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County rejects Golden Gate’s campus plan

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — A local planning commission has rejected a proposed master plan revision for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s campus in Mill Valley, Calif.

Golden Gate staff and supporters met with the Marin County Planning Commission in San Rafael for a workshop Dec. 19 related to the seminary’s Master Plan Amendment proposal for its San Francisco-area campus in Mill Valley.

“The results were clear,” GGBTS President Jeff Iorg reported to the seminary community after the meeting. “Our proposal was rejected.

“The commission advised us not to advance to the Environmental Impact Review phase because, even if the EIR is successful, they would not approve the proposal in its current form,” Iorg said.

The seminary, in a description of the Master Plan Amendment proposal, has said it “reflects the anticipated future needs of the seminary, taking into account the changing composition of our student enrollment and the development of electronic learning as an accredited method of course delivery. It calls for expansion of faculty and student housing, the relocation of some student housing and the sale of several acres for development of market rate homes. The amended plan retains the beauty, views and green space of the current campus, while providing the resources to finance the planned expansion. It also creates a sizable endowment that will benefit the seminary for decades to come.”

However, the seminary reported in a Dec. 20 news release that members of the planning commission said the proposal has no chance of ever being approved unless the seminary accomplishes three items.

— First, the commission requires Golden Gate to negotiate a new Strawberry Community Plan with Strawberry residents before it will consider any changes to the seminary’s current Master Plan. Strawberry Point is the geographical area where the seminary is located. The Strawberry Community Plan was adopted in 1984. The seminary’s position was that the older plan was superseded by the Marin County Wide Plan adopted in 2007. The planning commission deferred to the Strawberry Community Plan in making its decision.

— Second, the commission suggested that the seminary pay for the development of a new Strawberry Community Plan. “The Strawberry Community Plan is outdated,” Iorg explained, “but the commission declared Marin County does not have the money to pay for it to be updated.” According to the commission, such plans usually require at least two years to develop. Iorg noted that although a cost estimate was not mentioned, “it is hard to imagine it being done without significant expense.”

— Third, the commission indicated any future Master Plan proposal from the seminary must be developed in conjunction with and reflect the concerns of the Seminary Neighborhood Association, a group of local residents formed to oppose the seminary’s plan.

“We will reconsider our options and present them to our board,” Iorg told seminary faculty, staff and students. “Thank you for your support through this process,” he added. “We have some important decisions to make about our future based on these results. In the big picture, hundreds of people prayed for this meeting. God has allowed these results and now we must discern how He is leading through them. The path we have pursued for two years is blocked. We must now decide a new direction.”

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (on the Web at www.ggbts.edu) is a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention and operates five fully-accredited campuses in Northern California (Mill Valley), Southern California (Brea), Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, Wash.), Arizona (Phoenix) and Colorado (Denver).
Adapted from reporting by Phyllis Evans, director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

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