South Hall residents moved from social media and online petitions to airing their concerns in public Thursday, Sept. 20, about a Mexico-based church’s plans for a 272-acre multi-use development.
Some 100 people gathered at Cherokee Bluffs Park, 2-3 miles from the proposed site on Hog Mountain Road at Wade Orr Road, to prepare for what may lie ahead with LDM Central Evangelical Ministries’ proposal for the land.
“As long as we stand together, we can make our voice heard and be a force to be reckoned with,” said Doug Davis, who helped conduct the residents-only meeting. “We have no doubt this is going to be a long, drawn-out battle.”
A separate meeting between the church’s Cumming lawyer, Joshua Scoggins, and Sterling on the Lake subdivision residents had been planned Thursday night at Mulberry Creek Community Center on JM Turk Road.
But it was canceled because of Hall County’s public safety concerns due to an expected 1,000-1,500 attendees, as word had spread beyond Sterling to other neighborhoods through social media. The outcry also triggered a petition drive on change.org.
A map that has circulated of the project shows numerous proposed buildings throughout the property, designated as open spaces, a marketplace, “cultural center,” plaza and school property. Also, four hotels are shown on the “conceptual master plan.”
No official paperwork, such as a rezoning request, has been filed with Flowery Branch, but that hasn’t stopped residents from voicing concerns about the project — such as whether roads could handle such a development and effects on property values.
There also has been concerns about the nature of the group.
Hall County records show the property owner as LDM Central Evangelical Ministries, and a March 2017 Facebook post links the property to La Luz del Mundo, translated as The Light of the World church, based in Guadalajara, Mexico.
LLDM has identified the project as “City of Light of the World” and as its “first effort to build cities where the values that distinguish human beings are cultivated, (people) live in an atmosphere of peace, equity, solidarity and above all, on the principles that human beings can achieve the harmony of living together by applying the statutes of healthy coexistence that the Lord Jesus Christ left to his apostles in teaching.”
The church is led by a person calling himself Apostle of Jesus Christ Naasón Joaquín García, who toured the Flowery Branch site, according to an English translation of the Facebook post, written in Spanish.
Garcia is international director of LDM.
“First and foremost, from a legal perspective, I really need to make clear … we need to stay away from the religious aspect of it,” Stone Mountain lawyer Karlyn Skall told the group at Cherokee Bluffs.
“You’ve got 300 acres that a private corporation is coming in and wants to build something that is completely foreign to the rest of the atmosphere. The issue is what is the impact on the community,” Skall said.
Concerns need to be focused on such things as the development’s potential impacts on roads, traffic and water, Skall said.
Scoggins said in an email earlier this week that LDM wants to “continue to try and meet with the various stakeholder groups in the community to address any legitimate concerns.”
“LDM Central wants to build a project the community can be proud of, and we will continue working to achieve that goal by building positive relationships with local residents, business owners and government officials,” he said.