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Flowery Branch council to vote Thursday on church relocation
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A vote is planned Thursday, July 18, on McEver Road United Methodist Church’s request to build a church off McEver Road at Gainesville Street/Jim Crow Road. - photo by Jeff Gill

A West Hall church may find out Thursday night whether it can relocate to Flowery Branch property that officials have regarded as more suitable for commercial uses.

“We’re looking forward to the meeting,” said the Rev. Rob Bruce, pastor of McEver Road United Methodist Church, on Wednesday, July 17. “We’ve been talking to the city about some changes that they would like to have made, and we’re OK with that.”

The city “has been very cooperative and very gracious, but who knows?” Bruce said.

The church, currently at 3606 McEver Road, is trying to rezone the 11.3-acre site off McEver Road and Gainesville Street, across from Jim Crow Road, from agricultural to institutional to enable the new campus.

The issue came up before the Flowery Branch City Council on June 27 with city staff recommending that the council deny the project.

The city’s land-use plan “calls for this site to be neighborhood commercial,” says a staff report, citing area subdivisions under construction. “It should be a commercial development that serves nearby neighborhoods and the city as a whole.”

City Council voted to put off a vote until July 18.

“This is a very tender subject and we want to make sure we get it right,” Councilman Chris Mundy said.

As far as talks between the church and the city since the council meeting, city planner Rich Atkinson declined to comment.

The council’s decision to put off a vote followed a public hearing and discussion in front of a packed audience at City Hall, made up mostly of church members.

The church’s attorney, David Dickerson, told the council he had presented a letter to Mayor Mike Miller “raising a few constitutional objections.”

“We feel like current zoning is a detriment to us in keeping us from being able to use the property as we’d like to,” he said. “Under Georgia law, the Georgia courts and the Georgia legislature have indicated that churches get special consideration in zoning matters.”

Flowery Branch also has raised concerns about traffic.

The busy intersection, which serves as a main gateway to downtown Flowery Branch, includes a subdivision being built, a gas station, restaurants and other retail. Hall County and Flowery Branch rebuilt the intersection a couple of years ago, adding turn lanes.

“McEver Road itself has issues that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later,” says the city’s staff report.

Flowery Branch City Council

What: Proposed rezoning for new church off McEver Road at Gainesville Street

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, July 18

Where: City Hall, 5410 W. Pine St.

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