Hundreds Show to Protest New Church by County Downs Neighborhood

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By Ashley Thompson

Hundreds of people showed up to Thursday night's Board of Adjustments meeting to protest a new church being built at the corner of County Downs and Atlanta Highway.

The congregation at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses have outgrown their church on Perry Hill Road so they're trying to relocate to a new building at the corner or Atlanta Highway and County Downs. But the residents of Bellehurst and County Downs say building a church there would create landscaping, drainage and traffic problems.

"It's very congested there at times and if you put 80 cars coming out of church, it is a very dangerous situation," says County Downs resident Wayne Scott.  

But members of the congregation say it's because the community doesn't want a Jehovah's Witness church in their neighborhood.

"It's politics," says church member Phil Ferrari. "We just don't want them there...I think that's what he said," speaking of someone at the meeting.

Ronald Bell is the engineer for the church building and tells us a traffic study was conducted that shows traffic wouldn't be a problem. He tells us he met with both homeowners associations and says they just don't want a Jehovah's Witness church nearby.

"When we had our homeowners association, I probably shouldn't say this, they came up and said it. It's the church that they don't want to have."

Something County Downs resident James Murphy says is offensive.

"It's not an issue about Jehovah's Witness, trust me. I believe in Jesus Christ. I don't care if you call him I Am, Jehovah, whatever."

After both sides battled back and forth for nearly an hour, the board voted on three separate motions. There weren't enough votes to either approve or deny the motion to build the church and no action was taken. The debate now heads to circuit court.

"I think we'll go to the next step," says Ferrari. "We'll see what the future brings."

"We have an attorney," says Murphy. "That's why we hired an attorney. We're ready to go to court."

 

But some say there's only opposition because of what KIND of church it is.