Homeowners win round in fight against Lexington church expansion

tflach@thestate.comOctober 7, 2013 

Nearly a dozen Lexington homeowners are on the verge of getting the go-ahead for a step aimed at discouraging a church’s expansion into their downtown neighborhood.

Town Council unanimously gave initial approval Monday to a historic designation for 11 homes scattered on three streets around Lexington Baptist Church.

Preliminary approval came after town administrator Britt Poole said the step “adds an additional layer of restrictions” on those homes but not others in the area.

Supporters said the proposal would make it harder for the church to acquire homes and raze them for parking and other facilities as it has done.

Church officials say their congregation is trying to grow as necessary without upsetting neighbors.

So far, the congregation hasn’t opposed the historic designation wanted by the homeowners.

The proposal also will help promote “community cohesiveness” among downtown residents wanting recognition for keeping up many homes more than a century in age, said Chuck Corley, chairman of the Town Historic Preservation Review Board.

The homes affected are on Creps, East Butler and Efird streets, just off Main Street near Lexington County offices.

Council members aren’t bothered at allowing the designation for homes mostly separate from each other, spread over five blocks.

“If they want it, let’s give it to them,” Mayor Randy Halfacre said.

Town panels split on the proposal.

Planning Commission members recommended against the ideal, saying it is overkill. But members of the historic preservation board endorsed it as way to help save older residences.

Town leaders are sending the 11 homeowners a reminder of what the step entails prior to final approval slated for Nov. 4.

Some homeowners originally interested in the idea backed out, saying the requirements limit renovations too much while others fear it could make their homes harder to sell to anyone but the church.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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