Bid to deter Lexington church expansion derailed

tflach@thestate.comNovember 4, 2013 

A bid by some homeowners to blunt a major Lexington congregation’s expansion into their neighborhood fell apart Monday.

Town Council scrapped a proposal to apply a historic designation to 11 homes around Lexington Baptist Church after nearly half of the residents said they no longer are interested.

The proposal was shelved amid “a lot of confusion” about the idea, Councilwoman Kathy Maness said.

Supporters said the step could make it more difficult for the church to acquire homes and raze them for parking and facilities.

Five homeowners dropped out amid concern that the requirements are too restrictive for renovation and might make it harder to sell their homes, officials said.

That message came in telephone calls and emails received, officials said.

It’s unclear how many of the other six remain in favor as most did not reply after receiving an outline of the requirements involved, officials said.

The plan would have put the historic designation to homes scattered on three streets around the church – Creps, East Butler and Efird streets, just off Main Street near Lexington County offices.

One homeowner, Judy Ball, said she “most likely” will pursue the step separately.

It would be a commemoration for the164-year-old home that her family has lived in for nearly a century, she said.

So far, 14 homeowners in the town of 18,000 residents have done that individually. “It’s not unusual at all to do it that way,” town administrator Britt Poole said.

The request to apply the designation to several homes at once split town panels.

The Historic Preservation Review Board endorsed the idea, saying it would help save one of the community’s oldest neighborhoods from disappearing gradually.

But the Planning Commission opposed it, saying development standards are sufficient to keep the area residential.

Commission members probably will support the designation for some homes in the neighborhood, chairman Keith Frost said.

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

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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