The Scottsdale City Council on Tuesday unanimously rejected SonRise Community Church’s plans for a Christian school that met with forceful opposition.
Debate at the meeting was nearly three hours, and those speaking were overwhelmingly against the proposed kindergarten through eighth-grade school.
Constitution Christian Academy would have enrolled 200 students. Its campus was planned to include a gym, school offices and 10 classrooms.
SonRise, an independent church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, is near Scottsdale Road and Dixileta Drive. The church owns a 10-acre strip there, on which its sanctuary was built in 1999.
Church leaders were seeking a conditional use permit that would have allowed them to operate the school. The council’s vote ends an application process that has gone on for more than a year.
Hundreds of the church’s neighbors have vehemently opposed the school plan.
They argued its operation would increase traffic, and its construction in a 100-year floodplain would endanger students.
"They bought the wrong piece of land," said Graham Kettle, a neighbor who has led the effort against SonRise’s school.
SonRise leaders dismissed those claims — the church has altered its plans three times to meet the neighbors’ requests, and at great expense, said Mike Allen, a congregation member assisting in the church’s work on the school.
The Scottsdale Planning Department supports plans for the school.
Congregation members pleaded with the council Tuesday to approve the school so their children can be educated with a "Christian world-view."
"Our culture and society is sliding down a slippery slope," said Skyler Cota, a father of two boys he hoped to send to Constitution Christian.
Senior pastor Jim Williams has characterized the fight as a "spiritual war."
Allen said the opponents were a coalition of neighbors who are antichurch and antischool.
"The church pushed on, believing this is the direction God wanted them to go," Allen said.
Many of the opponents bristled at the accusation that they were against schools and churches.