Back to Drawing Board For Megachurch at Odds with Clemson University Over New Site

A South Carolina megachurch will need to adjust its plans to build a 67,000-square-foot, 1,400-seat facility in Greenville after city officials denied the church's request for an exception to parking lot requirements, and while Clemson University argues against the church's use of the site.

"We are disappointed with the outcome of this vote but our team will take a further look at this and consider our options," Suzanne Swift, NewSpring Church communications director, told CP in an emailed statement. The church says it accepts the board's decision.

"We are dedicated to having a permanent campus in Greenville and we are looking forward to being great neighbors when we find the right location," Swift added. "Good parking capacity and access are critical to serve our members and guests well so we will continue to look for a situation that does that."

The Anderson-based church is led by senior pastor Perry Noble. The church had requested a variance with the hope that it could more evenly distribute parking spaces around the building. Current regulations would require NewSpring to construct more than 40 percent of its parking spaces on one side of the building, but the church says that particular side cannot be practically used for parking because of the layout of the land.

Still, Greenville's Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously against allowing the exemption on Thursday, Interim Planning and Development Manager Michael Kerski told CP. A staff report from the city says the request by the church is "not consistent with the standards required to grant a Variance."

"The intent behind the parking lot design seems to be to make parking spaces equidistant from the structure. That design choice has been made as a preference and not a necessity," the report states.

The site NewSpring chose for their facility is on the Millennium Campus, an area that was originally intended to be a technology park. It is also near the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), and the university has argued that the church doesn't belong there.

"We believe that all parties are obligated to comply with the agreed-upon covenants for development that apply to both CU-ICAR and Millennium Campus," the university previously said in a statement. "We have many partners and investors, including the city and state, who expect the site to focus on education, research-driven economic development and job creation. While we certainly support NewSpring's expansion in Greenville, it seems that this location might not be the best fit."

Cathy Sams, chief public affairs officer at Clemson, said the school has no additional comment beyond its statement.

NewSpring is currently on a mission to reach 100,000 people for Jesus Christ. The church currently has eight campuses and is attended by about 26,000 people every week.

"One thing we teach our church is God has greater plans for your life, and we believe that is true for our church as well," church officials added. "We are excited for what's next for our church in Greenville and we believe this means there is an even better location for our permanent campus."

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