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Granite Bay may get another mega-church

Local Seventh-day Adventist Church seeks permanent house of worship
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The Granite Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church is hoping to build a house of worship on 74 acres of undeveloped land, which has some local residents concerned.

Currently, the Christian denomination has church plants in Roseville, Rocklin, Auburn and Orangevale, but Granite Bay members don’t have a facility of their own, instead worshipping out of the Shepherd of the Sierra Presbyterian Church in Loomis.

“We need a permanent facility,” said Pastor Jëan Ross. “We’ve grown to our capacity here.”

The land is owned by Amazing Facts Ministry, the national Christian ministry driving the project.

But some residents oppose the project, arguing that a 17-acre church campus isn’t consistent with the goals and policies of the Granite Bay Community Plan, which is being updated.

“We’ve worked hard to maintain the low density and good neighborhoods,” said Sandy Harris, who has lived in Granite Bay for 34 years.

The draft plan proposes no land use changes, and its No. 1 goal states: “Protect and preserve the unique rural character of the community and maintain the identity of Granite Bay as a scenic, tranquil, family-oriented rural/residential community compatible with the area’s physical constraints and natural features.”

Opponents worry the church campus doesn’t protect the area’s rural character.

‘We anticipate growth’

The site is bordered by Sierra College Boulevard on the north, between Nightwatch Drive and Ridge Park Drive, and extends south to Oak Hill Lane. The land borders Rocklin and Loomis, and is two miles from Bayside Church.

The proposed project includes construction of buildings totaling roughly 208,000 square feet. For comparison, Bayside is about a 95,000-square-foot campus.

The first phase would include a 108,000-square-foot building with an auditorium, ministry offices, Sabbath school classrooms, a fireside chapel, an audio/visual production suite and kitchen facilities. The auditorium would seat about 1,300 people. This phase also includes a separate 11,220-square-foot resource center.

Phase two consists of a 90,000-square-foot main sanctuary with seating for 2,000 people to serve as the permanent worship facility.

A parking lot would accommodate about 900 cars and an estimated 97 staff members would work on site. About 57 acres are not currently proposed for development.

The Granite Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church began about four years ago in a home, then moved to an elementary school and then to the church in Loomis.

“We have 300 members in attendance every week and we anticipate growth,” Ross said.

Granite Bay residents Frank and Norma Dupper became members of the local Seventh-day Adventist Church earlier this year.

The couple has lived here since 1985, when they moved with their business — Adventist Health — to Roseville. They previously attended the Orangevale Seventh-day Adventist Church for more than 20 years.

Frank Dupper says the new campus will be beneficial, in part, for the Sabbath school.

“They really need a permanent place to set up to teach the young people,” he said.

Amazing Facts Ministry will film and broadcast the church’s services. The nonprofit ministry started in 1966 and hosts radio stations, produces television shows and publishes Christian books.

“It is apparent that this major project with a global outreach, including television and radio broadcast, Internet (and) publishing does not fit in an area of residential zoning,” said Granite Bay resident Jane Negri.

The site is zoned residential-agricultural, a designation that allows for churches. The development requires a minor use permit to convert the existing agricultural land to urbanized use.

But Harris said zoning ordinances were written back when a house of worship meant a smaller, community church.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve gone to there being these mega-churches,” Harris said. “The (county) needs to re-examine how they allow churches in residential-agricultural areas.”

Concerns over impacts

Opponents are concerned with the findings of the draft environmental impact review. The public comment period ended Oct. 17.

The county received 16 comments, including from the Placer County Air Pollution Control District, California Native American Heritage Commission, Sierra Club and Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner.

Bonner said his department would need an annual budget increase of nearly $19,000 to adequately service the new development.

The report notes that the facility would be located on a hillside and partially block scenic views from the residential and offices located north and west of the site — an impact “considered potentially significant and unavoidable.”

The report also found that the development would result in an increase in traffic of 1,200 Saturday trips and 137 weekday trips.

The bulk of the traffic will occur on Saturday mornings and would not conflict with nearby schools, people commuting to work or services at Bayside Church, Ross said.

Ross said the church has revamped its plans several times to address residents’ complaints.

“We are very concerned about our neighbors,” he said.

One change involved lowering the building elevations. Another adjustment meant moving the buildings back nearly 300 feet from the street so the facility is less visible to passersby (the site slopes down).

“We’re doing our best,” Ross said.

A consultant is preparing the final environmental impact report, said Placer County Supervising Planner E.J. Ivaldi, and the Granite Bay Municipal Advisory Council will likely make a recommendation on the project in early 2012.

As for Dupper, he’s eager to see the church come to fruition.

“(The Presbyterian) church has been very accommodating and we’re grateful,” Dupper said. “But we just need a home of our own.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.