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Traffic cited as obstacle to new church

Clarence Supervisor Kathleen E. Hallock said she is worried about the amount of traffic that could end up on nearby roads if St. Mary Catholic Church in Swormville builds a new church at last twice its current size.

"The traffic could be a roadblock" to the project's approval, she said.

The Clarence Town Board planned to take up the issue Wednesday but postponed consideration until its July 25 meeting, Hallock said.

St. Mary's, a Civil War-era church on Transit and Stahley roads, has seen its parish double over the last two decades, mirroring Clarence's population boom.

St. Mary's has an estimated 2,400 families now, but church officials said that pews can seat only about 500 parishioners and that many church-goers end up standing along church walls and in the aisles as a result.

If approved, the new church would be round and slightly less than 16,000 square feet on vacant land behind the existing church, which would remain intact.

Neighbors have expressed worry about the plan because it would build a second driveway on Stahley, a two-lane road they said already attracts speeders.

Hallock said she is also concerned the extra traffic on Stahley will move to County Road as well.

Many parishioners now use Transit Road -- primarily a commercial corridor and one Hallock said should be able to absorb the traffic.

"On a Sunday morning, Transit can handle it," she said. But for Stahley and County, which are residential, "it could be an inconvenience."

But a St. Mary's spokesman said officials there do not believe the project will cause traffic problems.

"We'll be delighted to discuss traffic flow with the Town Board and to hear their opinions," said Lou Izzo, chairman of St. Mary's executive committee. "We've never had the opportunity, and we'd love to have that conversation."

Because of the project's size, approval also might require a "special-exception use" permit.

The town's Planning Board rejected St. Mary's request for concept approval last month, citing concerns about traffic and the impact of the bigger, modern-looking church on the ambience of tiny Swormville.

The new St. Mary's would have amenities the existing church lacks. They would include a gathering space for parishioners, a "ready room" for brides, a gathering area for families during funerals, a state-of-the-art sound system and air-conditioning. The new church will also be handicapped-accessible.

On the outside, the church will have a stone base, earth-colored brick and roof shingles similar to the existing church. The cupola would mimic the cupola on the convent building, and the cross from the church's old school would be carried into the design of the new church.


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