Church seeking permit to expand

Calvary Community Church is looking to expand and a public hearing on the matter took place Friday at Sumner City Hall.

Carolyn Back addresses the proposed expansion of Calvary Community Church at a public hearing in Sumner City Hall Friday.

Calvary Community Church is looking to expand and a public hearing on the matter took place Friday at Sumner City Hall.

If a permit for expansion is granted, the church at 1516 Gary St. in Sumner would add a two-story sanctuary covering approximately 37,000 square feet of land, increase the number of parking spaces to 840 and make improvements to utilities. Later phases of the project may involve expanding the sanctuary, adding an education center, member services center, chapel, school building expansion, administrative office expansion and a kitchen renovation and expansion, amongst other improvements.

According to a proposal provided at the hearing, the later additions would total approximately 244,230 square feet covering an estimated 97,880 square feet of land.

Carolyn Back of the design and engineering company BCRA spoke in support of the project and represented Calvary Community Church. To demonstrate the support in the room, she asked everyone in favor of expansion at the hearing to stand, at which point the majority of people in the room rose to their feet.

Supporter Stacy Guthmiller, Calvary community development director, spoke before hearing examiner Stephen Causseaux and all in attendance about the church’s work in the community as a reason for expansion. She said problems like youth crime are increasingly becoming prevalent in suburban areas. The church, she argued, works to address some of these problems.

Critics of the proposal said the expansion would have negative effects on the surrounding area. Barbara Skinner said when she was mayor of Sumner, she worked on the comprehensive plan, which had a different vision than what the proposal sees.

“We were very careful that what came in there was low-impact,” she said.

In Sumner’s comprehensive plan, the area at Gary Street is designated as a low-density residential zone, providing for primarily single-family residences, but also allowing churches and religious institutions.

Sumner resident Sarah Hoime believes the project does not fit the character of the location.

“When residents bought homes here they thought they were buying into a residential neighborhood,” she said.

Another concern is the effect on traffic.

The Rev. Ray Armstrong admitted his church creates significant traffic and Casseaux stated traffic can be backed up near the church.

Sumner resident Tom Powers lives near the church and said traffic is already heavy and expansion would magnify the impact.

“What happens when they put the school in there?” he asked.

A traffic impact analysis report was prepared by Heath and Associates and submitted to Sumner’s Public Works Department for review. The report indicates approximately 56 new inbound and 53 new outbound weekday peak hour trips will be created. The Sunday trips will increase by around 504 inbound and 458 outbound for the 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. services, according to the report.

Plans to alleviate traffic include installing a traffic signal at the northern entry and exit of the location and rerouting church traffic.

A decision on whether to approve the project is pending.

Reach Chaz Holmes at or 360-802-8208.

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