ALAMO -- After more than two hours of conflicting testimony from church officials and Alamo residents, county zoning officials decided Monday to postpone a decision on a controversial plan for a new gym at San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church.
The next meeting is planned for Nov. 4.
County planner Telma Moreira, who is serving as the zoning administrator for this issue, cited a need to review new information she received at Monday's meeting before deciding whether to approve the plan for the 8,000-square-foot gym. She added that she has heard enough testimony and will not allow public comment during the Nov. 4 meeting.
More than two dozen residents, along with members of the Alamo Improvement Association, attended Monday's meeting to oppose the gym, citing concerns that it will lead to more traffic congestion on busy Danville Boulevard, less available parking and more noise and could bring more petty crime.
Several also described problems that they currently have in sharing space with the church, such as members on Sunday who choose to park on the street and block the bike lane. The church has about 1,100 members, and many in the community are afraid a gym that is open all week will add even more traffic.
"This is a quiet neighborhood, and we urge the county to protect our right to continued quiet enjoyment of our homes," said Susan Paulus.
Church officials say the gym is their gift to the community and that they have taken steps to allay residents' concerns. Last month, they brought forth a list of 15 mitigation measures, including adoption of a less intrusive LED lighting system and a gate to restrict after-hours gym use.
Church leaders also said they will agree to a limit of 50 decibels, which is less than their originally proposed noise limit of 55 decibels but more than most area residents would like.
Church officials are standing pat on their desire for the gym to stay open weekdays until at least 9:30 p.m.
"The church's goal for this facility is strictly about providing a place for recreation for adults and youth," said Galen Grant, president of the Danville-based Flynn Craig & Grant Architects, which has been hired by the church for this project. "It's not about rock concerts, and it's not about wild and crazy parties. They're not going to do something that causes neighborhood complaints; they don't want that."
Church co-pastor Kathi McShane echoed those feelings in a prepared statement to the zoning administration, in which she said that the church already has late-night events that have gone seemingly unnoticed by residents. She added that the proposed gym was originally conceived as a means of providing community support, which is why the church is planning to open it to the general public and charge fees to help offset costs.
Ironically, this is one of the main points of contention for residents who oppose the plan, many of whom have indicated that they would support the gym if it were open only to churchgoers or if it were moved to a nonresidential location.
The next Contra Costa County Zoning Administration meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at 30 Muir Road in Martinez. The meeting will be open to the public, but public comment on this issue won't be allowed.