JAMES G. SNYDER Staff writer
Section: RELIGION,  Page: B14

Date: Saturday, November 11, 2000

In 1998, Crossgates Mall's proposed expansion included a hotel, ice skating rink and miniature golf course along with an additional 2 million square feet of retail space. Proponents said the economic impact of the area's biggest mall getting bigger would mean more tax revenue, jobs and variety for shoppers. They envisioned Crossgates as a destination point for tourists.

Opponents raised concerns such as increased traffic, sprawl and encroachment on the Pine Bush. Some homeowners saw the expansion as a threat to Guilderland's quality of life. At the center of the community's resistance was the McKownville United Methodist Church, which sits on a piece of property essential for the expansion.

``When the proposal was first made public, the general feeling was that it was a done deal, and the fix was in,'' said Carl Letson, a member of the congregation and chairman of Friends Organized to Reject Crossgates Expansion.

He will discuss ``How One Church Changed the Face of Its Community'' at a peace and justice forum at noon Monday at Albany's First Lutheran Church.

``The fact that the church refused to sell galvanized the community, and people saw a glimmer of hope,'' Letson said.

The Rev. Terrence O'Neill, pastor of the church, said Christian stewardship ``extends not only to our six or seven acres but to the larger world'' and includes examining a proposal's economic, environmental and social impact.

Next week's brown-bag luncheon is part of the Capital Area Council of Churches' peace and justice forum, ``Organizing Locally Expressing our Faith Through Action.'' For information, call the council at 462-5450.