Church scrambles to reopen

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

NORCROSS -- A pastor said some paperwork required by the county is preventing him from holding services and running ministries in his Norcross church.

A. Douglas DuBose, the pastor of St. John Apostolic Church West in the Watkins Center business park, said his church could be shut down for a month or longer while the issue is resolved. He said his church has 50 to 60 people in the congregation, and he runs a food bank and clothing compound from the church.

"While they're working on everything, I can't go into my unit," DuBose said. "If somebody comes ... we're shut down. Our services are going to be dampened because we're not there. We need to be back on the job as soon as possible."

DuBose said he opened his church in the business park more than two years ago, before the current property owners took over the center on McDonough Drive. The pastor said the owners are working with him to resolve the situation.

Joe Sorenson, a spokesman for Gwinnett County, said the problem was discovered months ago when the fire marshal's office was conducting routine inspections. Sorenson said several businesses and churches in the business park have been cited for not having certificates of occupancy. Any building that has people in it has to have a certificate of occupancy, which states the building is safe for people to be in.

Once a business or church is cited for not having a certificate of occupancy, it's not supposed to operate until the situation is resolved, Sorenson said.

DuBose said he was never told that he needed a certificate of occupancy. He said the church was renovated a while ago to connect two units and give him more space.

Another issue that DuBose has encountered is that his church is located in a part of the business park that is not zoned for churches. Sorenson said the business park has "split zoning" -- part is zoned C-2 for commercial use and part is zoned M-1 for industrial use.

DuBose said his church and two others are located in the area that is zoned for industrial use, which is not compliant with the zoning. The churches located in the commercial area are in compliance with the zoning.

"We're working on trying to get Gwinnett County to rezone it," DuBose said.