By Amy Wenk
The Sandy Springs Planning Commission for the fourth time will review the Church of Scientology’s rezoning application, which seeks permission to relocate its Georgia headquarters to Sandy Springs. The meeting will be held Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 7840 Roswell Road.
City Council Oct. 20 deferred a decision on the controversial case when the church brought forth new conditions that required it be sent back to the commission for review. City Council should vote again Dec. 15.
“Each delay and deferral … only makes it more obvious no agreement can be reached,” Round Hill Condominium resident Sheila O’Shea said Oct. 20. “This has gone on long enough.”
The conditions brought that night aim to satisfy the city’s parking requirements and to assuage concerns of opposing residents, said Bob Adams, vice president of public affairs for the Church of Scientology International.
“We are hoping the Planning Commission will look at the efforts we’ve made,” he said. “We’ll continue to work with the city and the public.”
The amendments still allow the church to enclose the bottom-level parking garage of the building it purchased in 2005 at 5395 Roswell Road. The church has said it needs the extra space to effectively practice its religion, but the city so far has refused the renovation on the basis that it results in inadequate parking onsite.
The latest conditions, therefore, call for restriping the parking lot and paving areas to meet the city’s required number of parking spaces. There also is a provision that caps the church’s capacity at 170 people.
But to do this, the church is asking for relief from the city’s tree ordinance that requires a large shade tree be planted every six parking spaces. They also want the city to waive the required parking islands that provide space for greenery amidst the asphalt.
“The neighbors and other objectors see no reason for the Planning Commission or the Mayor and City Council to allow these departures from normal environmental requirements, particularly around this architecturally significant building in a prominent position on the main entry into Sandy Springs,” said Robin Beechey, who lives adjacent to the property in Willow Glen Condominiums and has represented its 50 or so homeowners at the countless hearings on the case.
Visit www.reporternewspapers.net for a report of the Nov. 19 meeting.