Click photo to enlarge
Rev. Ron Dunn stands in the space at the San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church where the church plans to build a nearly 9,000-square-foot gymnasium and game room in Alamo, Calif. on Friday, Oct. 3, 2013. Neighbors and members of the Alamo Improvement Association are concerned that the church is overstepping its reach, saying if it becomes a community center it will adversely increase traffic and noise in the area. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)
CORRECTION (Published 11/6/2013)

A story about a proposed Alamo church gym incorrectly reported the number of people opposed to the project. Residents of 28 homes in the neighborhood of the proposed gym opposed the project, according to a Contra Costa County report.

Correspondent

MARTINEZ -- Plans for a controversial church gym have been approved by the county zoning administrator but with stricter conditions on its use.

County planner Telma Moreira ruled Monday in favor of allowing San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church to build a multipurpose gym on its Alamo property but added and changed some conditions of approval amid concerns from area residents who oppose the project.

Moreira required that the church gym be used only for activities sponsored by, related to and approved by the church. She also required that church officials publicly post a monthly schedule of on-site events for a year after the gym's completion, limited the proposed gym's hours of operation, limited the site's capacity to 450 people and imposed a sound limit of 45 decibels along any of the church's property lines, among other more minor changes.

Public comment on this issue wasn't allowed Monday, since Moreira stated two weeks ago that she'd heard enough testimony. But before the proposal was officially approved, Quentin Alexander, the official applicant, and Galen Grant, the architect hired by United Methodist, were asked to speak on the church's behalf. Both said the new conditions were acceptable.

"We are happy with the conditions. We think they satisfied both the church's interests, and took into good account the interests of our neighbors," said Kathi McShane, one of the church's co-pastors.

Within seconds of the ruling, two Alamo residents, Palmer Madden, and his wife, Susan Paulus, immediately filed an appeal to the planning commission. Paulus declined to comment, saying that she and her husband needed time to prepare a rebuttal to the ruling.

According to a county staff report, the residents of 28 homes have publicly opposed the plan, citing concerns that it would add traffic congestion and increase noise and light pollution in the neighborhood.

Some, including the Alamo Improvement Association, have also accused the church of overstepping its bounds by proposing to charge fees for people who want to use the gym, since the neighborhood is zoned "residential." Moreira said the new conditions and changes were designed to help mitigate these

concerns.

Alexander said he's heard from one area resident who's excited for the gym to be built, and he hopes others start to feel the same way.

"I think they've seen that we've tried to mitigate everything that we possibly could, to help them and to give something to the community, as well as the church," Alexander said.

Any decision made by the zoning administrator can be appealed to the Contra Costa County Planning Commission, and any of the commission's decisions can be appealed to the county board of supervisors. Anyone who wants to appeal the zoning administrator's decision has until Nov. 14 to file a letter of appeal, along with a $125 filing fee, to the Community Development Division counter staff at the Application and Permit Center, 30 Muir Road¿, Martinez.