Three years after settling a parking dispute that exploded into a freedom-of-religion lawsuit, the Church of Scientology of Georgia is finally preparing its new church in Sandy Springs.
Heavy interior and exterior work has been underway since the summer on the mansion-like former real estate office at 5395 Roswell Road at the intersection with Glenridge Drive. The Georgia Church of Scientology, currently based in Doraville, did not respond to questions about an opening date, but a person answering its phone said the church still plans to move in.
The church bought the property around 2005, but first sought rezoning for use as a place of worship in 2009. The church, then based in Dunwoody, proposed a $3 million renovation and said it had about 100 active members.
Many area neighborhood associations opposed the move, citing traffic and parking concerns, especially since the church sought to reduce the number of parking spaces to expand the building.
The Sandy Springs City Council heard the matter at least four times over several months before deciding to approve the rezoning—but without the parking reduction. The church then sued the city, claiming the decision violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion.
The case spent years inching through the legal system while any rehab remained on hold. Finally, a court ordered a settlement via mediation in 2012. In that successful settlement, the church was allowed to expand the building and to meet the parking requirement by sharing spaces at the adjacent post office.
It appears that major rehab work began this summer, and there’s a sign that the church and the city are getting along better. In February, the church granted a long piece of the property’s frontage to the city for $1 for road improvements.