The request to expand its facilities is a response to the church’s growing congregation.
| 3:23 p.m. March 18, 2020
Lifebridge Church in Horizon West is looking to grow.
Orange County and church representatives met with residents in a community meeting Wednesday, March 11, to discuss a change determination request to expand the church facilities. The church is requesting to increase the building square footage from 60,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet. Located at 12120 Chase Road, Windermere, Lifebridge Church sits on a 23.48-acre property.
“We’re not changing any of our uses at all,” said Bill Burkett of Burkett Engineering, who is the applicant for the project and a member of Lifebridge Church. “We’re not changing the time of day we’re worshipping or the time of day the kids have youth groups. We simply need more room.”
Due to growth in membership, Lifebridge Church is looking to expand its facilities to offer more space for children and youth members. A concept plan showed an expansion of the church’s current facility, as well as the addition of a separate, 30,000-square-foot family life center building adjacent to the existing church. Plans for the expanded space include a nursery for young children to play while parents are worshipping and classrooms for Sunday school activities and other church-related uses.
“What the church is doing is making room for more people,” Lifebridge Church Pastor Jeff Lawrence said. “The expanded space is (planned) for children. We call it ‘Lifebridge Kids.’ … It’s a ... space for them to hang out.
“It’s (also) student space,” Lawrence later said, referring to older children in youth groups. “Our students right now don’t have dedicated space (for youth groups). We’ve run out of it, so on Wednesday nights, they’re using the main auditorium and they’re sharing space with (younger) children (and) … there’s too many people in there.”
Many of the residents who attended the meeting raised concerns over potential traffic impacts in the area. With Sunset Park Elementary located just south of Lifebridge Church, residents were concerned that a larger church facility would bring more traffic to the already-crowded nearby roads. Burkett assured residents that the church should not have an impact on traffic during peak hours.
“As far as traffic — because we’re (wanting) to expand the building because we have more people coming to church now than we did a few years ago — traffic will increase on Sunday mornings (and) traffic will increase on Wednesday evenings after 6 o’clock,” Burkett said. “During typical peak hours, there should be virtually no impact, because that’s not when people are coming to worship at this facility. … We know there’s school-related traffic problems and we don’t want, in any way, to add to that.”
Another concern raised was related to the manner in which the church would use its new facilities. Some residents were concerned that the church would start offering classes to become a school; however, the current development plans of the church restrict such a use.
“These (development) conditions were negotiated back in 2008, and it restricted the building to … no childcare, no pre-school, no school on the property,” Burkett said. “We’re not asking to change all of that. The only thing we’re asking to do is to allow us to continue to function with typical church functions. We just have more people coming now than we did a few years ago, so we need more space — specifically more space for the kids.”
“We will never have a school or a pre-school,” Lawrence added.