Some Northern Virginia residents are fighting against the proposed construction of a 22,000 square-foot Coptic church, claiming that the church will set a troubling "precedent" for their area and that it's "incompatible" with the community.
St. Pope Cyril Coptic Orthodox Church in Chantilly, which was started in 2014, is in the process of trying to secure a location to build a permanent home for its congregation.
As reported by the Loudoun Times-Mirror, the church received initial approval from a local Planning Commission to build its new site in the town of Aldie in the largely undeveloped western Loudoun County, which is about 15 miles west of Chantilly and is one of the fastest growing areas in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
The church's proposal to build a new facility on 10 acres of land off Old Carolina Road was approved by a 7-1 commission vote last Wednesday. The issue will go before the county's board of supervisors in July for a final vote on the building's approval.
Despite the overwhelming support of the commission, the church's plans have drawn the ire of local residents.
"We believe the facility as proposed is incompatible with our community and should not be approved in its current form," a Change.org petition launched by a group called "Friends of Old Carolina Road" states.
The Christian Post reached out to St. Pope Cyril Coptic Orthodox Church for comment on Wednesday. A response is pending.
Among the reasons the petition organizers say the church is not compatible with the community is that the proposed building will be six to 10 times larger than other buildings in the area, which mostly consist of residential homes.
The residents also state that the church "has proposed unrealistic operating hours."
"Parking and septic field designs, as well as the traffic study, assume just one three-hour church service ONLY on Sunday, an additional one hour Sunday school and administrative use during the week," the petition reads. "At the church's present Chantilly location, services occur nearly every day of the week. The church's move marks an expansion of the congregation; therefore, it seems illogical to believe that activity will be so heavily cut back."
The petition also cites concerns such as increased traffic and environment issues that could be caused by the proposed use of a septic system that may not be able to keep up with the church's expanded hours.
"The precedent of allowing a megachurch in a small village setting will not only impact our village but every other village in western Loudoun county," the petition further argued.
Although the residents claim that the church is a megachurch, it should be noted that the church proposes a sanctuary that can hold about 450 congregants. Megachurches are usually identified as churches with over 2,000 members.
Only 129 people have signed the petition against the church's construction.
In a statement to the Planning Commission opposing the church's construction, resident Rob Greer said: "The commissioners ignored the precedent this 22,000-square-foot, 450-seat church will set for western Loudoun County, as no church of this size has ever been approved in a rural setting on a two-lane unmarked road. Churches should be given freedom to provide places of worship for our citizens, but they should not be given a free pass regardless of size and the negative impact to their neighbors."
The Loudoun Times-Mirror reports that that Planning Commission had previously voiced concern in May about the proposed size of the church. Although the church planned for the church to be 27,000-square-feet, the church compromised and now plans for a 22,000-square-foot building. Additionally, the building's proposed height was reduced to less than 35 feet. The church had to also lower its goal having a sanctuary to accommodate 600 congregants to one that will accommodate 450.
"The proposed church will provide a needed institutional gathering space in a largely rural setting, proximate to its congregants," the church wrote in its proposal. "The proposed church is an excellent fit for the neighborhood and will provide a needed service for the community."
Currently, the church is leasing a facility in Chantilly. The Coptic tradition is one that comes largely from the ancient Christian community in Egypt.
Aldie is a rural town close to Washington, D.C. that has experienced massive growth over the last decade-plus. According to the county, Alidie had a population of just 1,505 in 2000. In 2008, that population had increased exponentially to 9,149. Today, the town has a population of over 11,000.