Home / Government / New wedding chapel approved for Harborside Christian Church

New wedding chapel approved for Harborside Christian Church

The Safe
The Safety Harbor City Commission recently approved a site plan amendment that allows for construction of a 7,300-sq.-ft., 220-seat wedding chapel at Harborside Christian Church.

The Safety Harbor City Commission unanimously approved a major site plan modification for Harborside Christian Church last week, paving the way for the addition of a 220-seat wedding chapel on the property.

The move amends the original site plan that was approved prior to the construction of the church in 2002, and it allows for the construction of a 7,300-sq.-ft. chapel with a 15-ft. high bell tower on the west side of the existing 60,000-sq.ft. building. A new parking lot with 37 spaces will be created, also.

Representatives for the church, located at 2200 Marshall Street, said the chapel would be used for weddings, funerals and other special events.

“We worked very hard on the architectural design for the wedding chapel,” church elder Charlie Babcock said when the agenda item came before the commission last Monday, noting they studied similar facilities from all over the world.

An artist's rendering of the new Harborside Church chapel adorns the cover of a pamphlet previewing the new feature.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Harborside Church chapel adorns the cover of a pamphlet previewing the new feature.

“This is going to be a 7,300-square-foot building that you all are going to remember. It’s going to be a stunning building.”

Prior to voting on the item, Commissioner Janet Hooper expressed concerns about the number of trees that would have to be removed or displaced by the project.

But Babcock said they have taken great measures to limit the removal of trees, despite the fact that the church has enough trees on the property to make it exempt from the city’s stringent tree replanting requirements.

“Commissioner, you’d be proud of us,” he replied to Hooper.

“What we did was, working with our arborist and with the city’s arborist, we made adjustments. We slid the wedding chapel to the west fifteen feet to save trees. We adjusted the configuration of the retention pond…saving some of the nice 20-inch trees that are in that area, and we also gerrymandered the parking spaces around so that we created landscape islands to save trees.”

City Manager Matt Spoor estimated that 80-plus trees would need to be removed to make way for the chapel, mainly in the parking area, but he noted most do not fall under the city’s protected tree species categories.

“The goal all along was to put it amongst the trees to affect the least amount of trees,” he said, adding, “there will be no net loss in trees.”

The shared access drive at Harborside Christian Church .
The shared access drive at Harborside Christian Church .

Babcock said the church also agreed to plant and/or replant seven protected species trees elsewhere on the property, prompting positive feedback from the commission.

“I appreciate all the efforts you’ve gone through in trying to make sure that you can work the configuration around and move things around, because that’s one of the things that we wish other people would do,” Hooper said.

Babcock also assured the commission the addition of the chapel would not interfere with the use agreement between the city and the church for the shared access drive located on the east side of the property.

“The development agreement that we did with you all, I guess a year and a half ago, is still operative and it would basically hold precedence over any activity that we had at the chapel,” he said in response to a question from Commissioner Cliff Merz.

The commission also agreed to allow the church to use an

Although church officials did not give a definitive timeline for the completion of the project, Community Development Director Marcie Stenmark said she believes they want to get started as soon as possible.

“They could pull the permits at any time, and they indicated they’re pretty motivated to get started,” Stenmark told Safety Harbor Connect, noting the applicant has one year from the issuing of the permits to begin work on the project.

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