Berkeley County panel OKs proposal for church worship center

December 07, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A multimillion-dollar church worship and education center on Monday won the unanimous blessings of the Berkeley County Planning Commission for its sketch plan, a first step in getting permits to build the complex off Rock Cliff Drive and Interstate 81.

The Rev. Kevin Green, 44, and his wife, Beth, are pastors of The Living Room, a Wave Network affiliate church in the former Heilig-Meyers furniture store in the Berkeley Plaza Shopping Center.

Green told the planning commission at a public hearing Monday that his plans call for a 49,000-square-foot "civic" center that will anchor the campus.

His "fairly large building" will have a seating capacity of 3,000 and become a venue for concerts, from Christian to country, for major fundraisers and will be the area's only convention center in addition to serving as The Living Room's main worship space.


He said the building will be an "edgy, modern-style" structure that can be used for area public school graduations, by the county recreation department, and as a place for the performing arts. It will have state-of-the-art theatrical and concert lighting and sound systems. It also would have an NCAA-regulation basketball court.

According to a brochure about the center, which Green said was distributed to about 5,000 people, "God's house will be great. Built with magnificence, fame and splendor that people will know everywhere."

"To us, civic means to relate or belong to a city or community. Our church's mission is to have not a private, but a public house of worship," Green told the commissioners.

"We're a church that promotes moral values," he said.

The complex will include eight dormitory houses and a 35,000-square-foot student life center.

Peter Leitze who lives in Timberwalk, a development whose entrance is near the entrance to Green's complex, said he was concerned that heavy traffic during major events would block the entrance to his development.

Green said the West Virginia Division of Highways will be involved in planning the entrance.

"There will be heavy traffic at times, but it will be controlled," he said.

The church's 26-acre tract -- 19 acres of which were donated by church members Lucille Michaels and her son, Keith -- runs from Rock Cliff Drive to Interstate 81 and Tavern Road. A second entrance is planned for Tavern Road, Green said.

Green, who grew up in northern Maine, said he hopes to move into the new complex by the end of 2011.

His church has been using the 30,000-square-foot former furniture store building for six years. Green said his church has about 1,200 active members.

He declined to say how much the complex will cost, other than to say it would be "in the millions."

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