Tallmadge -- Faith Bible Fellowship is planning to upgrade and enlarge its church building on West Overdale Drive with an estimated $2 million expansion and renovation project.

To make room for the addition, Cornerstone Community School, the westerly neighbor of the church, may transfer about 1 acre of land to the church.

The Tallmadge Planning & Zoning Commission recommended to City Council, the governmental body that has the final say in the matter, that it approve the land transfer May 2. Council is expected to address the request during its meeting at 7 p.m. May 6 at City Hall.

According to Pastor Les Sutherland, Faith Bible Fellowship helped Cornerstone buy the former Overdale Primary School building in 2012, and the two parties agreed the church would buy the acre of land that sits between the properties. He said the church already has paid Cornerstone for the land and is waiting for the deed to be transferred.

The Commission also scheduled a public hearing for the church's request for a conditional zoning certificate that's needed for the church to expand. The hearing is set for 7:15 p.m. June 6 at City Hall.

After the hearing, the Commission is expected to decide whether to recommend to Council that it approve the request for the conditional zoning. Council again will have the final say.

The first phase of the expansion and renovation project involves building a Christian education wing with eight instructional classrooms for children and a nursery, restrooms and a large foyer area. This phase will add 6,850 square feet of new space in the building.

Phase II involves an 8,580-square-foot area that would be renovated and expanded to create a larger sanctuary to accommodate 350 to 400 people, a narthex, new church offices, an audio-visual room, a "cry room" for worshipers with small children and an entry area.

The existing sanctuary and attached "cry room" would be converted to a fellowship hall with a commercial kitchen. The sanctuary seats about 225 people comfortably.

Both phases of the project, which individually cost about $1 million, are dependent on financing, Sutherland said. Regardless of whether or when the financing comes through, a parking lot expansion that will nearly double the size of the current lot will begin at the end of summer.

If the church does secure financing, construction of Phase I will begin as soon as possible, and both phases should be completed within five to seven years from when it begins.

"We have wanted to expand for a number of years. We probably seriously started to consider expanding four or five years ago," said Sutherland, who has been pastor of the church for 29 years. Previous attempts to acquire land didn't work out until Cornerstone next door bought the former Overdale Primary School building.

The driving force behind the church's expansion and renovation is the "slow, steady growth" of its membership over the past five to six years, Sutherland said. One-hundred and sixty adults are members, and an average of about 180 attend Sunday services. Between 70 and 80 children attend regularly, too.

"Right now we're at our capacity in our sanctuary and in our parking lot. Actually, some of us have been parking over at Overdale Field because we don't have enough parking to get all the cars in on Sunday morning," Sutherland said.

Faith Bible Fellowship moved into the building in 1986 when it was a single-story, flat-roofed structure partially built into the ground. The Tallmadge Grange, a farming organization, previously owned the building and intended to build another level on top but never did, Sutherland said.

A year after moving in, the church bought the building. In 1993, it added a level on top of the basement. The upper level now houses its sanctuary and church offices.

"We're excited about expanding, and we're excited to be here in Tallmadge, excited to have Cornerstone Community School right beside us," Sutherland said. "Just looking forward to seeing what God has for the future, think he has great things in store. He's done a lot of wonderful things at the church. We have a wonderful congregation, and I feel privileged to be the pastor here."

Email: hschoenstein@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9428