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City council delays Scientology vote
by Noreen Lewis Cochran
June 22, 2012 02:44 PM | 1634 views | 1 1 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology received a setback in its application to renovate 5395 Roswell Road at the corner of Glenridge Drive when the Sandy Springs City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday at City Hall voted 4-2 to defer the vote until its July 17 meeting.

District 1 City Councilman John Paulson and District 2 City Councilwoman Dianne Fries were opposed.

“I’m a little stunned here that we have for months and months and months worked with our legal team, an expert legal team, and I am surprised,” Fries said.

Although the city council approved the applicant’s zoning request at its Dec. 15, 2009 meeting, the church filed a lawsuit because the city only approved 75 percent of the requested 44,000 square feet, citing a parking shortage.

“If the issue in this case is truly about parking, then we should be able to resolve it tonight,” church attorney Woody Galloway said Tuesday. “We have met every single requirement which you asked us to meet. There is no reasonable basis to deny this request.”

A new site plan was designed after U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ordered the two parties into mediation, which took place during a closed session March 26.

“The result will, if approved, resolve the litigation in its entirety,” city defense attorney Laurel Henderson said Tuesday.

If deferred and denied, the litigation will go back to court.

“If the city wins, then Scientology is left with its 33,000-square-foot building that it can use and the underground parking has to stay the same. If Scientology wins, they can use the 44,000 square feet and not add another parking space,” Henderson said.

District 3 City Councilman Chip Collins said Henderson’s opinion of the downside of a delay, even if followed by approval, did not worry him.

“As a litigator, I know that cases move at glacial paces. Usually 15 or 30 days, in the grand scheme of things, does not matter. As far as our citizens having faith in the system, it increases that,” he said to applause from some of the 100 attendees.

Residents like Robin Beechey of the Willow Glen Condominium Association asked for more time to study the matter.

“There’s been no proper public notice of this hearing,” he said.

The May 30 edition of the Sandy Springs Neighbor carried the matter’s single legal advertisement.

Per the city council, it will run again in the June 27 print edition of both the Sandy Springs and Northside Neighbor newspapers.

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