State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs.

The City of Sandy Springs and the Church of Scientology may soon be nearing an end to a lawsuit alleging the city violated the church’s religious freedom.

The city also recently resolved another lawsuit regarding the Lakeside office complex. Both are long-standing zoning cases.

The Church of Scientology is suing the city over the church’s application to open at 5395 Roswell Road. The city approved the application in 2009, but did not allow the church to expand space at the building because of limited parking, sparking a lawsuit that alleged the city violated the church’s religious freedom. The court ordered the two sides to settle the lawsuit in mediation.

According to federal court records, the two parties met in a mediation session on March 26.

The consent order filed on March 30 says the church and the city didn’t finalize an agreement during that session but says both sides are willing to consider a revised parking plan. The consent order says city staff needed 30 to 45 days to review the plan, and said any zoning changes would require public notice 15 days in advance of a public hearing. The order also extends the deadline to submit a “proposed consolidated pretrial order” to June 15.

City Attorney Wendell Willard confirmed the consent order, but declined further comment.

“We’re in the process of evaluating that,” Willard said. “It’s not completed.”

The announcement of the settlement of the other case came as a surprise at the end of the May 15 City Council meeting. Mayor Eva Galambos congratulated Willard for his work to settle a lawsuit that began when developer Greenstone Properties sued the city in 2008 after the council denied its rezoning petition for the Lakeside office complex.

In an effort to resolve that lawsuit, MLGP Lakeside – a partnership between Greenstone and MetLife – in 2010 filed a new plan for the 26-acre property on the east side of Glenridge Drive at I-85 and GA-400.

Eva Galambos

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos

According to newspaper archives, the city denied the second application, prompting another lawsuit. Residents and council members were concerned about the traffic generated by the proposed development. Willard said the parties were able to resolve the lawsuit days before a trial in Fulton County Superior Court.

“Everybody sat down … and we got it worked out,” he said.

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