CONCORD -- A church's plans to build a sanctuary, multipurpose room and chapel on San Miguel Road suffered a potential setback this week after city planners announced the project needs deeper environmental review.

Planners greenlighted the environmental review in an initial study in September, but on Friday sent a letter to leaders of St. Mary and St. Mina's Coptic Orthodox Church saying otherwise.

The about-face comes after complaints from dozens of neighbors and concerns from local agencies. The city received 102 written comments on the project. All but one opposed it or expressed concerns, with many urging the city to do a full environmental review.

"I think it's quite fair based on the determination and findings of the previous environmental study," said John Pelosi, a member of Friends of San Miguel Road, which objects to several aspects of the project. "It should have been done from day one."

The Contra Costa Water District, California Department of Fish and Game and Save Mount Diablo, along with residents raised issues of increased traffic, inadequate access to the property, impacts to wildlife and increased noise. The 3.39-acres at 930 San Miguel Road is bordered by the Lime Ridge Open Space and the Contra Costa Canal and trails.

"It has the potential to either hurt or help those areas," said Seth Adams, land programs director for Save Mount Diablo, who stressed his organization is not opposed to the project. "We're happy the city is requesting an environmental impact report."

Planning Manager Carol Johnson said Tuesday the environmental review will focus on the biology at the site, including wetlands that are regulated by regional, state and federal agencies. Additionally, there will be further study of a nearby canal bridge, which will involve discussions with the water district.

Johnson said the church has 10 calendar days from Friday to file an appeal to the city's decision, which would be heard before the Planning Commission. A representative with the church said they plan on filing an appeal but he did not have any further comment Tuesday.

The church, which is currently at 3500 Clayton Road, dedicated the land on San Miguel Road in 2001. It plans to build a 13,020 square-foot sanctuary to house 297 people, a 2,840 square-foot classroom building, a 6,280 square-foot multiuse building, and a 1,140 square foot chapel. All buildings would be one story; the sanctuary, at 42 feet, would be the tallest structure.

David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.

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