By ERIN MAYES
So many supporters of a church's plans to build senior housing on its East Sonora property turned out last night for a Tuolumne County Planning Commission hearing on the project that those who wanted to speak against it were put on hold.
More than 60 people spoke in favor of an application by Christian Heights Assembly of God Church to build 17 condominiums, a 3,332-square-foot recreation building and a 1,500-square-foot activity center on a 30-acre parcel on Joshua Way near Lambert Lake Road.
But because of the number of people who did not get to speak before the meeting ended at 11 p.m., the hearing will resume at the commission's May 7 meeting.
Still, during last night's standing-room-only session, commissioners got an earful.
"We did this for the sole purpose of being out in the middle of nowhere," Daryl Sarina, the church's business administrator, said. He referred to the church's purchase in 1980 of more than 100 acres of land. He also noted that, while county officials have said they are in favor of senior housing, the last senior housing project in the county was built in 1998.
Gary Hall, a health specialist who does not attend the Assembly of God church, spoke and described the senior housing situation in Tuolumne County as "horrendous," and "an absolute disgrace."
Also speaking was Patricia O'Keefe, co-chairwoman of the Terrace-Lambert Lake Access Residents Association, representing many homeowners living near the church.
She said she and many of the neighbors support senior housing, but not in their neighborhood.
"We are in favor of senior housing in an appropriate area," she said.
"Many of us are seniors. In our opinion, a nice 900-square-feet dwelling is the usual."
As proposed, the church condominiums would range from 1,880 to 2,100 square feet in size.
Traffic concerns have also been raised, but most speakers last night assured the commission that cars usually only back up when the large church lets out on Sunday mornings.