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Megachurch moving forward

Keeping hope alive for its flock, Christian Faith Center’s proposal to build a 4,500-seat megachurch in Federal Way moved forward this week.

But two Federal Way City Councilors told a standing-room-only crowd that serious concerns about the church proposal remain.

More than 130 people descended Monday evening on City Hall to hear the city Land-Use/Transportation Committee consider whether or not to keep the megachurch proposal afloat, as the city Planning Commission had previously recommended in an unanimous vote. The church is seeking a zoning exception so it can build east of the intersection of South 336th Street and Pacific Highway.

After more than an hour of presentation, public comment and deliberation, the committee voted to direct city staff to draft a development agreement with Christian Faith Center. The agreement would allow the project to proceed, provided that traffic and other concerns are addressed.

If developed, the 51-acre church property would include a parking lot with nearly 2,000 stalls, a school and sports fields, but would also have environmental buffers to protect nearby wetlands. The church would be second in size in the Puget Sound region only to Overlake Christian Church in Redmond. Completion was originally slated for last summer, but progress has been delayed in the face of heated criticism from neighbors and a study that demonstrated the difficulties of offsetting the expected increases in traffic.

“There’s no real way we can reject this proposal and approve the next one and assume it doesn’t have the same sort of impacts,” said Councilman Eric Faison, addressing Monday’s crowded room.

In a process that began two years ago, the City Council considered a broad zoning code change that would have allowed the church to be erected at the site while leaving the property zoned for a light industrial use. After that effort failed, the church asked the city to change the zoning for the property it owns to multifamily zoning where churches are allowed.

Prior to Monday’s vote, staff made presentations on how the church property could take shape. After his presentation, city Traffic Engineer Rick Perez said staff had not yet been able to address up how to mitigate the up to 2,637 cars that could be added to city streets each weekend.

Public comment followed the presentations with some speaking for the church and some railing against an unwanted neighbor coming to blight their block.

“Our community lives here and we want to build a church here,” said Morgan Llewellyn, a developer and Christian Faith Center spokesman. “This is a development the city would be proud of. We want to be the first environmentally friendly development in the city.”

Some neighbors were not enthused — or convinced.

“What part of ‘No’ do they not understand?” said Shirley Gulbraa who lives across the street from the site. “Our neighborhood is still concerned about the traffic.”

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