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P&Z to hear church sound stage proposal

By Staff | Mar 29, 2013

The Cape Coral Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to recommend allowing a church to erect a stage and other features on site.

Cape Christian Fellowship is asking for an amendment to its planned development project, including a special exemption that would allow for a “religious facility” in an area zoned now as single-family residential.

It has proposed building a covered sound stage, youth recreation area, food services building and covered pavilions and needs the exemption to do so.

Proposed Ordinance 21-13 also allows for the use of synthetic turf behind the stage and grants approval of the church’s master development plan.

The ordinance will go before the P&Z at 9 a.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.

The meeting is open to the public.

Derek Burr, planning manager for the city’s Department of Community Development, explained that this is the first vote on the amendment.

“It’s never been before planning and zoning,” she said Friday.

“It’s never been rejected,” Burr added.

City staff supports P&Z approval of the ordinance, with conditions.

The church plans to construct a 3,000-square-foot stage about 80 feet west of Chiquita Boulevard South, facing northwest, according to a report. Staff recommended that one condition be limiting the hours of operation.

“Limitations on when they can use the sound stage,” she said.

The suggested hours are Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the report states.

Another recommended condition is that the church abide by the city’s existing noise control ordinance. Burr explained that the church submitted a sound study with its application to indicate the expected decimal levels.

“It is being designed so that the noise does not disrupt the neighborhood,” she said.

City staff cited increased traffic as another potential impact to the area from the church’s proposed plan. City policy requires that a “special event” permit be obtained for events anticipated to attract 500 people or more.

Staff recommended the condition that the church be limited to 15 special event permits per year and no more than two special events per month.

The permit also covers the use of police assistance to ensure traffic safety, security if needed and off-site parking areas that are approved by the city.

“That’s all part of the requirements,” Burr said.

City staff also recommended a condition regarding lighting levels.

“So you won’t have any light bleeding over into the residential,” she said.

Some nearby residents have voiced concern about the proposed plan.

William and Suzette Tirelli, of 2120 S.W. 17th Ave., live directly behind the church. They and another couple in the neighborhood circulated petitions last year to try and stop the building of what was being called an amphitheater.

“Our main concern is the amplified music in the homes – that we are going to lose our quality of life,” Suzette Tirelli said Friday.

She noted the direction of the stage and how the sound will carry.

“The amphitheater is 200 feet from our home, and they’re trying to say that we’re not going to hear it,” Tirelli said.

“Not only are you going to have the amplified music, you’re going to have crowds, you’re going to have cars coming into the area,” her husband said.

Bill Tirelli pointed out that during a recent concert at the church, the music could easily be heard from their driveway – without the stage.

“It’s going to be louder,” he said.

According to the couple, people moved to the Cape for a reason.

“They came down here for quality of life,” Tirelli said, adding that the construction of the stage will lower home values in his neighborhood.

“No one’s going to want to buy a home,” he said. “That’s just not fair to the taxpaying homeowners that are in this area.”

Tirelli compared approving the ordinance to opening a can of worms.

“If they get it here, what’s to stop other churches in the area or other groups that have a large chunk of land from putting in an amphitheater?” he asked. “Once it’s open, it puts other people in the same situation.”

Burr acknowledged that staff is aware of complaints by some residents, and that there is always concerns with projects but they try to address them.

“We can just provide the best recommendations that we can provide,” she said. “Being a pre-platted city, it’s very hard to locate non-residential uses in the city.”

The grounds – called Fellowship Park – will be open to the public.

“They did ask for some changes to what we recommended,” Burr added of the church. “But we are going forward with out recommendation as is.”

The church wanted to use the sound stage later on the weekends.

“They were concerned about the hours of operation,” Burr said. “We were not agreeable to that.”

P&Z can make changes to the ordinance before voting on it.

“And then city council, of course, has that same options,” she said.

The ordinance is tentatively set to go before council on April 19.

Cape Christian Fellowship is at 2110 Chiquita Blvd. S.