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FMPC ponders church parking

Farragut Municipal Planning Commission discussed parking requirements at multi-use churches at its meeting Thursday, March 19.

An amendment to Farragut Zoning Ordinance would increase the parking requirements to account for simultaneous use of the sanctuary, fellowship hall, education facilities and/or athletic fields.

“Currently, church parking requirements are based solely on the size of the sanctuary … we currently require one parking space for 30 square feet of sanctuary,” Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said.

Hawk studied other municipalities’ requirements and presented those to planning commissioners. Most regulations stipulated parking spaces for “so many feet of sanctuary plus so many feet of other floor area;” some even dividing “other floor area” into categories, such as kitchen, office, ground area, Sunday school room or fellowship hall space.

The simplest way to regulate parking for multi-use churches, Hawk said, would be to simply create a ratio of one parking space for so much feet of floor space.

“That way they can remodel to their heart’s content,” Hawk said. In other words, parking requirements wouldn’t change unless churches added floor space.

Commission Chair Bob Hill asked if existing churches would have to change requirements to fit new regulations.

“Only if they made changes to increase their footprint,” Hawk said.

Ron Honken asked about Farragut’s “mega church,” First Baptist Concord, for which the amendment largely was being discussed.

“They are currently over-parked from meeting the minimum,” Hawk said, meaning they have more spaces than they are required to. She added First Baptist was looking ahead, in part because of its planned athletic fields, which would need large amounts of parking.

Commissioner Connie Ruten-ber said “different problems occur with different churches,” adding she wasn’t sure how to word an amendment that could apply to all the churches, big and small, in Farragut.

“We need to examine the effect … I don’t think we know the consequences,” Hill said.

“If it’s not a problem now, maybe we need to leave it alone,” he added.

The agenda item was for discussion only; no action was taken.

FMPC also discussed changes to Subdivision Regulations to clarify sidewalk, curb and gutter requirements and increase the minimum grass strip width.

“Where we’ll primarily see this is Kingston Pike on the west side,” Hawk told commissioners.

Hawk said sidewalk changes would be based on road classification: whether the road is a major or minor arterial, a major or local collector, or a local street.

Staff recommended a minimum three-foot grass strip between the street and the sidewalk on local streets, a minimum six-foot grass strip on collectors and a minimum eight-foot grass strip on arterials.

“We would eliminate sidewalks abutting streets,” Hawk said.

She stressed this would only be done in new development, not when the Town retrofitted sidewalks. Any retrofitting around residential areas would be done with the current standard three-foot grass strip.

Ron Honken asked if this would cause a lot of “zig-zagging” sidewalks through Town.

Hawk said it might cause some, but “I don’t think, from a user standpoint, that’s a negative.”

The item was for discussion only, but is slated to be voted on at FMPC’s next meeting.


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