A proposal for a new church on Adkins Road in Mentor isn’t out of the woods just yet.

Mentor Planning Commission spent the majority of an hour-plus meeting Oct. 22 discussing trees and other plantings that would make up buffers on either side of Grace Church’s 14.3-acre residentially zoned property, west of Route 306.

Church representatives seek to modify the city’s buffer requirements for the proposed 46,000-square-foot building.

The land use and size of the structure determines the amount of landscaping required within the buffer, and the plant material is to be per 100 linear feet of property line.

Based on the project, the city code calls for 644 plantings on the east line and 780 on the west, adjacent to homes.

“I understand that we’re a church, not a residence, but we do exist in residential districts,” said Steve Sindelar, pastor of youth and administration. “I think we’re trying to meet the spirit of the law, but it does seem to be a little difficult from a church perspective; we’re not a Walmart. … But I can certainly appreciate the residential concerns and so we’re trying to meet those as best we can.”

The mature woods to the west would be retained with additional fencing and evergreens in spots. Some residents and Painesville Baptist Church representatives spoke against reducing the buffer requirements on the east side.

Brian Cook, acting commission chairman, noted that the eastern buffer provided for by the applicant comprised close to 60 trees versus the nearly 650 required by code.

“I think that’s a bit aggressive, but it is the code,” he said. “But I think there needs to be some further communication between you, Painesville Baptist and the administration to come up with another plan that everybody’s happy with.”

Mentor Planning Director Kathy Mitchell indicated that the administration was “certainly hoping to see more” landscaping on the side that would be seen from Route 306.

“Obviously, the purpose of the buffer request tonight is to reduce or relax that to some degree, and that’s fine, but there’s a big disparity between those numbers and we need to come a little closer to that difference,” she said.

Cook asked whether it could be handled administratively.

Mitchell said the city could hold up the building permit until the administration is satisfied with the proposed buffer.

However, the commission ultimately tabled the modification request, as well as the architectural review.

“I think we have a lot more questions than we have answers for here,” Cook said.

The final site plan received unanimous approval.

Cook acknowledged neighbors who expressed opposition to the church project on the site, but emphasized that the building location was approved at the Aug. 20 public hearing and those speaking should restrict comments to the buffer.

A handful expressed concern about the plan, while two residents spoke in favor.

“I know it’s just a positive force in the city,” Mentor businessman Daniel Kaleal said.

Sindelar said the peak traffic would occur for about half an hour on Sunday morning, and an off-duty Mentor police officer would be hired to direct traffic during that time.

In August, the commission approved a conditional-use permit and preliminary plan for the church to locate at 7272 Adkins Road in an R-4, Residential District.

The final plan indicates a footprint for a 28,322-square-foot future addition on the east side of the proposed building. The plan also calls for an additional 292 future parking spaces at the rear of the site.

The church will have an 874-seat worship section, a six-room childcare area with a nursery, and a 13-seat café and kitchen on the first floor.

The second floor will have 11 classrooms with an additional three rooms identified for future expansion. Grace Church has been in the community for nearly 75 years and has outgrown its current site at 6883 Reynolds Road.

The hope is to build the addition within five years, said Sindelar.

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