Black Rock Congregational Church plans to submit its expansion plans for review by the State Traffic Commission by the end of this week, the last step in what has been a five-year quest to build a new house of worship.

The congregation is seeking to create turning lanes on Black Rock Turnpike, a state road, which necessitates the STC approval. "Our traffic consultant said it will probably be three or four months before we get an answer from them," said Kenneth Brix, executive director at the church. An attempt by the church to purchase adjacent property re-ignited some of the controversy that has surrounded the church's attempts to expand.

The nearby property at 3577 Black Rock Turnpike was in probate court, and both another neighbor and the church had submitted offers of $450,000 and $650,000, respectively. The neighbor's offer included an allowance for the dead property owner's brother to continue to live there. Trumbull Probate Judge John Chiota recently approved the sale of the property to the neighbor, not the church.

"It would allow them to have more parking," said neighbor Beth Taconia, when she first learned of the pending sale.

She said this came after church officials gave assurances at a Town Plan and Zoning public hearing that there were no plans for future expansion. "Once again they are saying one thing and doing another," she said.

But Brix said that was not the case.

"We did have some interest in buying it, but that has gone by the wayside," Brix said. "Our general philosophy has been whenever a contiguous piece of property comes around for sale, we look into it." However, he said, "We have no plans to expand the building beyond what was approved."

The TPZ approved the church's application at a Feb. 8 meeting, but numerous conditions were attached to the approval. Those include no entrances or exits to the church via Lindamir Lane and no increase in church activities at the two church-owned homes on Lindamir Lane.

The church must also assign parking for parishioners at a satellite lot on Jefferson Street, continue to use a police officer to direct traffic on Sundays, and not allow any church parking on Black Rock Turnpike.

Construction on the new church complex will not begin until the STC approval is granted and the church has found a temporary location to be used during construction of the new building.

"We're looking, but we don't have anything yet," Brix said. "We're looking for something that seats a minimum of 600."