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Catholic church moving ahead with plans for new campus
Proposal calls for 1,000-seat sanctuary at location near Browns Bridge and McEver roads
A sign is posted at the site proposed for a new Catholic church. - photo by Kristen Oliver

A growing population of Catholics in the area may soon have a new parish in Gainesville.

The city is already home to St. Michael’s Catholic Church, but many Catholics still drive to neighboring city parishes for Sunday Mass.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta has hopes of building a new church campus on property near the intersection of Browns Bridge Road and McEver Road.

"The church is very excited about the opportunity to develop this property and believe it will be a platform to serve the growing Catholic community," said Andrew Halloran, civil engineer and president at Cornerstone Site Consultants.

Halloran said Gainesville’s growing Catholic community is a facet of "the growth we’ve seen over the past few years here in the Gainesville area."

The archdiocese requested to rezone and amend property on S. Smith Road at the city Planning and Appeals Board meeting Tuesday. Two requests were made, to rezone a 4.9-acre plot and to amend an adjacent 14.2 acres, which consist of a closed golfing facility. Both requests were recommended unanimously by the board.

The project, planned for two phases of construction, would cover just over 19 acres.

"The property consists of undeveloped land, as well as a closed golf driving range and lesson facility that was originally opened in 1989, but has since closed," said Matt Tate, city planning manager. "The proposed use of the church would be phased over the next 20 years."

The church campus will include a 1,000-seat sanctuary in its first phase of construction. The total campus calls for a larger sanctuary, social hall, administrative offices, community meeting rooms, classrooms, a clergy residency, commercial kitchen, food pantry and more.

The recommendation for approval comes with a few conditions.

The archdiocese has expressed interest in building a cell tower on the property, but Tate said "a freestanding cell tower is not an approved use for the property unless located within a church steeple and not visible to the public."

Another condition is for a 50-foot or longer vegetated buffer between the church property and the single-family homes to the east and west. Finally, any additional construction after the first phase of development will require a revised traffic impact study to determine if further improvements will be necessary.

The archdiocese has already agreed to accept the conditions, according to Halloran.

Halloran said the first phase, including the sanctuary, should take an estimated year to 14 months once construction has begun. But the archdiocese has work to do before that can happen.

Halloran said he’s reached out to the existing property owners at Clayton Smith Trust to discuss the application, but has not heard back from them yet.

"Phase one wouldn’t start immediately — as in, not right upon approval. There still has to be purchase of the property, and some committee and design decisions (that are) part of the archdiocesan process," he said. "...So it would not be immediately after rezoning, but it would be some short time after that."

John Schiavone, director of construction for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, agreed. Halloran said he has no timeline for construction yet, and it will depend on the purchase of the property.

"It is very early in the process…" Schiavone said. "We take these projects one step at a time and try not to get out ahead of ourselves."

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