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Expanding the family
The areas Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expands its congregation into South Hall
This rendering shows what the church will look like completed.

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Hall County area is growing exponentially, which means a need for more churches.

According to Ben Wood, the Gainesville and Sugar Hill stakes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are busting at the seams.

So on Feb. 16, the church broke ground on a new ward in Flowery Branch. A ward is a congregation of the church, and a stake is a group of wards, according to the Web site for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"If you see the demographic trend and the way things are developing here, within four years we will have four units in this building," said Wood, the Sugar Hill stake president. "The building is being built for four units, so we call them wards or branches, but generically referred to as unit because it covers both.

"I think it’s going to be a nice location for a church; it will kind of sit on a knoll of a hill — you have established subdivisions and trees."

The new ward, which is located near the intersection of Cash and Coker roads in Flowery Branch, is the fourth ward in the county and will be home to about 300 members.

"It will be nice for the people of South Hall and add a lot to the beauty of that area," said George Wangemann, second counselor to the Georgia Atlanta North mission president and a member of the public affairs counsel at the Sugar Hill stake.

The Flowery Branch ward has been in the works for about two years, but is part of a larger church plan.

"The actual drafting of the architectural drawings is a variation of a plan that we’ve been building around the world for about 10 years," Wood said.

"So it’s evolved ... we recognized we needed a place because of our growth and then the process of adapting the plan to Georgia."

With the new church planned to open in January 2009, it marks a place spiritually for Mormons in South Hall to call home.

"There will be a little bit of realignment for the boundaries," Wood said. "The families that live in the lower part (of Hall County) that are traveling a longer distance right now will be more conveniently located here."

The building will house two congregations, Wood said, including one geared toward the growing Hispanic population.

According to Wood, there are about 500 members at the Sugar Hill and Suwanee stakes.

"After we do the realignments everybody will have about 350, which is kind of the number we like," Wood said.

The new church in Flowery Branch will alleviate some of the pressures of the Gainesville ward as well.

"We’ve got three units in Gainesville, two wards and a branch," said Gary Niedfeldt, second counselor to president Wood at the Sugar Hill stake and member of the Gainesville ward. "The two wards are each about 350 and the branch is normally about 75."

The church, which is being constructed by Samples Construction, will include a basketball court, classrooms, a library, nursery facilities and a kitchen.
"The basketball court will double — at one end you have a stage where you can do shows and cultural events (and) have the basketball court, then we use partitioning to divide the basketball court from the sanctuary," Wood said.

"So that you can open it up and instead of having a place to seat 400 people you have a place for 900 people."

Currently the property is a lot of dirt, rock and the beginnings of a retention pond.

"They encountered a lot of rock and had to do a lot of blasting to get rid of that," Wood said. "Now they are just contouring and shaping (the property)."

Right now, the church’s most important project, along with construction, is selecting a bishop for the ward.

"It’ll be president (Craig) Pett, president Niedfeldt and my responsibility to select someone," Wood said. "It’s one of the harder things we have to decide. They still have to have full-time job, they still have to take care of their family and have time to work about another 30 to 40 hours a week for five years."