ADDISON -- Over objections from neighbors, a historic Black church in Addison will be able to move forward with aafter the city council approved it late Monday night.
Donald Wesson, who purchased White Rock Chapel in 2018, came up with a plan to renovate the historic worship hall. Work began and they gutted the interior, but he soon learned that the property did not have the necessary permits. That began a two-year battle with neighbors who opposed the plans.
Wesson's proposal for the church also includes the construction of a 699-square-foot pavilion on the property, a paved parking lot and additional trees.
In two hours worth of public comments at a special meeting Monday night, council members heard mostly from residents opposed to the plan over concerns about crime, noise, increased traffic and a negative impact on property values. Some neighbors who spoke in opposition of the plan said they worried that the new pavilion would be used for weddings and other events where alcohol would be served, creating a nuisance.
Some speakers supported the plan, including a member of the church's board, who noted that the parking lot is limited to 18 cars. Street parking is already illegal in the neighborhood.
In a vote taken close to midnight, the council unanimously approved the new zoning plan.
Council members also had to consider a potential religious liberty lawsuit against the city that a legal group representing the church had threatened to file if the zoning application was denied.
White Rock Chapel was founded by five formerly enslaved families in 1865, with the first building constricted in 1884. The church has operated from its current location on Celestial Road since 1918.
For a century, the church stayed in use, while a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes sprouted up around it.
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