Steamboat Springs The final decision to allow a Strawberry Park church to expand its facilities will be in the hands of the Routt County Commissioners Tuesday.
The commissioners will hear the Euzoa Bible Church's appeal to the Routt County Planning Commissions' August decision that denied the church's request to build a new sanctuary.
Since the request, the county has received dozens of letters in support of the expansion, as well as strong opposition from local neighbors, the Strawberry Park Group.
Residents crammed into the hearing room for a lengthy public comment at the Aug. 15 meeting.
In a 5-4 decision, the planning commission was not willing to revise the conditional-use permit to allow for the future construction of a larger building on the 28-acre Euzoa complex.
County Planner John Eastman said traffic counts, congregation size and residences on the church's property already exceed limits set by the county in 1989.
Some planning commissioners have argued the county would set a bad precedent if it approved more lenient regulations when the church was not in compliance with current regulations.
At the heart of the debate is Euzoa's claim that a growing church should be seen as a positive impact on a community, and the proposal is feasible and reasonable and has no greater impact than the Lowell Whiteman School expansion a few years ago.
"We believe our church is a very positive influence on the community and something that is obviously growing, which is a good thing," said Euzoa elder Charles Feldmann, who will present for the church on Tuesday.
But the Strawberry Park Group believes the church has already exceeded its allowed growth limit and a new church with no growth limits would disrupt the rural nature of Strawberry Park.
The Strawberry Park Group said it understands the church's inherent desire to grow, but that mission is contrary to the group's goal of protecting the rural nature of the area.
"This is not a religious thing. There is nothing personal or religious about this," president Millie Beall said. "This asks for no limits. We are trying to put out a Pandora's Box for the community. A lot of us are people who have spent a lot of time and energy helping to create (community) plans. Plans that help those elected officials to say why this proposal does not fit into the area plan."
Beall also said the Strawberry Park Group would like to see the church return to its original limits.
But Feldmann said if the church has to spread out its program, and move away from having the Saturday night contemporary service followed by a Sunday morning service, the impact would be greater to the community.
"It would be a greater impact on the community than what we have right now on Saturday and Sunday. It is more condensed and has less of an impact then say spreading it out over the whole week," Feldmann said.
Feldmann is hoping the county commissioners will take a broader look at the issue than the planning commissioners.
After the close denial from the planning commission, Feldmann said the church was urged to go before the county commissioners.
"I think the planning commission looks at things more technically versus the county commissioners," he said. "I think they really try to look at what is described as the bigger picture, what is really influenced, and if this is a good thing for the community."