Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Growing Southside Church Purchasing Land in Mandarin

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Growing Southside Church Purchasing Land in Mandarin

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Staff writer

A growing church on a wooded lot off Southside Boulevard wants more room to expand.

The aptly named Shepherd of the Woods Lutheran Church at 7860 Southside Blvd. plans to buy a 40-acre site in Mandarin, just past the current end of Fayal Drive, off Greenland Road.

Pastor George Johnson said he and members of his 750-member congregation really wanted to stay on the Southside. But property nearby cost millions, while the 40-acre site they found a mile off Greenland Road is less, and has a lake.

Now they are seeking a zoning exception from the city next month. If that passes, the church would buy the site, although it is still years away from actually building there. Still, church officials will hold a town meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Greenland Pines Elementary School, 5050 Greenland Road, so neighbors "know we are not trying to slip something in," Johnson said.

"We wrote a letter to everyone between Interstate 95 and Greenland Road and Phillips Highway saying, 'We would like to talk to you.' We see the church as an asset to the neighborhood," Johnson said. "The church is a ministry group, and we try to provide as much care as we can. Any non-profit group can use our facilities at no cost. We want to support people caring and doing ministries."

City Councilwoman Sharon Copeland, who represents part of the Greenland Road corridor, said she suggested Johnson hold the town meeting when they met a few weeks ago. And she is recommending a traffic signal at the Greenland Road and Fayal Drive intersection when the church opens there in a few years.

"If you let people know what's coming, they are usually more receptive, can ask questions, and the rumors don't start," she said. "Traffic has been my biggest concern there, and that is what I told him [Johnson] about. The city is making improvements on Greenland Road, but I want this issue to be addressed before the zoning goes forward. …

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