Norcross OKs buying church property

NORCROSS - A former Catholic church will apparently get the city's new performing arts and civic center out of limbo.

Norcross council members voted 3-2 Monday night to buy the Cameron church property for $2 million.

Once renovated, it can house meeting rooms for senior citizens and civic gatherings, said Councilman Charlie Riehm.

Riehm and Councilman Terry Bowie approved the church site. Councilmen Bruce Smith and David McLeroy rejected it. Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lovelady broke the tie in the absence of Mayor Lillian Webb.

The vote ended months of debate over the project.

Initial plans created it from scratch - a roughly $6 million endeavor. It was to be built on the old Norcross school house site, recreate the style of that building, overlook the city's ballfield, and draw the attention of Buford Highway commuters on their way into Atlanta.

Others opposed that idea for using too much Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money. They felt renovating the church might prove less costly and save taxpayers a headache.

The project became as divisive as it was ambitious, and emotion spilled over into Monday night's public hearing.

Norcross resident Rob Buck echoed the concerns of many citizens at the meeting.

He questioned the wisdom of a preliminary April 10 contract council members signed to buy the church. Buck said some citizens took it upon themselves to have the building inspected, and the cost estimate was around $350 a square foot.

"The roof is failing. The floor is failing," Buck said.

Riehm answered the objections.

"The vote tonight is whether to ratify the contract so that we can begin due diligence," Riehm said.

Riehm and Lovelady said if repair costs are too exorbitant, the city can back out of the deal.

Land use plan changes approved

The 2006 Land Use Plan changes were presented Monday night, and council members voted to approve 14 of them. Citizens can review the changes in the Community Development department at city hall.

Mayor recovering from hip injury

Mayor Lillian Webb is recovering from a fall she took on Memorial Day, breaking her hip. She was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery on that same hip in early June. Surgeons operated on the injured hip last week, and Webb has entered into rehabilitation.