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Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 12:13pm

Historic Macon Church Demolition Permit Denial Appealed

The congregation of Tremont Temple Missionary Baptist Church is fighting the denial of a demolition permit for their old church building on Forsyth Street.

The Macon-Bibb Planning and Zoning Commission voted a month ago to deny the permit that would allow Macon businessman Lou Patel to demolish the historic structure in favor of a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise.

The congregation now worships at a new church on Bloomfield Road, and they say they need to sell the old location to Patel to finance their continuing ministry.

A member of the congregation filed an appeal of the commission’s decision on Friday, said Planning and Zoning Executive Director Jim Thomas.

Commissioners will consider at their February 10 meeting whether there is any new information that would warrant a full rehearing.

“I’m a little surprised, but I’m also understanding,” said Historic Macon Foundation Executive Director Josh Rogers, who has offered to immediately purchase the church from the congregation and preserve it.

The congregation has been working with Patel for a long time on a deal that remains under contract, Rogers said, and they might feel obligated to try to make it work.

“As long as there’s a small hope [of obtaining the demolition permit] I think the congregation is going to stick with that developer,” he said.

Jim Rollins, the realtor representing both Patel and the congregation in the transaction, declined to comment. Additional attempts to reach church leadership directly went unanswered.

Rogers said he believes Historic Macon’s offer on the property is financially comparable to Patel’s, but he’s never seen the contract.

If the commission denies the appeal, the congregation’s next option would be a hearing in Bibb County Superior Court. In that event, a judge would only be able to consider the integrity of the planning commission’s process, not the merits of their decision, Thomas said.

The planning commission’s design review board determined that the church, which played a significant role in Macon’s civil rights movement, is of sufficient historical significance to be preserved.