Planners to review church project


By Karen Billing

St. John Garabed Church, an Armenian church planned for El Camino Real, located on the edge of Rancho Santa Fe/Fairbanks Ranch, will be reviewed by the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s regional issues subcommmitee meeting on Nov. 7 at 4:30 p.m. at the Carmel Valley Library.

The project came before the planning board for an update at its Oct. 25 meeting.

The multi-phase project includes a 350-seat church, a 500-seat multi-purpose hall, a cultural and education center and a youth center in a “village-like” cluster of buildings. At its highest the church will be 93 feet tall, the other two buildings will be 30 and 40 feet tall.

“We weren’t able to achieve the sacred proportions of Armenian church architecture, where the height is greater than the width, because of the setting,” said Dennis Hyndman, the architect for the project. “We feel we’ve done a good job changing the project but maintaining the traditional architecture that is important to Armenian people…Hopefully this project will enhance the community of Carmel Valley.”

According to Marcela Escobar-Eck, the land use planner for the site, the church has focused its development to a mesa top on the land to minimize the impact on natural resources on the site. The hope is to restore the surrounding open space area, benefit the wildlife corridor and enlarge the wetlands area.

The access drive has proven to be the biggest challenges for the site, Escobar-Eck said. They tried to negotiate an easement using the neighboring Evangelican Formosan Church’s property but the church was unwilling to grant the easement. The access point will now be a driveway near the toe of the slope of the property. A short deceleration lane will be added for the entrance to the church and a short acceleration lane will be added for the right-only exit.