Land Parcel Separating Church, State

By Schoettler, Jim | The Florida Times Union, March 5, 1998 | Go to article overview

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

Whitbey.

"If you take half our property, you've eliminated that dream,"

Whiteby said. "It's very frustrating. …

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