Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 | 2:15 p.m.
The International Church of Las Vegas has a vision to build a church with an 85-foot tower drawing people to pray. But planning commissioners fear the tower will draw criticism for blocking views of the La Madre Mountain Wilderness Area in the northwest part of the valley.
To make sure more neighbors are aware of the proposed 89,550-square-foot church, the Las Vegas Planning Commission delayed voting on the item Nov. 20 for at least 60 days until more public outreach is done.
The five-acre proposed church, 660 feet east of the southwest corner of Cliff Shadows Parkway and the Las Vegas Beltway, is designed to blend into the surrounding areas and reflect the shape of the hillside it would be built against. The hillside is a large ridge and a dominant part of the view that forms La Madre Mountain. To minimize blocking of the view line of the ridge, the first floor of the five stories would cut directly into the mountain, said Southwest Engineering President Mark Jones, who represented the church before the commission.
However, some neighbors aren't convinced the church wouldn't obstruct the view of the ridge.
"When I heard it would cut right into the mountain, I think that's really disturbing," said Jeff Burbank, a nearby resident who spoke at the meeting. "I don't think any kind of man-made development should be allowed to be shoved into a mountain range ... This is going to mar our view of the mountains."
Neighbor concerns may have validity because of the Hillside Ordinance that was passed in August 2007. The ordinance was created in part to preserve the view of the hills as development expands. Considering the slope of the location, the ordinance would only allow for a 35-foot building, making the tower 50 feet higher than the acceptable height.
But only the tower, which is 15 percent of the proposed building, would surpass the hillside ordinance limit. Also, because the project has been in the plans for years — long before the Hillside Ordinance passed — developers asked for understanding.
Paul Goulet, pastor of the non-denominational church, described his vision of the church as being a place for all people, no matter what religion, to gather and pray. He said the height of the tower is meant to inspire faith as it points upward toward God.
"We're building something to make a statement," he said.
The new building would not replace the other large International Church of Las Vegas building at 8100 Westcliff Drive, near Summerlin Parkway and U.S. 95. It would be an addition for the growing church.
Commissioners had mixed reactions to the proposal.
Steven Evans, who represents Ward 2, said the design fit the surrounding environment and wouldn't block the view of the hillside.
"This is the kind of application we need here," he said. "The way you oriented it into the mountain is outstanding."
On the other hand, Commissioner Richard Truesdell, who represents Ward 4 where the proposed project is located, said the commission is criticized for not sticking to regulations like the Hillside Ordinance. Also he fears that not everyone wants to see the church in the way of the hillside.
"Your vision is not my vision of what I want to see along the hillsides of Las Vegas," he said to Goulet. "I don't believe this building will be invisible or blend into the mountain."
The commission decided more notices need to be sent out about the proposed project.
Jones expressed frustration, saying the church already sent out more than 500 notices and conducted a neighborhood meeting where only a handful of people attended and any objections were resolved.
The issue is scheduled to be before the board again Jan. 22, though that date could change depending on the public outreach schedule.
Jenny Davis can be reached at 990-8921 or [email protected].