SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Churches looking to expand are struggling to find affordable land under Utah’s high real estate prices.

Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church in Salt Lake City is among the congregations facing obstacles caused by the high cost of land, The Salt Lake Tribune reported last week.

The parish has overgrown its current building and is seeking to construct a second Byzantine-style church with space for classrooms, offices, a community hall, a bookstore and an Orthodox cemetery outside.

"We are packed to the gills," the Rev. Justin Havens said.

Attendance to the church has grown exponentially in recent years. It averages about 250 people each Sunday with an overflow crowd on religious holidays.

"Our downstairs hall only fits 100 people," Havens said. "It’s impossible to fit everyone" for events after services.

The church has found a 0.02 square-mile (0.05 square-kilometer) plot in Bluffdale, which it has under contract. The parish has raised half the $500,000 needed to secure the first 0.01 square miles (0.03 square kilometers), Havens said. The church would need $1 million to buy all 0.02 square miles (0.05 square kilometers).

"But our plans have changed because the property is so expensive," Havens said. "There’s a real push to get the $500,000 in the next two months to procure the property."

St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church in Cottonwood Heights is faced with a similar problem.

The 4-year-old mission parish conducts services in space rented on the campus of St. Thomas More Catholic Church. The Rev. Anthony Savas said the church is looking for a permanent home.

"We are actively raising funds and looking for a place to establish ourselves and our future," Savas said.

The church isn’t in a rush to find a new location, but they want to find place to accommodate growth and cement the its future, Savas said.

"If there is an existing building on the market and the price is right, we are open to transforming that into an Orthodox worship space," Savas said.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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