle N.E.,” Olsen said.

“We would also like to request a stop sign be installed on the church driveway intersection with Edison.”

Olsen also requested the installation of a right-turn lane on westbound Edison at the “T” intersection with the church driveway. Olsen also mentioned parking.

“The street can’t absorb much more traffic,” she said. “We are already experiencing problems with people parking vehicles and boat trailers on the street so they can use the boat launch. It creates some tricky situations. This may be a problem in the future.”

Olsen also requested that the church be required to install curb and gutters in the driveway portion of the church property prior to any organized use and proposed landscaping be brought further south.

Harley Wells, 2951 124th Circle N.E., also commented about potential traffic.

“Edison is a standard-width street,” he said. “Any side parking can cause a problem with navigation.”

Wells, the former mayor of Spring Lake Park, also addressed the possible impact of congregation growth.

“We had a similar request down there when Emmanuel Christian Center first started on Osborne and University Avenue,” Wells said. “With that congregation growing to the size it did, we ended up with additional traffic control from Fridley and Spring Lake Park police. It got to be a real issue. I was really hoping the main entrance to this [new church] would be off County Road 14 [125th Avenue].”

Wells suggested intersection signals be added if traffic became a problem.

During the public hearing, Chain of Lakes was represented by Ward Sessing. His St.Paul-based company specializes in church and religious architecture.

“The church has reviewed the conditions of the staff report and feel it’s very comprehensive and fair,” he said. “We stand ready to comply with all conditions.”

Virginia Schnabel, 12320 Zumbrota Circle N.E., said the church project did have local support.

“I want to make sure people understand the Crown Cove people and generally, I would say 99 percent [of residents], are in approval of this church,” she said. “We don’t want to give the impression that we are not. Our concern is traffic flow and a few other items, and we want make to make sure that’s understood.”

During discussion, Commissioner Sue Lahti asked Kaye and Dan Schluender, assistant city engineer, about original traffic projections for 110 townhomes.

“The applicant did do a traffic memorandum that listed the proposed traffic in phase one and during full-build out,” Schluender said.

The townhome master plan indicated traffic flows of 1,110 cars each day. When developed, the Chain of Lakes Church would have “significantly less’” traffic on a daily basis, he said.

According to Schluender, the Anoka County Highway Department has established an access policy for 125th Avenue that includes full-access intersections at Cloud Drive and Harper Street.

Chain of Lakes would have to work with Anoka County to get an easement access to help with the proposed church traffic flow.

“They will not allow full access with signals, but will have a median at 125th,” he said. “That will allow for right-in and right-out, which is what they have set up.”

Ouellette said the Chain of Lakes CUP would appear on the May 3 Blaine City Council agenda.

“I think this one is a win-win,” he said. “You have a bunch of nice association people and a church that’s pretty conscientious. I appreciate it when an agenda item comes in like this and we don’t have 13 people standing [to speak].”

Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]