City Council OKs church relocation

CONYERS - Perhaps it was the good will of their neighbors or a sign of the economic times or a combination of the two. But whatever it was, members of a relatively new church in Rockdale County are thankful the City Council gave them the go-ahead to convert an industrial building in to their new church home.

Philip Lehman, pastor of Discover Point Church, appeared before the Conyers City Council on Wednesday during a public hearing held to address his application for a special-use permit.

Discover Point has leased approximately 6,000 square feet of space located at 1303 Parker Road, Suite C-1, the previous location of Progressive Lighting.

Just a week earlier, the Conyers Rockdale Planning Commission had recommended the City Council to deny the application due to limited parking in front of the storefront the church intends to use.

Marvin Flanigan, director of planning and zoning for the city of Conyers, said he made the recommendation to the Planning Commission because the number of parking spaces for that particular location was insufficient according to the local ordinance.

"I do understand the letter of the law," Lehman told the City Council on Wednesday. "On (Dec. 12), I went to every business owner (by) our property and each one said they are not open on Sundays or have any conflict to what we do."

Prior to the City Council meeting, Lehman presented council members with copies of letters from operators of surrounding businesses - including Consolidated Copier Services Inc., Jones Metal Molding Company, Accugrafix, Classic Flooring and Mayer Electric Supply Company - who each said they were not open on Sundays.

Joe Underwood, owner of Jones Metal, offered to lease 25 parking spaces at 805 Commerce Drive to the church for $1 a month.

"Mayer Electric, next door to us on Parker Road, has 14 spaces we can use," Lehman said.

Lehman said the church only plans to hold Sunday services at 10:30 a.m. It does not have traditional Sunday school classes, opting instead for small group meetings at members' homes.

"I don't think we'll need (the extra parking spaces)," Lehman said Thursday. "When we grow to a certain point, I actually like the thought of having multiple services."

Discover Point church was launched Sept. 11, 2005, and met for a little more than a year at Carmike Cinemas on Dogwood Drive. Since January 2007, the church has congregated each week at Peachtree Academy on Ellington Road.

With the move to a more permanent location, Lehman said he expects the church can double in size from its current attendance of around 70 people each week.

During the public hearing, Mayor Randy Mills asked the pastor about unforeseen circumstances that may require the church to open on days other than Sundays.

"Hypothetically, but what if, God forbid, one of your church members passed away and you had to hold a funeral on other days of the week?" Mills said.

"In the three-and-a-half years we have been a church, we haven't had one funeral," Lehman said. "It could happen, but because of the parking, I would highly recommend to the family that they use a funeral home."

The cooperation of the surrounding businesses to help accommodate parking was enough for Councilman Marty Jones to approve the special use permit.

"If there is a conflict with the other businesses, that's the owners' problem, not ours," he said.

Councilman Vince Evans told Lehman that the sagging economy has worked in the church's favor.

"This is prime retail space and I hate to see prime retail space not be used as retail space," he said, "but I'd rather have it used this way than to have it sit vacant. All I'm telling you is that the timing works well into what you're trying to do."

The council voted unanimously to approve the special-use permit.

Lehman said Thursday that the church can now move forward with plans to renovate the space to meet its needs for a 2,500-square-foot auditorium and a children's gathering area and theater. He said the goal is to hold the first service at the end of January.

For more on Discover Point, visit www.discoverpoint.org.