The City of Marietta and Roswell Street Baptist Church have been wrangling for a decade now on whether and how to widen and realign Roswell Street as it runs past the church a mile due east from Marietta Square on its way toward busy Cobb Parkway (U.S. 41).
The city has spent $40 million widening and beautifying Roswell during the last 15 years or so. The project is expected to be complete by November — except for the stretch between Victory Drive and Dodd Street, which includes the church’s frontage on Roswell.
The city wants to widen that segment of road from two lanes to four, so there won’t be a traffic bottleneck after the rest of the road is widened. Most of the heartburn has involved how many parking spaces the church stands to lose, how close the widened road would come to various church-owned buildings and how the widened road and median would impact access and egress from the church parking lot.
The church this week extended an olive branch to the city council, with pastor the Rev. Ernest Easley saying his congregation would be willing to convey the necessary amount of property to the city in exchange for $115,000. Some 200 members of the church (which has 2,300 active members) had unanimously affirmed the proposed settlement at a meeting at the church last Sunday evening.
That settlement, in turn, is the outgrowth of mediation between the church and Council members Philip Goldstein, Jim King, Anthony Coleman and Mayor Steve Tumlin. Acting as mediator was former Georgia Chief Justice Norman Fletcher of Rome.
Now, it’s up to Tumlin and the rest of the committee to sell the deal to their fellow council members.
There’s no question that Roswell Street Baptist has been the best thing Roswell Street has had going for it most of the time in recent decades. It’s been an outstanding corporate citizen, allowing the use of its sanctuary for high school graduations and the use of its parking lot as the staging area for innumerable civic parades. In addition, its sanctuary has been offered as a setting (at no cost to the families involved) for the funerals of slain police officers, ceremonies that usually attract thousands of people.
It has been a rock of stability as many of the properties along that road grew ever more dilapidated.
Now, with Roswell Street slowly on the way “back up,” Mayor Tumlin should do whatever it takes to persuade the rest of the council to get on board with the deal and finish the widening.