Board OKs waiver for Christendom chapel

FRONT ROYAL – Christendom College can move forward with its plan to build a new chapel.

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve the college’s request for a waiver from a local restriction on building heights in certain areas of the county. The board heard support for the waiver during the public hearing on the request.

Specifically, the board voted 5-0 to approve a modification to the college’s conditional-use permit that the county issued in 1994 for the construction of the private school off Shenandoah Shores Road. The college recently purchased more land on which it plans to build the chapel and a parking area. The county restricts certain structures on land zoned for agricultural use to 40 feet high. The county exempts structures such as spires and other architectural features from the height limitation. Planning Director Taryn Logan said she knows of no existing approved height waivers issued in the past 16 years. The county also restricts building heights in other zones.

The Department of Fire and Rescue Services sent comments to the Planning Department expressing concern about the design of the chapel not providing enough space for emergency vehicles.

James O’Brien, representing the architect who designed the chapel, showed supervisors how the height limitation changes the look of the structure’s interior. O’Brien compared images of the interior using the proposed height and one that falls within the restriction. The proposed design depicts more pleasing proportions, O’Brien said.

North River District Supervisor Daniel J. Murray Jr. asked O’Brien if designers considered installing a gravel area near the building to allow access for emergency vehicles. Mike Beckler, vice president of operations at the college, said the library features an access road. In speaking with the fire marshal, Beckler said the school could include an access road around the proposed chapel that would render the height concerns moot. Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico told the board the department would not object to the height waiver if the college can provide adequate access for emergency response vehicles.