Proposal to boost economic development bans churches - CBS46 News

Proposal to boost economic development bans churches

Posted: Updated:
(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)

It’s one of the busiest roadways in DeKalb County, but business isn’t exactly booming along Memorial Drive. There are several rundown properties that have been on the market for months.     

“Nobody wants to see growth and development along Memorial Drive more than I do,” DeKalb County citizen Tony Mastri said.

But, Mastri and others have a severe case of the growing pains.

“To prohibit places of worship is unconstitutional. It violates the first amendment,” DeKalb County citizen Michael Cooper said.     

Mike Cooper couldn’t believe it when the county’s proposal to turn a portion of Memorial Drive into an overlay district to boost development also listed a religious road block in the fine print.

“You can imagine my surprise when I look through a document and I see places of worship listed as a prohibited use. It made absolutely no sense at all,” Cooper said. “I have no idea why that provision is in there. It makes no sense and it’s contrary to Federal law. You cannot treat churches, mosques and synagogues differently than other places of assemblage.”

A county spokesperson said the proposal is only a draft, but came from community input.

“I would challenge the planning department to show where the public has said they want this,” Cooper said. “I never heard any member of the public say they didn’t want places of worship, churches, mosques, synagogues on Memorial Drive.”

County officials went on to say that churches would be allowed to develop in one area referred to as Tier 5, but only if the places of worship obtain a Special Land Use Permit, often referred to as a SLUP.

“This entire proposal was developed by the planning department behind the scenes. It was then presented to the public, and the public did not come up with these districts, these uses, any of this.  This is being forced on the public without the public’s input,” Cooper said.

“I think it is indicative of a larger problem in that the community input was not properly sought, not properly recorded and not properly incorporated into the document,” Mastri said.

The planning commission will evaluate the most recent draft of the proposal in two weeks, and after that the county commission could vote on it.

Copyright 2017 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.