By Karen Billing
The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board reviewed a new Armenian church planned for El Camino Real at its June 23 meeting. St. John Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church is being proposed to be built on El Camino Real, behind the Evangelical Formosan Church.
Plans for the 13.37-acre parcel include a 350-seat church, a multi-purpose hall, a library and education building and a gym for youth recreation. The developers submitted plans to the city last week and expect comments from city staff by late July.
The planning board’s regional issues subcommittee will receive more details on the project in August or September. If approved by the city, they will also need a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission.
The project manager, Marcela Escobar-Eck, principal of the Atlantis Group, said she is very familiar with the challenges and environmental sensitivity of the San Dieguito River Valley. She said she takes great pride in the area as she was involved in the preservation and worked with the city’s El Camino Real widening project on creating a safe, adequate wildlife under-crossing near the church site.
“The biggest challenge this site has is access,” said Escobar-Eck, of the odd-shaped parcel.
Escobar-Ecke said they tried to negotiate with Formosan church representatives to use their access but the talks fell through. To make the most minimum impact possible on the land, access will be off El Camino Real with a long, somewhat winding road back to the church facilities.
Board member Christian Clews voiced concern about possible traffic congestion with three churches on that particular stretch — along with the Formosan and Armenian churches, a Lutheran church owns property just beyond the proposed St. John Garabed property.
While Escobar-Eck said there are no immediate plans to develop the Lutheran church, a third church on the road will be reflected in the traffic study.
Escobar-Eck said that, as with any church project, fundraising is an issue and construction will take place in phases. She said it’s likely that the hall would be built first.