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Permit approved for Dacula Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses church

LAWRENCEVILLE — The third time was the charm for the Dacula Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a church whose request to build a worship center in a rural area was approved Tuesday after years of requests.

According to attorney Marian Adeimy, the church believed it had the right to build on the Ace McMillian Road property when it purchased it seven years ago, but the classification of the road as a minor collector street stood in the way of allowing the right. Adeimy said the classification was incorrect, but others disagreed.

Twice, commissioners denied a special use permit — in 2007 and 2011 — but Adeimy said the congregation has agreed to build a 5,000-square-foot facility, half of its initial request.

“The congregation has been denied its legal constitutional right to worship on its own property,” Adeimy said. “This is a small community church which is in keeping with the area.”

Nearby homeowners balked at the proposal, saying the church would hurt the tranquil estate home area, where horses often traverse the road.

“It takes away our right to peaceful enjoyment of our property,” said Betsy Strauss, a real estate agent who said estates on average lose $100,000 of their value when a church opens adjacent to the property. “We will be damaged.”

Gwinnett commissioners added conditions to the special use permit, which would attempt to mitigate the lighting concerns of the neighbors and to match the rural character of the area.

But the homeowners said they were very disappointed in the decision, especially in the buffers applied to the site, and could consider a lawsuit.

“It’s beyond horrible,” said Linda Stringer. “We don’t understand why this happened.”