Tremont Baptist gets rehearing on its demolition request

lmorris@macon.comFebruary 10, 2014 

Tremont Baptist Church will get a rehearing of its application for the downtown church to be demolished.

In a 3-2 vote Monday, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved the church’s request for the rehearing, which is expected at the commission’s Feb. 24 meeting.

The decision came after a motion by Commissioner Jeane Easom to deny the rehearing. She and Chairwoman Sarah Gerwig-Moore voted to deny it, but commissioners Kamal Azar, Bryan Scott and Ashok Patel voted against the denial.

At its Dec. 9 meeting, the commission denied the demolition request of the church at 860 Forsyth St. that was built in 1897.

In order to get a rehearing, Tremont had to submit “new or additional written information” that was not available at the original hearing.

The church submitted a letter from an engineering firm that described the damaged and deteriorating condition of the building, saying it was “in danger of imminent collapse.”

The church also provided a Jan. 6 letter signed by Tom Buttram from Macon-Bibb County Business Development Services, formerly the Department of Inspection and Fees, which said a barrier had been put in the alley between the church and The Medical Center of Central Georgia to prevent vehicles from using it.

The letter said Tremont was “required to present a plan for stabilization or demolition of the structure” before 4 p.m. Monday.

The church submitted a preliminary estimate of $623,000 from Macon-based Piedmont Construction Co. to stabilize the church building.

Buttram, who was asked by the commission to attend the meeting, said the barrier was installed because he didn’t know “what imminent collapse denotes. It could be six minutes, six months or six years. ... We are looking at our purview of issuing a demolition permit.”

Executive Director Jim Thomas said Buttram would have to condemn the property in order to demolish it without the commission’s approval.

Prior to the original demolition request, the church obtained a contract to sell the property after the demolition, and it remains under contract. A developer plans to build a Dunkin’ Donuts on the site after the church is razed.

From the time the matter was first heard Nov. 12, talk of demolishing the vacant church building drew opposition from the Historic Macon Foundation led by Executive Director Josh Rogers. The historic group has offered to buy the property for the same contracted price the church has with Lou Patel of D&D Middle Ga. LLC.

However, the church’s congregation has voted to continue to pursue the contract with Patel.

Rogers said Monday the commission should not allow the rehearing.

“The facts have not really changed,” he said. “It just restates what we already knew.”

He said the only evidence for demolition is because of the church’s “deferred maintenance.”

A letter from the church signed by the Rev. Camile Holmes says the church “cannot, nor does it wish, to stabilize the building. ... It is our contention that the ruling currently under appeal clearly interfered with the current and binding contract between Tremont and Dunkin’ Donut franchisee Lou Patel for the property.”

Other items on the agenda were:

CONDITIONAL USES:

3272 Jeffersonville Road: Conditional use to allow a worship center, C-2 District. Bishop Allen Shuler; Victory Temple Church of Creative Language, applicant. Approved.

4689 Ivey Drive: Conditional use to allow a place of worship in an existing building, PDC District. New Life Church, applicant. Approved.

5886 Columbus Road: Conditional use to allow an auto recovery service in an existing building, PDE District. Tad Hunnicutt, applicant. Approved.

SIGNS:

6258 Thomaston Road: Variance in distance from a residential structure to allow an electronic graphic display sign (EGD), A-Agricultural District. The Sign Store; The Well, applicant. Approved.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service