[Coptic Church proposed in Avon]
The Plain Dealer By Michael Sangiacomo
March 03, 2015
Dr. Osama Malak, of the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Independence, told Avon residents a new church would be a good neighbor.
AVON, Ohio - About 25 residents told city council they were concerned that a proposed new church would increase traffic on Center Road (Ohio 83) and might lower property values.
In a work session Monday [3-2-15] night, city council proposed giving the proponents of a Coptic Orthodox Church paperwork that could be used to assure a bank that a church could be built. It would still have to satisfy the city's building codes and ordinances dealing with a church in a residential area.
The ordinance will be voted on at the next council meeting on March 9 .
Brian Scott, of nearby Hanamar Drive, said Ohio 83 is already a dangerous road, and he feared a church with more than 100 families would only make the traffic congestion worse. He feared the added traffic would make it unsafe for children ...
The church, affiliated with the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Independence, asked the planning commission last week for a special use permit to build the church on a 10-acre site at 3441 Center Road [east side of SR-83], south of Detroit Road. Such a use is permitted under the city's building and zoning code.
Upon further reflection, and in reaction to residents opposed to the approval, the request for a special use permit was withdrawn.
Avon resident Brian Scott expressed concern about traffic a new church might bring to his neighborhood.
"What they really wanted was something to show to lenders," said Law Director John Gasior. "A simple ordinance that says the area is properly zoned for a church is all they needed at this point. When the church wants to move forward, engineering studies, traffic studies and environmental studies will have to be done."
Scott said he's also concerned that lights in the church parking lot would diminish the value of his house, and he feared that church members would park on his street if the parking lot was overcrowded.
Several residents were concerned about use of a possible hall for weddings and parties, which would create noise.
City Planner James Piazza said before anything happens, the church officials would have to produce detailed plans for the church and any other builders. He said residents would have a chance to come before council and voice their objections at that time. He said a traffic study would certainly be conducted to determine if the road would withstand the added traffic.
Church spokesman Dr. Osama Malak assured the crowd that they need not worry about loud celebrations.
"We fast 220 days a year," he said. "At the church in Independence, which has 600 families, we have only had six weddings last year."
Malak explained that many of the church members live in the Western suburbs including Avon, Rocky River and Bay Village and would like a Coptic church of their own.
He said eventually the complex would consist of a main church, a separate social hall/activities building and a retreat center. The retreat center would come later, once the church was established.
"The retreat center will be a place where our youth could go for a weekend," he said in an interview recently. "It would be a quiet time where they would be taught the Bible. We would welcome people of all faiths to come to our services."
Mayor Bryan Jensen said unlike a church, a new housing development built on the site would cost the city and the school district more than a million dollars a year for services.
"We're trying to slow down population growth,"Jensen said. "It causes a big strain on the city."
Avon City Council hears concerns about potential church
By Kaylee Remington, The Morning Journal
Avon City Council held a work session March 2  in which council discussed whether property at 3441 Center Road is suitably zoned for the city to grant a special use permit for a church.
A planning commission meeting was held Feb. 18 in which Dr. Osama Malak, of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, was hoping to receive a special use permit.
But residents came to the meeting with concerns. The planning commission had advised that there are no specific plans for the project as of yet.
Avon resident Bryan Scott had read the city's code prior to coming to the Feb. 18 planning commission meeting. On the agenda was the request to grant a special use permit to Malak for the construction of the church.
Scott stated that in the city's code, in order to pass a special use permit, the applicant must have several pieces of criteria with plans and drawings ...
Malak said that he will do whatever needs to be done and is always willing to listen, Jensen said.
Malak spoke during the work session and said that the church has been around for more than 2,000 years in Egypt and around the world.
The church in Independence has 600 families with most of them living in the west side communities.
He felt that it would be appropriate to build another church in Avon since most families who attend his church are close to Avon.
"And we thought it would fit well in the neighborhood," he said.
Services at the Independence church are held on Sundays. The church also has Sunday school.
Jensen stated that the special use permit would have to be amended for each phase of the project. The residents would be allowed to see what Malak is doing in each phase, he said.
Scott said during the work session meeting that he appreciates Jensen's comments, but still doesn't feel like the city is looking out for the residents' best interests ...
He did appreciate that the language was changed from granting a special use permit to the land being suitable zoned for the city to grant a special use permit. Law Director Gasior explained that the ordinance was changed to find a middle ground with the residents and Malak. He hopes that this will satisfy the lender for the church.
A lot of legitimate concerns are still on the table, Scott said, and he doesn't feel that they were addressed at the planning commission meeting Feb. 18. He cited concerns for children's safety with increase traffic and cut through from the church. He also shared the concern of property values being diminished, citing possible parking lot lights being transmitted to his yard.
Scott also said there is concern for overflow parking in that area. The church, if it is approved and built, would be close to Hanamar Drive, Riegelsberger Road, Wyndemere Way and Kinzel Road.
The property that Malak wishes to construct a church is 10 acres of parcel with 300 feet of frontage.
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Special permit called into question for Avon church proposal
By Kaylee Remington, The Morning Journal
A special use permit caused confusion during Avon Planning Commission's meeting on Feb. 18 after Dr. Osama Malak, of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, requested it to possibly construct a church at 3441 Center Road in the city.
According to the planning commission agenda for the meeting Feb. 18 , the proposal is to designate that property as a special use permit and is asking that it be recommended to city council.
Residents around that area came to the meeting with concerns, but economic development/assistant planning coordinator Pam Fechter told the audience that at this time there are no specific plans to the project.
But some residents read the city's code and stated that in order to pass a special use permit the applicant must have several pieces of criteria with plans and drawings.
But Law Director John Gasior stated that this is strictly just to say that this land is suitable for a construction of a church. Once the plan comes forward, the special use permit will be amended as needed.
