State College

Ferguson Township church plans for expansion

State College Alliance Church on West Whitehall Road is looking to expand.
State College Alliance Church on West Whitehall Road is looking to expand.

After revisions, a land development plan is progressing for a Ferguson Township church.

Located at 1221 W. Whitehall Road, the State College Alliance Church plans to add a 21,933-square-foot expansion to its existing 21,836-square-foot building. Uni-Tec Consulting Engineers first submitted the proposal on Feb. 29 and last revised it on April 8.

Ferguson Township staff advised the Planning Commission Monday to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors. Lindsay Schoch, the township’s community planner, and Ray Stolinas, the director of planning and zoning for the township, said the staff and Planning Commission have reviewed the plan concurrently since it was first submitted.

“We’re recommending approval because almost all comments have been addressed,” Schoch said. “The plan is comprised of all of our ordinances and is now at the point or position of being moved forward toward the recording process. ... Once the plan is recorded, the owner can then apply for a building permit and move forward with construction as they need.”

Schoch said the updated version addressed several of the staff’s comments, such as ensuring all water, sewer and public utility lines were shown on the plan and that it included a combination of canopy and understory trees. Other comments included showing sign locations on the plan, verifying that a traffic study was not needed and that storm water was addressed. The Ferguson Township Tree Commission also recommended that developers use more native species of trees.

The proposed addition will include gymnasium space, classrooms and a kitchen as well as other gathering spaces. Aaron Henning, Alliance’s lead pastor, said the expansion will provide extra space for the church’s growing youth, children and education ministries in addition to more room for community events. The church has about 700 members in its congregation and is associated with a campus ministry of about 150 students. Henning said the church had about 450 members five years ago.

He estimated the children’s ministry has grown to about 100 on Sunday mornings from about 20 in the past few years.

“We’ve seen some pretty significant growth there,” Henning said. “The youth, which would be our sixth grade to senior high ministry, is also seeing quite a bit of growth as these kids are moving up. So we’re trying to create some more space so we can do more things with them and be able to connect well with our younger members.”

The plan also includes 31 parking spaces to be added to the existing 190. The proposed parking lot would face the northeast corner of the expansion and would improve circulation between the church’s two services, Henning said.

The congregation voted last February to move forward with the project. It selected Horst Construction, of Lancaster, to build the expansion.

The church has been approved for a zoning permit and is working through the building permit process, Schoch said. The congregation is holding a small ceremony on Sunday in anticipation of the project moving forward.

“We’re actually kind of close to the starting line in a lot of ways,” Henning said. “We’re about to break ground, which is great. It feels like we’ve made some great progress and our church is excited about the forward motion.”

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4659, @rogervanscy