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

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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