Christendom seeks waiver for chapel

FRONT ROYAL – Christendom College appears poised to build a new chapel more than a year after announcing its $40 million fundraising campaign.

But the chapel as designed exceeds Warren County’s height limit for buildings so Christendom has asked to modify the original permit for a waiver to the restriction. The county code allows the Board of Supervisors to modify conditions or uses on permits but they must first hold a public hearing on the proposed changes. Supervisors plan to consider Christendom’s request after holding a public hearing Tuesday.

The county issued a conditional-use permit to Christendom College in July 1994 to run a private school off Shenandoah Shores Road outside of Front Royal. The college bought additional land last year on which it plans to build a new chapel and parking. The college announced in September its “A Call to Greatness” – a $40 million campaign consisting of a $13.5 million Christ the King Project, $13.5 million in contributions to its endowment fund and $13 million toward its annual fund. By the time of the announcement, the college had raised more than $28 million, or close to 72 percent of the total goal. College representatives indicated then that they wanted to complete the campaign by the college’s 40th anniversary in 2018.

The county limits the height of structures on land zoned for agricultural use at 40 feet. The county exempts non-combustible structures such as silos, windmills, water towers, flagpoles, spires and cupolas from the restriction. Warren County code allows for requests for exceptions from the height restrictions with approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Christendom’s design calls for a 45-foot-high main structure, prompting the need for an exception. The code exempts the proposed 137-foot spire.

The Department of Fire and Rescue Services relayed concerns that the parking area and access road as designed would not provide the ability for equipment to reach the height of the building. The department would need to review and approve the site plan for the chapel as a condition of receiving the exception as requested.

Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico stated in a Nov. 13 email to Planning Director Taryn Logan his concerns with the design. Maiatico cited the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code that indicates approved fire apparatus access roads shall extend to within 150 feet of all portions of the facility and the exterior walls of the first story of the building.

James Henry O’Brien, with the architectural firm O’Brien & Keane, sent a letter dated Oct. 19 to Logan detailing the college’s request for the exception to build its planned Chapel of Christ the King.

“We ask for this modification so that the building design may conform to the intended architectural expression and proportions preferred by the College,” O’Brien states in the letter.

The college plans to convert its existing chapel into a community center and events space.

The Catholic liberal arts college, founded in 1977, lies within the Diocese of Arlington and serves students at locations in Front Royal; Alexandria; Rome, Italy and Donegal, Ireland.