Marriottsville's Chapelgate Presbyterian Church presented preliminary plans for a new sanctuary and town house development on the church's property to the Zoning Board and community members Wednesday night.

It was one of the first steps of a new zoning process designed to give developments a chance for approval outside of the once-a-decade comprehensive zoning review.

The church, located on Marriottsville Road across from the Turf Valley Towne Square shopping center, is requesting county approval for a development that would include a new sanctuary and 134 town homes on its lot, which already houses its Christian Academy and several sports fields. Currently, the church holds services in a multipurpose room.

The church is also proposing to create a pathway around the property, which would be open for public use. Amenities along the trail might include a tennis court, dog stations and benches.

And at the entrance to the lot, Chapelgate envisions a small community commercial site along Marriottsville Road in an open air market-style setting, which could be used for Nativity displays, produce sales and fundraising by community groups. 

Chapelgate Senior Pastor Mike Khandjian said the development was part of a greater plan for outreach by the church. 

"We’ve come to believe that our role is going to be most realized in entering into the community," he said, adding that the proposed pathway and commercial lot would be a way to attract new visitors and interact with neighbors. 

The townhouses on the lot would range between about 2,000 and 2,400 square feet in size and would likely sell for about $400,000 or more, according to Chapelgate's attorney, Sang Oh. Per CEF zoning requirements, 10 percent of these units, or 14 townhouses, are required to be moderate income housing units, sold at more affordable rates to families earning 80 percent of the area's median income. 

This is the second development to undergo the new CEF zoning process, adopted last year by the County Council, which also sits as the Zoning Board, as a way to approve developments outside of the comprehensive zoning process in exchange for enhanced community amenities. 

The first CEF development proposal, Simpson Oaks in West Columbia, had a Zoning Board meeting last month. 

Five residents of a neighboring community on Albeth Road came to ask questions about the proposed development. 

They cited concerns about heavier traffic from the new development, the potential for new roads to damage wetlands on the church's lot and the proximity of the commercial lot to their neighborhood. 

"You're really bringing a commercial venture into our neighborhood," resident Ron Louzon told members of the Chapelgate congregation. "We have to live there, and we're going to be contending with traffic from the church and this development."

Stephanie Emmens echoed Louzon's concerns about traffic and the commercial lot. 

"There's been a lot of talk about the enhancement you're going to bring to the community," she said. "But we're the community that's already here." 

Zoning Board chair Mary Kay Sigaty said the goal of the meeting was to facilitate dialogue between the church and the community as the CEF process moves forward. She asked neighbors to share their thoughts with the congregation "so things you've brought up will be integrated in their thinking."

Khandjian said the church wanted to be "good neighbors.

"I don’t want us to come to the end of a process and have steamrolled 15 families," he said. 

The church will meet with the community again later this month to show them a more refined design, which will then be presented to a county Design Advisory Panel, according to Sigaty.