By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Hillside residents unhappy with church plans

Residents of the Hillside Retirement Community are upset over a plan by the neighboring Nazarene Church on the Hill to construct two towering metal gyms on their joint property line to host indoor soccer games.

Hillside residents contend the prefabricated metal-sided buildings will be so large — 280 feet long, 120 feet wide and 44 feet high — they will obliterate the view for many residents and even eliminate the skyline for some. They say the buildings also likely will generate noise and attract trespassers.

In response, the church has pulled its application to the city planning department in order to consider ways to ease some of the concerns.

“They’ve raised some good questions about the sound that might be generated and the size of the facility,” said Pastor Jerry Moen. “So we’ve hired a company to go and study the sound generated at other facilities.

“We want to be able to really know how much noise is generated by having two soccer games going on at one time, how loud the sound is at X number of feet from the building, and what we can do when we build the building to mitigate that.”

In addition, he said, the church is taking another look at an indoor soccer building in Corvallis that peaks at 36 feet. “If we can get a lower roof and still get good soccer play, we’re more than happy to do that to make our neighbors a little bit happier,” he said.

Moen said the church had hoped to get the application on the agenda for the planning commission’s July meeting and break ground on the first of the two gyms by September. “That’s not going to happen now,” he said.

“Obviously, we will not be ready for the fall soccer season of 2013, which was our original plan. Literally thousands of people have to drive from McMinnville to Washington County and Marion County to play their indoor soccer, and they’re going to have to keep doing that for at least one more year.”

The church’s application to the city shows both buildings on its site plan. However, it was seeking an immediate permit only for the first one, saying the second would follow when demand warranted.

Each would accommodate one full-size soccer field, plus a half-size field for younger children.

The two buildings would each be sited 30 feet back from the church’s eastern property line — the one shared with Hillside. They would be spaced 56 feet apart.

The church asserts in its application that any impact to residents figure to be “quite minimal” — an assertion with which residents emphatically disagree.

“The church put up stakes to show where the corners of the buildings would be,” said Hillside resident Donna Farley. “They are, literally, feet away from the closest resident that we have adjacent to the property line.”

One of the buildings would affect people living in the cottages on the retirement center campus, she said. The other would affect people living in apartments in Hillside Manor.

Residents say they are concerned about noise from ventilation fans as well as soccer players and spectators.

“In a multifamily planned development, which the church is zoned and we are zoned, those types of buildings just don’t belong,” said Hillside resident Nylah Chilton. “They’re way out of proportion.”

She and Farley said they would be better suited to land zoned for industrial or park use.

Hillside residents have raised concerns in a pair of letters, and were initially dissatisfied with the response.

“They’ve continued to reiterate their statement that they have in the conditional use application, that impacts will be minimal and that they are going to work to make sure they are minimal,” Farley said. “But there’s nothing definitive, or what I’d call empirical, about how they’re going to do it.”

However, they felt better after hearing the church had removed its application to consider ways to address the issues they had raised.

“We are pleased that they’re looking into that,” Chilton said. But she said she doubts any amount of tweaking can make the use compatible.

“We understand the idea of an indoor soccer arena,” she said. “But a residential area is not the place for commercial or industrial buildings like that.”

Residents were also unimpressed with the church’s description of the landscaping it was planning between the two properties — a line of fir trees — as “a significant landscape buffer.”

To illustrate their concerns, they took pictures of the scenic view from two residents’ homes, showing the trees and distant hills, then photoshopped in a wall from the similarly sized Yamhill Valley Heritage Center on Highway 18. Those photos show the view reduced to a line of trees in front of a massive metal wall.

Moen countered, “The foliage that already exists should block about 90 percent of the view of this building.” In addition, he said, “We have plans to double the number of trees and plant shrubs underneath, so that literally no part of these buildings will be visible from Hillside in just a matter of years, when all these trees grow up.”

The church said in its application, “These will be attractive steel buildings, with masonry and landscaping to enhance their appearance. The placement next to the line of mature fir trees will shield the size of the buildings and assure the buildings do not hinder any views of nature or distant scenery.”

The church, already so large it has to obtain a special noise permit from the city to accommodate all its members at once in an annual outdoor service, said in its application that it expects “various school groups or other sports teams may wish to participate in our outreach programs and/or use our building for their own purposes.”

Moen said that the church has outgrown its current gym, built in the 1970s when church membership was about half its current level. He said there is substantial demand in the county for an indoor soccer facility.

“I think it’s going to be a great addition to facilities that this city offers to the people here,” he said. “And I think a church is a great organization to do that.

“We’re going to keep Christ at the center. It’s going to always be a wholesome facility.”

Chilton said that residents are also concerned about traffic and security.

She noted that Hillside Road, which lacks sidewalks, is “a two-lane road, with a hill, a blind summit.” She continued, “So how are people going to get there who are going on foot? It would be extremely logical for them to cut through our campus, to get there the back way.”

At the city’s request, the church hired a consultant to conduct a traffic study. It has now been completed, but Moen said that he had not yet seen the results.

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