News from the Home Team...       Richard Grzywinski, Chair

Township approval! 

About 20 members of the congregation were in attendance at the Galloway Planning Board meeting. The application was presented to the Board and questions were answered. The vote to approve our application was unanimous. Hooray!

A hearty thank you to our WHOLE team (both inside and outside the congregation) for all the long hard work.
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September 2007 news 


On Thursday, August 23, the Galloway Township Planning Board deemed our application complete. We are now on the agenda for Thursday, September 13, when we hope to get final approval of our project. We will be asking as many of our congregants as possible to attend the September 13 meeting. More info to follow.

After that, there will be a 45-day public comment period, and 30-day Pinelands review begins.

Site work could begin as early as October 15, and actual building could begin sometime in November!

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August 2007 news 

Finally, we have a great deal of good news to report. In late June, and after what often seemed like an interminable wait, the congregation received the form called the Certificate of Filing from the New Jersey Pinelands Commission. This is a breakthrough! The certificate allows us finally to apply for local approvals for our building. Our hired professionals and hard working internal volunteers have now been able to swing into action to see that this happens.

On Friday, July 20, 2007, our land use attorney and planning/engineering consultants submitted 20 copies of the complex, multi-page site plan and local application to Galloway Township officials. Also on Friday, the civil engineer designing our septic system submitted his design to us which we will then submit to the Atlantic County Division of Public Health Department for approval. Our earliest chance for the first hearing on our Township application, where we hope it will be “deemed complete,” will be August 16.

Meanwhile, our architects are completing detailed construction drawings with a kick-off meeting for that process scheduled for July 26. Our newly retained mechanical engineer is finalizing his design of a geothermal heating and cooling system that looks like it will contain some novel elements and save us on heating and cooling costs even while we reduce our pollution “footprint.” Pending approval from Galloway Township, the electric company will soon be installing a meter on the property – a prerequisite to getting in line for state rebates on a solar photovoltaic array that will be generating nearly $2,000 of electricity for us annually, while it offsets many tons of greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions. More news on that and other “green building” issues later too.

Our architect strongly suggested that we have a detailed “geotechnical” boring of our soil to help design our footings and foundations. That was also completed in July, and some great news accompanied it. As we had hoped, actual groundwater is much deeper -- 17 to 20 feet below the surface -- than earlier, less precise soil borings had suggested. The bottom line: our basement is more certain than ever to be “high and dry,” and the finding gives our architect more flexibility in basement design, including the potential for more comfortably high ceilings.

There’s a lot more that’s gone on in recent weeks, including a great deal of excellent consultation from knowledgeable congregation members. The range of experience and knowledge in this congregation is remarkable, involving everything from kitchen fixtures to solar and geothermal energy, to energy efficient lighting to, well, whether waterless urinals actually work (when our expert checked with fellow experts, the answer was yes.) At the risk of leaving out names – it’s hard even to keep track – we’ll let the credits roll by later. But for now, you know who you are, and please know how grateful the rest of us are.

So the question that’s on everyone’s mind, when do we break ground? Here’s an optimistic scenario. If our application is deemed complete on August 16, we can hope for actual Township approval by September 20. With the follow-up 45-day public comment period, and other i’s to dot and t’s to cross, including one final review by the Pinelands Commission, we are still hoping for groundbreaking by December 12. We are working with our engineer to see if we could advance that schedule a little bit. In the meantime, we have to complete the design and get our various contractors on board.

At some time soon, the Home Team will return to the congregation to lay out the costs of the building, and we will be looking for bank financing to get the job done. And the Communications Committee is looking for ways to provide more timely dialog with the congregation about where the building design and financing is heading, including possible periodic presentations to the congregation after Sunday services.

And guess what?
We have an address!
It’s 75 S. Pomona Road.

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July 9 news 

Our application for site plan approval will be submitted to Galloway Township by July 16 (our original target was June 4). Likely, we will break ground on December 3 now rather than November 12 – only a three-week delay. Before then, we will be completing several applications and seeking a host of approvals, including those related to Pinelands, the Health Department, and Soil Conservation. As important, we also need to complete a design, and select contractors.

We’ll soon be submitting an application for water service. Because we aren’t in a designated growth area, we have to pay an application fee of nearly $3,000. The same will go for gas service if we need it. I have a request in to New Jersey American Water for reconsideration as a non-profit.

By the way, if you drive by our property today, you may see some equipment moving around, doing geotechnical drilling. (Read more about geotechnical engineering here at Wikipedia.)

