Planning Board Chairman Dennis Gray speaks to the rest of the board Thursday evening about a proposed Jehovah’s Witness church on Greenwood Road. (Matthew Daigle/Sun Journal)

NORWAY — People attending a public hearing Thursday on a proposal for the construction of a Jehovah’s Witness church on Greenwood Road complained about the potential for traffic issues, light pollution and sinking property values.

The one-story church would be built on a recently purchased lot and would accommodate about 130 people, Brian Lawrence of Parsonsfield told the Planning Board on Oct. 27. It would “only be used for worship,” and would feature an auditorium, two small meeting rooms and two bathrooms, he said.

Mark Akerberg, a resident of Greenwood Road, told the designers and engineers of the building Thursday night that the driveway to the proposed facility “could be problematic for traffic.”

“If there are cars slowing down to pull into the parking lot, or people pulling out from the parking lot, I’m concerned that cars could be T-boned or rear-ended by cars driving very fast on Waterford Road,” he said.

Akerberg added that he was concerned about “light pollution” from the parking lot.

“We have beautiful night skies in that neighborhood, and if we have parking lot lights on all night long, it will definitely impact my enjoyment of my yard,” he said.

One of the designers said that the parking lot lights would only be on during the four hours that the congregation meets, one night a week.

“The rest of the nights, the lights will be turned off,” he said.

Akerberg said that from his point of view, “I find the facade quite ugly and commercial looking.”

“It doesn’t seem like it belongs in the neighborhood,” Akerberg said. “It looks like a Dollar General store, or like a giant brick dropped into the center of the neighborhood.”

Resident Mark McGovern wrote a letter to the Planning Board saying that the “design for the Jehovah’s Witness church” does not match the rest of the neighborhood.

“I’m concerned that property values might decline if the building is allowed to move forward,” McGovern said. “I was intimately involved with the efforts to fight against a Dollar Store building being built near McLaughlin Gardens, a historic landmark in town.”

He suggested that Kingdom Hall consider redesigning the exterior of the building.

Shirley Boyce said that Greenwood Road “is a gateway to some of our historic districts.”

“It’d be a shame to put a building in that spot (on Greenwood Road),” she said. “I also spoke with the assessor, and she said that depending on the look of the church, it could have an effect on property values in the neighborhood.”

The current church on Harrison Road is too small for the congregation, the designer said. 

Using photographs of the current building, the designer pointed out that the parking lot that the congregation uses now is about 13 feet below the front door,  making it difficult for older or handicapped individuals to manage the steps. He also said that there is no adequate handicapped parking at the current location.  

Planning Board member Tom Hoffelder asked Lawrence whether the roof of the building would be able to handle snow.

Lawrence said the roof was designed to carry up to 80 inches of snow.

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