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Guilford church undecided on whether to pursue plan; County panel, changing earlier vote, withdraws OK for 2,000-seat sanctuary


The pastor of First Baptist Church of Guilford said his congregation is undecided about how to proceed with its expansion plan, rejected last week by the Howard County Board of Appeals.

The Rev. John L. Wright said yesterday his church is keeping open several options, including revising the plan in hopes of appeasing community opponents and asking the county Circuit Court to reverse the board's ruling.

"Right now, we're still looking over the Appeals Board decision," the pastor said, noting that the church is still reeling from the board's abrupt withdrawal of approval for the expansion last week.

In September, the board had voted 3-1 to allow the construction of a 2,000-seat sanctuary, a 3,400-square-foot community center, and a 636-space parking lot on 8 acres at Oakland Mills and Guilford roads.

But on Thursday night, board member George L. Layman re-opened discussion on the expansion.

After member Donald Messenger voted against the project, Layman changed his mind and agreed to reject the plan.

Wright said he had a "very short" meeting with a handful of church elders over the weekend to discuss the board's change.

"It caught us off guard," he said of the decision. "Anytime you leave with one decision and find it changed, there's going to be some disappointment."

Wright declined to say whether the church would seek a meeting with residents in the community who opposed the expansion, but John McMahon, president of the Glen Oaks Homeowners Association, said he welcomes such an opportunity.

"I would like to see the church actually ask people who live in the community for their opinions," McMahon said. "I would like to see them ask for our input so that we can avoid repeating this process."

Pub Date: 2/17/99

An article in Wednesday's Howard County edition of The Sun understated the size of a planned community center proposed by First Baptist Church of Guilford. The center would be 34,000 square feet.The Sun regrets the error.
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