Cobb church says developer tore down sanctuary

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COBB COUNTY, Ga. —

A Cobb County church is suing after they say a developer tore down their sanctuary.

New lofts for Kennesaw University students now stand on land that used to be the site of Grace Church. Congregation leaders thought they would get a new building in a vacant lot nearby, but now find themselves worshipping in a strip mall off-site. Church leaders said they are fighting back over a broken promise.

“It’s been a struggle frankly. Anytime a church is in any kind of turmoil, it’s difficult to keep people engaged and keep people focused on what we're trying to do as a church,” music director Mike Fox said.

It’s been years since developer Woody Snell came to the church and others with his idea for a community called Town Village, a neighborhood off Big Shanty Road with everything from student housing to condos to senior living, shopping and park space.

The plan was for Grace Church, which sat at the front of the complex, to sell out to Snell in return for a new piece of property and a new church building in the new neighborhood, church leaders said.

“The short of it is that he hasn't delivered on any of it. In fact, he's made it more and more difficult for them. The church congregation’s been through a lot, not what congregations want to go through, and it’s affected them in many ways,” attorney Michael Hirsh said.

Hirsh filed a lawsuit against Snell and his company seeking monetary damages for Grace Church.

Now on the site, only a student housing complex exists where Grace Church used to be. The site that was to have been the new Grace Church, according to church leaders, appears to be a retention area.

Hirsh said the church wishes they never bought into Town Village.

“Hindsight is always 20/20, but there were promises made and ‘If you'll do this.’ There were these manufactured crises that were brought to them that created a false sense of urgency, and they trusted him,” Hirsh said.

Fox said he wants the church to remain focused on its mission.

“I guess the message to flock would be, ‘Let’s keep focused on the Lord, and let’s keep doing what we're supposed to be doing and let him take care of the other things,’” he said.

Snell’s attorney said he was disappointed in the lawsuit and that the developer hadn’t breached any contract. They hope to settle out of court.

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