Holy Trinity Orthodox Church building project manager Matthew Lepnew studies the Church of San Vitale, a sixth century Byzantine-style church in Rivena, Italy. Soon, he will be able to worship at his own church in Potomac Falls, the first Orthodox church in Loudoun County.
"The Church of San Vitale is a double octagonal church that we are using as a model for our parish’s temple," Lepnew said.
Currently, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church members worship at the Glade Room in Reston. The Rev. Paul Harrilchak is the pastor of the congregation, which averages 50 worshippers every Sunday.
DESPITE SOME NEIGHBORS objections, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved the church’s request for a permit to build in Potomac Falls 7-0-2, with Supervisors Bruce Tulloch (Potomac) and Mick Staton (Sugarland Run) absent, in early January.
"This has been a long process," Lepnew said. "We have had one acre of land since 1988 and the other acre of land since 1990."
The church obtained its first permit to build in 1995, but the permit expired while they were trying to raise construction funds.
Harrilchak said he did not know the permit expired in 2000.
"Now that we have the permit, we want to improve relations with all of our neighbors who supported us and who opposed us."
THE BIGGEST CONCERN some neighbors had was an increase in traffic flow, Lepnew said. Tulluch and Staton had reservations about the approval of the permit for the same reasons.
In a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, Tulloch said the church was "a bad thing for Potomac and Sugarland Run districts" because the church is a traffic hazard.
"I support the Greek Orthodox Church, but I do not support the traffic hazard," he said. "Staton and I oppose this application."
Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (At Large) said the construction of the church will be "a good use" for the land.
Lepnew said Tulloch and Staton were "fed a lot of inaccuracies by the neighbors who opposed us, which made them think that there might still be some traffic concerns with our building project, even though we satisfied all VDOT and county ordinances for traffic."
Lepnew recalls "a grossly inaccurate" daily traffic estimate by a neighbor who opposed the building of the church.
"The neighbor said that approximately 54,000 vehicles travel through the intersection of Potomac View Road and Sugarland Run Drive," Lepnew said.
THE HOLY TRINITY Orthodox Church conducted its own traffic study in mid-October and early November.
"We counted up all of the cars in every direction of that intersection to show that the traffic concerns that the opposition tried to convey were grossly inaccurate," Lepnew said. "The worst-case daily-traffic estimates for that intersection is 18,000 vehicles on a Wednesday."
Church members video taped a Saturday evening and a Sunday morning. During 27 hours of videotape, Lepnew counted approximately 20,000 vehicles that passed through the intersection.
"We are all glad that our two-year special exception effort is over since it was approved by a 7-0-2 vote in early January," Lepnew said. "We are very thankful to everyone who supported our parish and we are now trying to resolve some remaining building project issues so that we can break ground in about a year to a year and a half."
Now, Harrilchak focuses on the next step of the building process, obtaining a building permit.
"We will have a place to call our own. It will take awhile and we will do it by stages. We are going to take advantage of our property rights," he said.
Mirza Kurspahic contributed to the article.