Proposal to build church on Atlanta Highway stirring debate

Published: Feb. 18, 2014 at 12:19 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 21, 2014 at 3:22 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Plans to build a new church in East Montgomery have some in an uproar. The proposed development on Atlanta Highway is drawing opposition from nearby residents. Some homeowners in County Downs, Bellehurst and Fox Hollow say the church will bring too many traffic problems to their neighborhoods.

There was a heated meeting last week of hundreds of area residents who heard a presentation about a church being built near the intersection of Atlanta Highway and County Downs Road and on Monday night, there was a closed meeting of the neighborhood associations as they continue to fight the project.

Kingdom Hall on Perry Hill Road has outgrown its location- members are parking on grass, on adjacent streets and in front of houses. The church is looking to build a new facility at the spot on Atlanta Highway to the right of the County Downs entrance, a three acre strip.

"The church is a small church, probably about a 5,000 square foot building, about 75-80 parking places initially and exactly how folks would come and go from the church is the concern of residents. It seems to be an active church, meeting 5-6 days a week," said Montgomery City Councilor Richard Bollinger. "They're showing one of the exits out of County Downs. It looks like it may jam up traffic right there for residents coming and going because it's a median crossover. They also have another exit here at the bottom of Bellehurst which is a little slip road and is only 17.5 feet wide which is not your normal width for two way traffic."

Bollinger said he would also be concerned about exits onto the busy highway.

"Both of these subdivisions are about 40 years old and you've had vacant property there at the front. This side over here where we're talking about changing the use was residential... so that's a little bit of a concern because some of the people that bought out here thought that there would be more lots like theirs all the way down," he told WSFA.

While some residents would like to see the entrance stay the way it is, others realize it is an enticing location for development.

Ray Tyc, who has lived in County Downs for more than 20 years, isn't opposed to seeing a church go in at the entrance but Tyc, like many residents, says he is worried about traffic headaches.

"A lot of people don't like it just because they want to see it stay green and grassy and trees and you know, the world moves on and nothing in our contract ever said this neighborhood would stay undeveloped down there," Tyc said. "That land is going to be developed sooner than later. I'd prefer to see a church over some Walmart or some retail store. I have two concerns- traffic in and out and two is possibly adding a traffic light at the intersection. We have enough traffic lights in this section of Atlanta Highway and it just creates congestion."

The County Downs and Bellehurst neighborhood associations are looking for residents' input and presence when they address the Montgomery Board of Adjustment in the next few weeks.

They're hoping the engineers and developers on the project will take all of their feedback, address some of their concerns and find better solutions.

Project developers will also have to go before the board of adjustment to get a use variance on the property which is zoned residential.