Euzoa expansion denied

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— A local church's future plans to expand its facilities were put on hold Thursday evening.

The Routt County Planning Commission denied Euzoa Bible Church's request that it be allowed to build a new sanctuary to meet the demands of a growing congregation.

The decision came by a 5-4 margin.

Church leaders had asked the Planning Commission that its current conditional-use permit be revised to allow for the future construction of a larger building in its Strawberry Park location.

"We are asking because we are pushing the limits on numbers," church elder Ron Pollard said.

Combined Saturday and Sunday attendance at Euzoa currently numbers 350 people.

That figure is one of several figures that do not satisfy numerical limits set for the church by the county in 1989.

Church leaders had hoped to amend some of those limits to bring the church into agreement with county requirements.

Planning commissioners, however, did not see fit to grant Euzoa permission to expand its Strawberry Park facilities when it had not held to its original 1989 agreement.

They instead asked the Routt County Planning Department to review the church's current attendance, traffic and residential standards to determine if and how Euzoa could abide by those requirements.

Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush argued the church's request to expand its facilities does not fit with the rural character of Strawberry Park.

The commission's decision was not a question of who wanted to use the land, she said, but how the land would be used.

Euzoa Bible Church sits on a 28-acre parcel of land at the base of Buffalo Pass that is slated for agricultural use, she added.

The Strawberry Park Group, an organization committed to controlling growth within Strawberry Park, has lobbied against an expansion on the church's property.

Wayne Kakela, a Strawberry Park resident for 42 years and vice president of the organization, said residents embraced the church in 1989 but could not give their blessing to a new building.

It was irresponsible for the church to push such a project forward, he said.

But it doesn't make sense to object to the size of Euzoa's proposed sanctuary when other buildings, such as the nearby elementary and middle schools, are larger, Planning Commissioner Fred Nichols said.

A new building would seat 400 people.

"You embraced this church group," Nichols told Strawberry Park residents. "But to embrace this church group and not think it's going to grow is foolhardy."

Some planning commissioners and nearby residents questioned why the church didn't offer something more substantial than a five-year outlook.

Pollard stressed the church's request for permission to construct a new facility did not necessarily mean Euzoa would be building a new facility in five years.

Resources still might not be available at that time, he said.

People who call Strawberry Park home acknowledged Euzoa Bible Church is outgrowing its current facilities but said they would like to see the growth continue elsewhere.

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