The City Council voted 6-0 with Councilman Jim King absent to accept an agreement with the church that allows the city to acquire church property to widen Roswell Street from two to four lanes.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said he is relieved the deal is done and “happy the church got what it wanted.”
“Nine years is a long time to birth a baby,” Tumlin said.
The contention between the parties started when the city announced plans to use part of the 70-year-old church’s property to widen the street.
Fears of condemnation caused an uprising by the church’s congregation at a City Council meeting in November 2012, which resulted in the council unanimously voting in favor of mediation.
“This (project) was unique because we were dealing with a church,” Councilman Philip Goldstein said.
The Rev. Ernest Easley, the church’s senior pastor, said he trusted in God during the process, and vowed to never walk away from the negotiations.
“I know God will always take care of his church,” Easley said.
After nine months of discussions, Easley took the settlement to the church’s congregation of 2,300 active members. At a business meeting on Sept. 8, some 200 members agreed to the deal.
The terms of the agreement
The city will pay the church $115,000 to gain .4 acres of property that it will use for landscaping the north side of Roswell Street across from the church, as well as stretches to the east of the church. The church will deed .8 acres of property to the city, but gain .4 acres back in different strips of land.
The city will relinquish ownership of the right-of-way on the north side of the church’s parking lot and of an alley between two commercial properties that are owned by the church directly across the street.
The agreement specifies that the city will pay the mediation expenses incurred by the church through March 18.
Goldstein, who said he has always been supportive of the road project that has taken more than 20 years to complete, made the recommendation to approve the agreement.
“It is a pretty stretch of road,” said Goldstein, who added that he has seen improvements to some commercial businesses along the road over the years.
Paving the way for road construction
The city’s $24 million project to widen Roswell Street to four lanes from the Marietta Square to the Big Chicken includes current construction from Dodd Street to Cobb Parkway.
Plans on the segment in front of Roswell Street Baptist Church, from Victory Drive to Dodd Street, include a landscaped median, 8-foot-wide sidewalks, trees and pedestrian-level street lights.
Further engineering and surveying will be done by city staff, with final drawings approved by the City Council in two or three months.
The construction of this phase will take a year and will not begin until next spring, at the earliest, city engineer Jim Wilgus said.
This still leaves a stretch from Barnes Street, just east of Fairground Street, to Victory Street, which runs next to Roswell Street Baptist Church. But the project will be out of funding by the time the city reaches this portion, Wilgus said.
Goldstein said a major road project takes time and Roswell Street has already gone through two cycles of SPLOST funding.
It is just a matter of time until Cobb County voters approve another SPLOST that the city will allocate for this development, Goldstein said.