Special Use Permit Approved for Retreat and Cultural Center | News
On May 5, the Norlina Board of Adjustment approved a Special Use Permit for the non-profit Kenya Christian Fellowship of Tennessee in America to construct a retreat and cultural center off Heaven Street in the offshore jurisdiction of the city.
The Fellowship, a Tennessee nonprofit with an office in Raleigh, was founded in the United States in 1991. The retreat and cultural center would be located on just over 74 acres off Heaven Street which, according to a deed filed with the Warren County Register of Deeds Office, the nonprofit organization purchased from Timothy J. Hawks for an estimated $176,000.
Norlina operations manager Blaine Reese told the newspaper that the city requires adjustment board approval for all planned developments. The construction of the development application was also brought before council because the proposed site of the retreat and cultural center is in an area zoned residential agricultural.
Reese explained that because the Norlina Board of Adjustment functions as a quasi-judicial board, the matter will not need to go to the city’s Board of Commissioners for review. He presented information about the proposed project to the city council at previous regular monthly meetings.
Kenya Christian Fellowship in America president Joseph Okello and other representatives of the nonprofit, which has an office in Raleigh, discussed plans for the retreat and cultural center at a public hearing of the Adjustment Board in April.
At that time, Okello said the center would not only benefit KCFA but also provide many opportunities for the Norlina community.
The construction project is expected to be completed in phases over a period of up to 15 years. Plans call for the completed Center campus to include a visitor center, museum/library, African culture center, agriculture, college, sports and recreation, auditorium and theatre, banquet hall, a dining hall, residence, chapel/wedding pavilion, cottages, other pavilions, children and youth center and memorial garden.
Representatives from KCFA said its liberal arts college would be open to the community. The African Cultural Center would be designed to allow visitors to the Center’s campus to experience a region that resembles Kenya.
Representatives also noted that the on-campus sports complex will provide space for basketball, an Olympic-size swimming pool, space for track and field events and a soccer field that would be open to the community. The performing arts center, banquet and dining halls and other facilities on the Center campus would also be open to the community, with features such as classrooms, banquet halls for 600 people and a cafeteria for 700 people.
KCFA representatives expressed the goal of preserving the natural beauty of the areas, designing the residences for the conferences, the chalets around the lake area, the pavilions in the wooded area and other facilities around the natural aspects of the property. They noted that the pavilions would provide space for the community for meetings, breakout sessions, weddings, church conferences and other activities. KCFA outlined plans for a 300-person wedding chapel and an auditorium that would provide classrooms and meeting space.
The non-profit organization anticipates that the center will provide benefits to the community, including benefits for the economy, employment, use of facilities, sports facilities and other opportunities that may not be available. in the local community, such as sports clinics.
A number of questions posed by attendees at the recent public hearing focused on the college’s plans and a potential partnership with Warren County Schools. KCFA officials said the college would offer the types of courses and degrees typically available at liberal arts colleges. KCFA hopes to connect with schools in Warren County to identify resources the retreat and cultural center may be able to offer local students.
With board approval of adjustments. KCFA will enter the design phase of the construction project, with the first stage to involve infrastructure.
Additional public sessions may be scheduled as the retreat and culture center project progresses.