Church drops tower height for design review support
By Karen Brainard
The height of the church tower proposed for the Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church’s building project caused a split among Ramona Design Review Board members at their Nov. 29 meeting, leaving the pastor and architect to walk away without final approval but returning a short time later, reluctantly conceding to shorten the tower.
By doing so, they received the majority approval needed to take the project to the Ramona Community Planning Group on Dec. 6 for final endorsement and move forward with the plans that have been 10 years in the making. Spirit of Joy is planning to build a church campus on eight acres at the northeast corner of State Route 67 and Highland Valley Road.
“It’s been a long process,” said Pastor Dan Erlenbusch after he and architect Greg Danskin agreed to reduce the church tower height by 5 feet 6 inches, even though they said it will affect the building proportions.
At Thursday’s meeting, Danskin told design review board members that he first brought the project to them in 2004. Since then the project has been going through the county review process. Danskin said he brought preliminary plans to the design review board in 2008 and received verbal approval on the steeple which he designed to be 55 feet 6 inches tall.
Board member Rob Lewallen said the current maximum height in the village core is 35 feet, but the Ramona Village Design Group is suggesting a maximum height of 45 feet in certain downtown areas. Even though the church campus will be outside of the village core, Lewallen and member Greg Roberson said they could only agree to a maximum of 50 feet. Allowing more, they said, could set a precedent for future projects.
“I spent a lot of time studying the proportions of this as a model,” said Danskin.
“He would have to change more than a bell tower to make it proportional,” added Erlenbusch.
Roberson pointed out that a 4-foot cross at the top of the steeple added to the height and suggested removing it because a cross is also designed for the front of the tower. That prompted Erlenbusch to reply, “But it’s a church.”
Not all design review board members opposed the steeple height. When it came time to vote on Lewallen’s motion to limit the height to 50 feet, Jim Cooper, Evelyn McCormick, and Dan Vengler voted no. Carol Close voted yes, along with Lewallen and Roberson. With only six of the nine members present, the motion needed five votes to pass.
Cooper then moved to approve the tower as submitted. Although Close voted for that motion, it still only received four yes votes. Lewallen told Erlenbusch and Danskin they would have to come back to another meeting, noting the votes could change if the full board is there.
Erlenbusch said he did not want to wait another month. He and Danskin left but returned after the board heard other agenda items, saying they would agree to 50 feet. Lewallen made his motion again and it passed unanimously. Included with each of the motions were requests for one landscaping plant substitution and for permeable paving for the parking lot’s northern section. Although the tower height will be reduced, Erlenbusch said they will keep the cross on top of the steeple.
According to an article in the Nov. 26, 2009, Ramona Sentinel and Sentinel files, at the Design Review Board meeting on Nov. 19, 2009, Lewallen and Roberson said they preferred the tower to be less than 55 feet. Later in the meeting, Lewallen made a motion to limit all future towers to a maximum of 50 feet, which the board approved.
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