-- Richard Grzywinski
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May 2006 news 

You may think there’s not much going on with our new church home. But it's been an extremely busy (and exciting, even amazing) month for your Home Team (building committee). We've met with Marathon, our site engineering firm, to develop an initial draft of a siting plan, Chris Holaday and Jon Luoma have had meetings with architects Steve and Dortje Fenwick (it's pronounced DOR’sha, and she's Steve's wife) and their construction manager. And on Wednesday, April 27, Marathon Engineering's chief planner Rob Reid spearheaded an “informal” meeting at township hall with Home Team reps Chris Holaday and Jon Luoma, Steve Fenwick, and four members of the Galloway Township Planning Board. Although we can't submit our plan to the township formally until we have Pinelands approval of our site plan, in the form of a “Certificate of Filing,” the purpose of the informal consultation was to satisfy ourselves that our plan is on the right track as far as the township is concerned. Otherwise, we might find ourselves with that Certificate in hand, only to have the township object to the plan, forcing us to send a major revision all the way back through the long Pinelands regulatory process.

At the meeting, Fenwick also presented a first working draft of both floor plans and exterior views of our future home. Although this draft will be changing, it served to give township officials a better sense of our plans. A label on the roof for "solar panels" also helped a certain magic to happen. Many of you are aware that the township limits development in our “rural development zone” to five percent impermeable surface (parking lot, sidewalks, plus roof). Yet they also require us to pave one parking spot for each four seats, and, as loony as it sounds, are adamant that they will count as “paved” any formal parking surface we propose: stone, open pavers, open grids. This has really constrained us. While officials at the meeting concurred that we could allow for abundant unpaved “overflow” parking in the plan, Marathon's Rob Reid made it clear that, in order to put up our modest sized building and 25 paved parking spaces the township will require, the five percent constraint really put us up against the wall in terms of future growth. I asked how difficult it would be to get a variance to cover future growth.

Hemming and hawing ensued. The basic response seemed to be “well, you can try.” And then Chris simply said: “And you should know we're planning a green building,” meaning an environmentally progressive building.

The atmosphere in the room changed palpably. Everyone seemed to sit up in their chairs. Although the meeting was about siting, not really about the particulars of the building, suddenly there were questions. Fenwick showed them the space, clearly labeled, for solar panels on the roof. One planning board member asked if we would be eligible for the huge state subsidy available for solar. Answer: yes. We explained that we are planning a super-insulated structure, which includes aspects of both passive heating and passive cooling. Another asked if we were thinking about geothermal heating and cooling. Answer: very likely, but we are focusing on doing green in a way that pays for itself. We want to serve as a model of cost-effective green building for the community – we've called it “The Greenest Building in Galloway.”

“Well,” said the township planner, “I can't see any good reason to deny you an extra two percent.” Nodding ensued. We will still need formal approval, but it looks good. Pinelands the very next morning agreed that if we get this variance, they will not require us to buy expensive “development credits” to exercise this right. Within hours, the township planner told Reid we could likely go to 7.5 percent, based on a revised plan Reid had prepared. We will now have 35 paved parking spaces, instead of 25, enough for a future addition to expand our meeting room to seat 140, from the presently planned 100. (Clarification: the stage one space will be large enough to seat 100 at tables.) Space for the future addition will appear on the plan. We can build a patio there for now if we want, or just spread out some crushed seashell. Our parking lot will be far better, with a full turn-around, at the township planner's request (easier to get an ambulance and fire trucks in, should there be an emergency). We will have informal on-grass parking for many more cars. So instead of being jammed into 5 percent, we are now jammed into exactly 7.5 percent.

More good news: our endangered species surveys are going well, and so far, so good. No barred owls. The search schedule for other species continues.

The Home Team and a few Board members will be meeting on May 1 to review the site plan and take a preliminary look at the draft building design. Soon the site plan will be submitted to the Pinelands Commission.

We're focusing on the stated desires of the congregation in planning for a building we can truly live in. Not just for circumscribed visits on Sunday mornings for fire, brimstone, coffee, and cookies. And not just for board and committee meets. But eventually for choir practices, evening and weekend get-togethers, evening adult and teenage RE (with interminable showers and learners permits will come deep-sleep-Sunday mornings that often won't jibe with morning services). And many are hoping for increased interaction with the Stockton students just across the road, with an active campus ministry and perhaps a home for student groups that develop along the lines of the current very active campus Fair Trade student group, or the Darfur student group.

Stay tuned for another update on what’s happening, at our Annual Meeting on May 21.

-- Jon Luoma

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