To the editor:

For months, I have voiced my concern objecting to the destruction of a hidden treasure, a historic gem, a place of God, a property which by its very existence requires preservation; a natural phenomenon of an almost bygone era, a site for citizens, and above all for my children, grandchildren and yours, which should be preserved as a sanctuary, a site that was hidden away, surrounded by urban sprawl, forgotten or undiscovered by people who may pass it every day.

St. James Anglican Episcopal Apostolic Church is hidden by magnificent trees, which somehow preserve animal life, birds, wild, overgrown shrubs undisturbed in their natural growth. One tree, a single oak estimated to be 600 years old, shelters a small, white cottage, remodeled, but with evidence of its original vintage. It still stands marked with red crosses denoting its holy use, not by many, but by a faithful band of people who drop to their knees to pray to their God.

The city of Sandy Springs is distinguished by the numerous churches, synagogues, and places of religious observances representing a remarkable multitude of religions. Many encompass historic cemeteries, a tribute to the citizens of the area who subscribe to a variety of doctrines, but somehow with similar beliefs, prayers and observances. Why then does this community, this new city of Sandy Springs, the city that built and dedicated the Sandy Springs Heritage Center, now neglect and stand ready to obliterate the history, the values and the rites of an extraordinary site, important to the representation of constitutional rights to the practice of religion in our United State of America?

These values were upheld by my uncle from Brunswick, Ga., a son of the South who served in the U.S. Navy in the Second World War. They allowed my grandfather to come to this land I love to serve in the first orthodox synagogue in Macon, Ga., in the year 1907, and previously presided in Chattanooga, Tenn. This is the reason I, a Jewish woman, a mother and grandmother, am trying to save my neighbor, the St. James Anglican Apostolic Church on Mitchell Road.

“Don’t people have a right to sell their property?” This according to the mayor and many City Council members is the major reason they seem determined to approve the rezoning of this church property. Evidence seems to show it was once part of properties belonging to the Mitchell Family, original settlers in the Sandy Springs area!

I and many other neighbors and citizens of Sandy Springs have asked repeatedly that this site not be rezoned. Neighbors, church members and others are exhausted in attempts to prevent rezoning, to save this site, a tiny oasis in the desert of development. It exists way down in a hollow, a small, wooded area presenting major and probable drainage problems if disturbed by new construction. A historic well marks the property’s approximate age dating back to the Civil War. Up the street still stands a large house posted as “The Lon Mitchell House” Circa 1870, which suggests a connection to the church site.

Why build on 2.4 acres where historic trees abound and an obviously ancient barn marks the property for agrarian use? Why disturb this unique site way down in a hollow? Please see for yourself if you think Sandy Springs should destroy this small vestige of history, religion and natural haven where trees and prayers reach majestically to the heavens above.

Who owns this property seems to be a question. Regardless, do we need to destroy the beauty and the sanctity of a religious sanctuary, a marvel of nature, to gain revenue for the bountiful coffers of Sandy Springs?

Pray tell, what is the worth of golden shekels compared to the small voices of a fervent few who wish to maintain their rights to pray as they choose, or where they choose. Do we need more townhouses more than we need houses of worship? Does the right to tax our citizens pre-empt our rights to pray as we choose, or do government rights override our religious rites?

Charlotte Glyck Marcus Mother, grandmother, citizen