A church in Sandy Springs’ panhandle is riling neighbors with backyard noise issues and a quickly withdrawn request to rezone its property for a housing redevelopment.

Life Center Ministries has operated for decades at 2690 Mount Vernon Road, in Sandy Springs right across the Dunwoody city line, under pastors Drs. Buddy and Mary Crum.

A Google Earth map of Life Center Ministries’ location on the Sandy Springs/Dunwoody line.

Sandy Springs is nearly finished writing a new zoning code and map, and had Life Center’s 6-acre property pegged for a district of single-family houses with a minimum 2-acre lot size. In a surprise last-minute request to the city Planning Commission last month, the church sought a zoning category that would allow more houses in a possible redevelopment.

In making the pitch, church attorney Chip Collins said it was getting some neighborhood support, because if they church can sell the property, it would solve ongoing code enforcement issues involving noise from an air conditioner system. He indicated the church might need to move because it is growing.

City officials seemed unconvinced, and two of those neighbors, Bill and Laura Pearson, showed up to oppose the request at the Aug. 1 Sandy Springs City Council meeting. It turned out that the church already had withdrawn the request.

However, the future of the property remains a concern, especially to Dunwoody neighbors and officials who had no idea about the Sandy Springs zoning classification request. Unease dates back to 2012, when the church proposed bringing a 10,000-square-foot day care franchise business to the property. That proposal evaporated after the Dunwoody Homeowners Association offered to fund a lawsuit against it.

State Sen. Fran Millar, who lives in the Brooke Farm subdivision across the street, is among the neighbors concerned about Life Center’s plans.

“They’ve been trying to peddle that property for years,” Millar said. “This is not a recent phenomenon.”

Barry Crum did not respond to a phone call, but Collins acknowledged the air conditioning noise problem and said the church is relocating that machine.

Jim Tolbert, Sandy Springs’ assistant city manager for land-use and code departments, said code enforcement officials had received repeated complaints about Life Center in recent months. The Pearsons said noise problems include music and pool parties, not just the air conditioning, and date back several years.

Collins, in an email prior to the zoning request’s withdrawal, said that keeping the option for long-range redevelopment was the church’s intent.

“The church has no definite plans to move and therefore no timeline for doing so,” Collins said. “Because the church is growing, however, the pastor, Dr. Buddy Crum, anticipates that a move might be necessary within one to five years.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.