Northway Church has been looking to obtain a larger space to accommodate services and events. Now, it looks like that might not happen. Many Clifton Park residents recently raised strong objections to the expansion at a tense town hall meeting.
The Church Plans
Currently, Northway Church, one of only two megachurches in the Capital Region, resides in the North Country Commons Plaza next to the Upstate Concert Hall. Pastors Donald Cremeans “Pastor Buddy” and Debbie Cremeans purchased the church in 2002.
In May, Donald Cremeans submitted a proposal to the town Planning Board for a 40,000-square-foot church on a 6.8 acre lot on the corner of Ushers and Pierce roads off Exit 10.
The new facility would allow for 1,200 worshipers, more than 400 parking spaces, and would have significantly more outdoor space for events, including a 7,500-square-foot outdoor patio.
Over 100 Clifton Park residents gathered in the Clifton Park Town Hall on Tuesday, September 27th to discuss the expansion. The meeting has been described as “tense” with a “shouting match” and some people leaving early due to frustration.
The main concerns with the church’s relocation and expansion appear to be:
- Increased traffic and noise
- Lack of green space
- Dishonesty from the church
A traffic study was conducted that indicated the church’s prime traffic period on Sunday morning would be 35% less busy than the area’s overall traffic period. It was revealed at the meeting that the traffic study was based on two Sunday services, not three, which Northway Church currently holds; the traffic study was also paid for and presented by the church.
According to Devin Cremeans – the pastors’ son in attendance to advocate for the church – Northway Church is planning on consolidating the three services into two.
“Tonight I learn about three services, but now you’re saying two services,” The Daily Gazette reports Planning Board Member Eric Ophardt saying.
“We keep finding out different facts,” the Times Union reports Board Member Jefferey Jones saying. “We found out about more services tonight. That plants a seed of doubt.”
Furthermore, at one point during the meeting Cremeans said that the church has no intentions of increasing activity, but then later said that their hope is to grow. He added that he believes this would be a gift to the community.
“It may be a gift to the people of Clifton Park, but frankly, we prefer you keep it gift wrapped,” The Daily Gazette reports Glen Valle responding; Valle is President of the Country Knolls Civic Association.
In addition to four services a week – three on Sunday, and one on Saturday – Northway Church is also known for hosting breakfasts, concerts, and other special events, some of which take place outdoors. Many residents expressed worry over the church turning their quiet neighborhood into a crowded mess of cars.
An online petition, which was presented at the meeting, has garnered 434 signatures as of this writing to “Keep Ushers Road a Green Space.” Unfortunately for the concerned residents, keeping the area a green space whether the church relocates to that spot or not seems to be rather impossible.
Planning Board Chairman Rocco Ferraro pointed out that the area is zoned as light industrial property, and keeping it as a green space is not realistic. “I’m telling you that’s not going to be the case,” the Times Union reports Ferraro saying at the meeting. “It’s not going to be forever wild.”
In fact, even though Northway Church’s proposal is in accordance with green space requirements, the church has actually increased the amount of green space since the original proposal.
After Jones read through 114 pages of social media comments from community members he decided he wasn’t happy with the amount of trees Northway Church was planning. He subsequently negotiated with the church for a 30-foot-wide buffer of trees as a compromise.
The meeting ran long into the night. Ultimately, Ferraro decided to not allow the proposal to be approved at this time. “We have to respect the process and the issues that have been raised,” The Daily Gazette reports Ferraro announcing.
One action that was decided upon in the meantime while the proposal is still under review: a third party will be looking into a more in-depth traffic study.
- The Daily Gazette: After tense meeting, future of Northway Church is uncertain
- News10 ABC: Shouting match takes place during meeting about proposed church expansion
- Times Union: Clifton Park residents oppose expanded Northway Church near Northway exit