Flowery Branch City Council put off until July 18 deciding whether to OK McEver Road United Methodist Church’s request to build a new church off McEver Road at Gainesville Street.
Council members said Thursday, June 27 they want more time to study the matter.
“This is a very tender subject and we want to make sure we get it right,” Councilman Chris Mundy said.
The vote followed a public hearing and discussion in front of a packed audience at City Hall, made up mostly of church members.
McEver Road UMC, currently at 3606 McEver Road, is trying to rezone the 11.3-acre site, which is also across from Jim Crow Road, from agricultural to institutional to enable the project.
Flowery Branch staff is recommending that City Council deny the project off McEver Road and Gainesville Street, saying it believes that corner should be reserved for neighborhood shopping.
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.”
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.”
The church has a contract to buy the property and “it’s probably going to close in about 60 days,” said the Rev. Rob Bruce, the church’s pastor.
“Our vision is to love Christ, love people and help people love Christ,” he told the council. “Our current facility and location do not allow us to realize this vision. It’s not that we’ve outgrown it numerically. Our vision and mission have become bigger than the facility.
“This location and our new building will unleash us to do what Jesus has called us to do.”
Bruce had said in an earlier interview the church “believes the contributions we can make to the community’s quality of life have the potential to be priceless and that we will be profitable to the community in ways that cannot be accomplished by another gas station or convenience store.”
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.