World Changers Church International’s leader, the Rev. Creflo Dollar, and Operations Director Kurt Newton applied for a zoning change to allow access on Burdett Road, close to the 35,000-square-foot teen center on the 30,000-member church’s south Fulton campus.
“We have had several incidents that transpired at that address and due to layout, it has been a challenge for fire, EMS and police,” Newton said. “On Oct. 10, 2013 we had construction work during which one of the contractors was robbed and shot.”
The incident was the second shooting in two years; in 2012 an employee was killed by a former colleague.
Newton said although the county fire station was only two miles away, a lack of access led to a delay in the 2013 case.
“It took seven to nine minutes. Every second counts,” he said.
Old National Community Alliance representative Michael Venable said the church asks for more and more rezoning despite concerns about traffic and too few parking spaces.
“We allow access from Burdett Road, we negate having to adhere to capacity and number of parking spaces. I have to go with denial because it’s unfair to the community. I can’t give that much because it’s unfair to traffic and complying with rules,” he said.
Newton said the church’s intent is “always to do it by the book,” but safety came first.
“No one saw this from the front end,” he said. “Anything the county asks of us in the past, we have carried out
Deputy Chief of Police Gary Stiles other factors intervened with response time to the 911 call.
“The wrong address was given; 2500 Burdett. The correct address was 2495, which would have indicated to responders to enter from side of the road,” he said. “Also, with a person shot, we have to stage offsite until police are on scene if gunman were on site.”
Fire Chief Larry Few agreed.
“That is our response when there is a shooting or hostile event. We can’t run firefighters in that don’t have protection. We have to make sure the scene is secure before we go in,” he said.
Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards said he sided with the public safety representatives and Planning Director Randy Beck, who in an internal memo recommended denial of the application.
In addition, Edwards echoed Venable’s concern with the appearance of escalating zoning revisions.
“We’re going to have to have a master plan for the church. Everything comes up piecemeal,” Edwards said.
He moved denial, but Chairman John Eaves ruled the motion failed for a lack of a second, over Commissioner Robb Pitts’ objections.
“That’s not true,” Pitts said. “I seconded it.”
The matter will be bumped to the Feb. 19 meeting.