Lake Forest Church Davidson to Seek a Conditional Rezoning for Property on South Main Street
At their meeting Tuesday night, town commissioners expressed support for a request by Lake Forest Church Davidson to seek a conditional rezoning necessary to build a mixed-use commercial development. It will include a facility for Lake Forest on about four acres of land the church is contracted to purchase on the west side of South Main Street. The land in question was the former home of Davidson Family Clinic, which has been vacant for many years, as well as a single-family home and vacant home building lot located to the south of the former Davidson Family Clinic parcel.
Since its first service in August of 2011, Lake Forest has held its Sunday services at Davidson Elementary School, with over 600 people (including more than 100 Davidson College students) in attendance during weekly Sunday services. Church elder, Bill Worsley, said the church has been seeking a permanent home for more than three years, and it is committed to staying close to the town center because of its many relationships with residents, college students, and other local organizations.
The church’s presentation to the board on Tuesday was a “pre-development” meeting to introduce commissioners to the project and explain changes to three zoning regulations that would be necessary for the church to proceed with its plans. First, the former Davidson Family Clinic parcel is located in the Village Edge planning area. While a church is an allowable use in this planning area, there is a condition in the current zoning that restricts a church from being located within a quarter mile of an existing church. The proposed Lake Forest property is located just inside a quarter mile of the Davidson United Methodist Church Chapel. Lake Forest is seeking relief from this ordinance.
Second, Lake Forest will be seeking a variance to locate the church building on the back half of the single-family home parcel, which is located in the Village Infill Planning Area.
Third, the church is seeking a variance that would allow it to use the single-family home for administrative offices. The current ordinance allows the house to be used as an office, but usage is restricted to a professional services firm or secondary retail businesses.
Worsley emphasized the importance of the project to the aesthetics of the town. A document outlining the project reads, “We envision creating a sense of place at the southern entrance to our community, preserving the warm, natural and inviting entrance corridor to our town while also creating an attractive destination for people and businesses on the southern end of town.”
Worsley noted that this development, if approved, would serve as an attractive southern “gateway” to the town, and traveling from north to south would “extend the South Main experience.” He showed commissioners preliminary plans for the project. It includes a 30,000 +/- square foot church facility, a three story 25,000 +/- square foot commercial building fronting South Main Street, and the renovated existing single-family home for administrative use. The plan also includes 140 +/- parking spaces, with 30 of these spaces located in the Davidson Professional Park. Lake Forest is in the process of securing shared use agreements with neighboring property owners to accommodate parking on nights and weekends for church facility events.
Traffic would access and exit the development via two exits. Lake Forest and the Davidson Professional Park plan to share the northern entrance to the site. The current plan includes a second entrance that will be located on the single-family home lot or the vacant building lot. Lake Forest would make the development walkable from all areas of town by extending the sidewalk from South Main Square and along South Main Street the length of the site.
The proposed new commercial building would house a retail business on the first floor, and commercial offices on the second and third floors. Worsley emphasized the size of the commercial building will be limited by the number of vehicles that can be parked on site during the week. The site is able to accommodate both the church and the commercial building because the users of these facilities utilize the parking during opposite time periods. Worsley said Lake Forest plans to make its facility available to local groups and the town throughout the week, and hopes this development will become a destination for gathering, dining, and recreation for visitors throughout the day and evening.
Having received positive feedback from commissioners at the Tuesday board meeting, Worsley said the church will take the next step and submit a formal application to the town for the zoning changes. Then, the church will begin a much longer process of working with town planning staff, conducting traffic studies and getting feedback from the public. Worsley estimated that back-and-forth process could stretch out for as long as a year.
Lake Forest Church in Davidson is a seven-year-old congregation that was founded by its “sister church,” Lake Forest Huntersville, in 2011. Davidson alumnus, Michael Flake, has served as lead pastor since its founding.
Bill Giduz was the son who followed his father’s footsteps into journalism. He has been involved his entire life with news and photography in schools he attended and jobs he’s held. He believes now that he’s got a few good years left to devote to The News of Davidson.