In a surprising turn of events, on Sept. 17 the Sandy Springs Planning Commission voted 3 to 2 to deny the Church of Scientology’s request to relocate to 5395 Roswell Road. Now it is up to the City Council to take the final vote Oct. 20.

The Planning Commission had voted July 16 to approve the church’s rezoning application that would permit religious use of the property it purchased in 2005 at the corner of Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive.

But because the city would not permit the church to enclose the basement for additional square footage (and thus 30 less parking spaces), the Scientologists brought new conditions before the City Council Aug. 18. Council deferred the case, sending it back to the Planning Commission for the third time.

But Sept. 17 the board did approve of the church’s new conditions that capped capacity at 283 people if the city permitted enclosing the basement for a total of 46,000 square feet. “I just have problems with it,” Planning Commission Vice Chair Wayne Thatcher said. “540 people have said they are opposed to this because of traffic and parking. It’s all about traffic and parking and not the use.”

The church’s attorney, Woody Galloway, said the congregation was “disappointed” but would ultimately prevail in the end.”We are being treated different,” said Bob Adams, vice president of public affairs for the Church of Scientology International.

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— Amy Wenk