Paramus zoning board approve church’s plans to build cathedral and assembly hall

PARAMUS – The Zoning Board on Thursday approved the Syriac Orthodox Church’s plans to build a cathedral and assembly hall on West Midland Avenue and convert a former sanitarium into a study center for visiting clergy.

But board members denied the group a variance to exceed a height requirement for the cathedral’s dome. The church proposed building a 47-foot high dome when the height limit is 32 feet.

The church may ask the board to reconsider that vote at a March 8 hearing but first needs to meet with its architects to determine what effect lowering the dome height will have on the building design, said Stuart Liebman, the church’s attorney.

“They’d like to have it all approved and done so we’re going to work with the town to try to come up with a height that’s acceptable,” he said.

The group submitted plans in June 2010 to build a church and gathering hall on 5.2 acres formerly owned by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth.

The proposed cathedral, which will seat 535 congregants, will be connected by a pair of enclosed hallways to an assembly hall building that would include a kitchen, classrooms and offices.

The five-story building, formerly known as the Mount Saint Andrew’s Sanitarium and House of Divine Providence for the Agrantged, will be renovated to a 33-room residence for visiting clergy and dignitaries. The clergy will have access to study rooms, a library and a small museum in the structure that would also serve as the residence of the archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States.

A single driveway with access to West Midland Avenue and a traffic signal and crosswalk will also be constructed.