COVINGTON - It took four motions at Tuesday night's Board of Commissioners meeting before commissioners reached a consensus on a petition by Crosspointe Baptist Church to increase the number of students at its private school.
After neighbors spoke in opposition of the request, commissioners agreed they couldn't agree on a compromise and tabled the matter until their May zoning meeting.
Crosspointe was attempting to increase the number of students at its school on Byrd Road from 75 to 250 and to construct an additional 10,000-square-foot building on the site.
Darrell Head, representing the church, said enrollment has already surpassed the 75-student limit imposed when the petition first came before the board in 2005.
At that time, the board approved a two-story, 9,100-square-foot building, with the school located on the lower level and a 240-seat sanctuary and church offices on the upper level.
The church's long-term vision includes a recreation area with ball fields and walking trails, and possibly a campground and arts center for entertainment events, Head said then, adding that the church and school might eventually expand.
But Tuesday night, neighbors said approving the expansion would further disrupt their rural neighborhood and create additional traffic problems on narrow Byrd Road.
They said church members have disregarded their complaints about noise from the site, including a fireworks display that took place during a Christmas production.
"We are not contrarians simply trying to pick a fight with the applicants. We simply feel this is not a fit for our rural neighborhood," resident Jani Lee said.
Crosspointe Pastor Alan Posey offered an apology to the disgruntled neighbors.
"This is a heartfelt, not strategic, apology for any insensitivity that's been perceived," he said.
Commissioner Monty Laster, who represents District 5, where Byrd Road is located, said Byrd Road is an unclassified road that's more like a subdivision street. He said he hoped the church site would eventually have access to Ga. Highway 81 or else the church should be prepared to make improvements to Byrd Road.
Laster made a motion to approve the petition, but limit the student body to 150.
Prior to the vote, District 3 Commissioner Ester Fleming said he supported the original 250 students requested by the applicant.
"It's hard for me to turn a church or a school affiliated with the church down," he said.
In an attempt to compromise, District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson then offered a substitute motion to limit the students to 200.
The motion received a second from District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons, but failed with a vote of 2-3.
Laster then again offered his original motion, which also failed 2-3.
Fleming then made the motion to approve the 250 students as requested.
That motion died for lack of a second.
Laster then tried to make his original motion again but was advised by Chairman Aaron Varner a second vote could not be taken if a motion failed.
Henderson then made the motion to table the decision until the next meeting, which passed 3-2.
"It seems to me there needs to be a meeting of the minds with the church and the community and Mr. Laster before this comes back before this board," District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.