TEMPERANCE — The Bedford Township Planning Commission has approved a plan for a church in a residential area on the west side of Douglas Road between Dean and Sterns roads, despite objections from some homeowners.
The unanimous vote last week means Wyldewood Baptist Church can proceed with the first phase of building a house of worship in Lambertville on a 33-acre parcel it has owned for about three years.
The Fundamentalist church, which is independent, formerly was Toledo Baptist Temple and was at Alexis and Douglas roads in Toledo. It changed its name when the congregation moved to Bedford Township, where most of its 180 members live, said Jason Sheppard, a church deacon and Monroe County commissioner.
It rents space in Monroe Road Elementary School for services.
The planning commission's approval requires the church to satisfy conditions including getting the go-ahead from the township fire department and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The church also must submit an acceptable landscaping plan. But the planning panel’s decision is final; the matter does not go to the township board.
The church project had been approved by the county drain and road commissions.
The township planning commission took two actions, both on votes of 7-0: It signed off on the church’s request for special approval to locate in district zoned residential, and it approved Wyldewood Baptist's final site plan.
Most of the complaints came from residents of Thunderbird Trail, which borders the church property on the south, and Chapel Creek Drive, on the north. They expressed unhappiness with flooded yards and concerns about declining property values, increased traffic, and that Wyldewood would become a “megachurch.”
Sharon Smith, who lives in the 2500 block of Thunderbird, came to the meeting armed with photographs of her submerged back yard, which overlooks the property that soon will be a construction site.
She said she was unable to mow her grass because of flooding and that her shrubs and fence had been ruined by it. She blamed the flooding on the clear-cutting of trees that grew on the church property.
Mr. Sheppard, however, said the church was not to blame for the clear-cutting. This had been done by the previous owner, a developer who intended to build homes there but dropped the plan when the recession hit.
The church then purchased the real estate.
Pastor Brett Bartlett said Wyldewood has no desire to become a megachurch and that he wished he had gone door to door on Thunderbird to talk to the homeowners.
He added that the residents had an emotional connection to the church property because “basically they have had free access to it. ... We do appreciate the flooding problem and we feel the plans we have are going to satisfy the flooding problems. We want to have a good relationship with Thunderbird.”
The first phase of the church construction includes a 14,000-square-foot sanctuary and lobby, and the congregation would like to have it completed by summer, Mr. Sheppard said.
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