Land Parcel Separating Church, State
Schoettler, Jim, The Florida Times Union
A Jacksonville church and state highway officials are headed
for a showdown over a Mandarin field that the church wants for a
school and the state wants for a retention pond.
At issue is about 2 1/2 acres owned by Guardian Lutheran Church
on Haley Road, just behind the Village Inn on San Jose
Boulevard. The field is next to the church.
The state Department of Transportation plans to widen San Jose
Boulevard from four to six lanes between Sunbeam Road and Claire
Lane in 1999. The vacant land would be used for a retention pond
to collect water runoff from underground drains.
State officials say they are determined to buy the field even
if they have to wage a court battle with the church. The church
was first notified of the state's intentions in November.
"We will attempt to negotiate a settlement," said Joe Jordan,
the state agency's district right-of-way manager. "If we're
unable to, we'll have to sue the church for title to the
property. Of course you never want it to happen."
Church officials say they are unhappy about having to fight for
their land, which they've owned for about 30 years.
"We never had our property for sale. They just came out and
decided they're going to take part of it," said Joseph Keating,
president of the church congregation. "We told them to go some
place else, and they told us that's not an option."
The church has grown from less than 25 members a few years ago
to 80 to 100 members today. Church officials hope one day it
will be big enough to start a school, said Pastor Christopher
"If you take half our property, you've eliminated that dream,"
Whiteby said. "It's very frustrating. …