The church will provide full engineer drawings and another public hearing will come forward. Malak reiterated that they don't have any idea what they would like to do at this time ...
Gasior recommended that they change the motion stating that land is suitable for a special use permit in the future.
Council declares property to be zoned for a church.
Avon Council deems property suitable for city to grant special use permit for new church
By Adriana Adkins, The Morning Journal
Property at 3441 Center Road is suitably zoned for the city to grant a special use permit for a new church, Avon City Council members voted.
At the city's most recent council meeting March 9 , city officials unanimously voted on an ordinance identifying a property at 3441 Center Rd. as being suitably zoned for the city to grant a special permit for the construction of a new church.
Dr. Osama Malak, of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, announced his intent to construct a new church at the location at a previous planning commission meeting Feb. 18 .
The item, however, was not well-received by residents who on multiple occasions spoke out in opposition of the proposed church, arguing that its settlement would lower property values, create more traffic and become an all-around nuisance with claims being made about extra lighting from the church's parking lot potentially peering into neighboring homes.
The item was originally on the planning commission's agenda to be voted on for a special use permit, but after hearing the concerns from residents, city officials opted to change the language in the ordinance to first vote on whether the proposed area was suitably zoned for the city to grant a special use permit for the church ...
"All City Council is doing is reading the code," Gasior said to Scott. “Your points have been taken to heart but Council speaks through its legislation. All we are going to do is reiterating what our code says. Nothing more. Nothing less."
With the land now deemed suitably zoned to grant a special use permit for the church, the granting of the special use permit itself still has to be approved by council.
But in accordance with city code, city residents and Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen agreed that in order to pass a special use permit for the church, Malak must have several pieces of criteria met with plans and drawings.
While the church Malak is seeking to construct is 10 acres of parcel with 300 feet of frontage [on the east side of Center Road], there are no specific plans for the project at this time.
The church, if it is approved and constructed, will be situated near Hanamar Drive, Riegelsberger Road, Wyndemere Way and Kinzel Road.
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Proposed church causes concern among residents
Filed by nicolehennessy March 11th, 2015 in News.
By Nicole Hennessy
Residents off Center Road (SR 83) pride themselves on being a part of quiet, uneventful developments suitable for families.
For this reason, some of those residents have expressed concerns now that a Coptic Orthodox Church has expressed its desire to develop a West Side congregation in the area.
These concerns stem mostly from the perception there will be an increase in traffic and potential parking issues should the church be approved.
And though it is permitted for a church to be built in the area of interest, acknowledging that fact is the furthest the project has made it through the city's approval process.
A few residents attended Monday's Avon City Council regular meeting to address council, but the turnout was nowhere near as large as the previous week.
At the March 2  meeting, Osama Malak, of the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Independence, explained to residents and council why the church is a good fit.
Surprised there are concerns, he said St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Independence has neighborhoods all around it.
More than 600 families belong to St. Mark's, a large portion of which reside on the West Side. Building in Avon would help accommodate those families, as well as new members who may not be willing to make the trip to Independence.
Stressing the conservative nature of his congregation, Malak explained, "We fast 220 days a year," during which time there are few to no parties hosted by the church.
Also, though the church's building plans include a social hall, the facility will not be rented out. Phase II of the project does include a youth facility with a playground area. The facility would serve as a "youth retreat center" that would be used for things like weekend-long Bible studies.
Stating that some of the residents' trepidation could be related to a fear of the unknown, Malak also explained what the Coptic religion is all about.
A Christian-based Egyptian faith, the Coptic church dates back to ancient times. Over the centuries, Malak said, followers of the faith have faced "extensive persecution." This remains the case today.
"Two months ago, 21 Christian Egyptians were beheaded in Libya for no reason except they are Christians," Malak said.
Multiple residents, upon addressing council, stated they had nothing against Malak or his church, hoping they didn't come off as being closed-minded. Several times, the potential issue of late church services creating noisy environments behind residents' homes came up.
Bryan Scott, who lives on Hanamar Drive, which is directly behind the proposed church, said he doesn't feel like city officials are looking out for his best interests, despite Mayor Bryan Jensen's attempts to convince him that's not the case.
"I cannot accept our street turning into a cut-through," Scott said, concerned about the traffic the church will inevitably create and how it might affect safety conditions for the more than 50 children who live on the street.
Scott and some of his neighbors also expressed concern over the already speeding traffic that seems to fly down SR 83.
This is not the first time this issue has been discussed. Several traffic studies have been completed by the city, but the state ultimately decides what the road's speed limit is and has not approved a decrease from the current 45 mph.
In fact, if the church is approved, a traffic study will have to be completed, as is the case with development of any type in Avon.
After a Hanamar resident brought up the speed issue in reference to the church March 2 , Planning Coordinator Jim Piazza reminded her that the more development there is in the area, the more likely the state is to approve a reduction in the speed limit on 83.
Scott, going down a list he prepared for the meeting said, "I'm also concerned our property values will be diminished," and that the church will affect "the logical development of properties to the south."
Other residents expressed concern over drainage issues that might be created and flooding some say they currently experience in their basements.
"Everyone knows Avon's got water issues," said David Lawrence, who's had flooding in his basement.
While Jensen continuously reassures residents that the city will not make any decisions lightly, he explained the reasoning behind the interest in building a community asset, like a church, rather than more housing developments.
"We're trying to find ways to slow down the growth of ... residential [development] in our area because we know it puts a stress on the school system (and) it puts a stress on the taxpayers," he said.
"We know that Avon is a popular place to be, a place that everybody wants to move into. Our fear is, what's gonna happen to our infrastructure with the housing that's going to go in?"
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HISTORICAL SKETCH OF AVON, OHIO, TO 1974