By Karen Billing
The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board received an update at its Sept. 22 meeting on the progress of St. John Garabed Armenian Church planned for El Camino Real on the vacant land right behind the new Evangelical Formosan Church.
Marcela Escobar-Eck, of the Atlantis Group, said that the project has just received its first round of comments from the city and they plan to resubmit by the end of the year. Several congregation members attended the meeting to show support for the new church. St. Garabed’s plan is for four buildings on the 13.3-acre site, including a 350-seat sanctuary, an 18,090-square-foot social hall, an 11,010-square-foot library and cultural education center, and a 13,840-square-foot youth center and gym.
Armenian churches are known as some of the oldest in history, Escobar-Eck said, as they were the first nation to adopt Christianity. Characteristics of Armenian churches include a pointed dome and emphasis on height, rather than width. The project will not ask for any height variances –the church sanctuary will be 93 feet tall to the top of the cross. Allowed height goes up as setbacks increase and with the setbacks the church has they would be allowed another 14 feet in height they will not take.
Escobar-Eck said that they have met with the San Dieguito River Park and the wildlife agencies due to issues with the nearby Multiple Habitat Protection Area, a wildlife corridor and the entrance to Gonzales Canyon. To limit development in that area, Escobar-Eck said they are working on getting an easement for an access road right after the Formosan Church, which would eliminate the need for an entrance to the church near the sensitive habitat and wildlife corridor.
Without the road there, Escobar-Eck said they might be able to revegetate the area. Access to the site remains one of the most challenging issues, she said—it’s on a curve on the newly widened El Camino Real.
“The Stallions Crossing signal has made a difference, it gives people more of a break,” said Escobar-Eck of a traffic light at the top of the hill for drivers headed north on El Camino Real. Board member Dave McIntyre said that the signal is infrequent and that cars are still going through that area at upward of 60 miles per hour.