City Makes Way for Church of Scientology Expansion, Approves Zoning

A standing room crowd attended Tuesday's Sandy Springs City Council meeting, which included a vote on a Church of Scientology building.


The Church of Scientology received the go-ahead from the City of Sandy Springs to convert an office building into a church space, Tuesday night.

In a 5-1 vote, City Council approved zoning modification conditions to expand the office building, located at Glenridge Drive and Roswell Road.

“Right now the city is at about $90,000 in damages,” said Laurel Henderson, legal counsel for the city."

It was a standing room crowd.

The Lawsuit

The Church of Scientology sued the City of Sandy Springs in state and Federal District Court for discrimination, in 2009. Their request for modification included converting an underground parking deck into finished usable space. Although converting the building was approved, the city denied conversion of the parking deck saying 130 total parking spaces were required.

In February 2012, a Federal District Court judge sent the case to mediation. As a result, the church came up with a plan that meets the city requirements and allows the building to expand from 32,053 to 43,916 square feet.

During the previous City Council meeting, in June, members decided to delay a decision to grant expansion and settle the lawsuit, against legal counsel's advice.

"If It's About Parking..."

“If that’s true [and it is about parking] then we’ve got the solution,” said Church of Scientology attorney, Woody Galloway. “If it’s about keeping the Church of Scientology out of Sandy Springs, then we can’t address that because the church has a right to be here.”

Parking spaces were at the heart of Church of Scientology’s discrimination suit against the city.

Sandy Springs attorney Laurel Henderson explained two past instances in which City Council members approved variances for under-parked facilities. In one case, the city initially required Beth Teffilah synagogue to have 105 parking spaces when it sought to build a school and other facilities, on the property, Henderson said. The synagogue only had 71 spaces, but a permit for expansion was granted after they presented a letter stating that a school nearby would allow use of its parking lot. 

In similar fashion, City Council later approved variances with another church, Henderson said.

Along with adding parking spaces required by the city, the Church of Scientology has the use of parking spaces at a post office easement. The easement was also provided to the previous occupants of the Scientology building.

Settle this Case, Says Sandy Springs Legal Counsel

In recommending that Council members approve zoning modifications that have already been worked out with the church Henderson said, “If we lose, you can anticipate we will be paying for attorney fees and cost of litigation, as well as potential claims for the loss of use…That could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Sandy Springs has a list of parking space requirements for businesses by category. The church category list 46 spaces, Henderson said, another point in the Church of Scientology suit. 

Henderson said that if the City of Sandy Springs lost at trial, the church may not have to add additional parking spaces and residents could find church-goers parking in their neighborhoods.

Nearby Residents Disappointed

Jack Shaw, representing Round Hill Condominium Association, is one of hundreds of residents opposed to approval of the zoning modifications. He suggested a lawsuit by the citizens of Sandy Springs if the zoning was approved.

“We insist that the Mayor and City Council take the leadership roles you were elected for,” Shaw said. “Place the concerns of Sandy Springs taxpayers and residents ahead of a misguided fear of the Church of Scientology and reject this proposed settlement.”

Tibby Dejulio was the sole Council vote against the zoning modification. However, Karen Meinzen McEnerny said she, too, was against it despite her intention to approve it.

“I am troubled that I participated in zoning decisions in the past that were cited today. One involving a synagogue, another involving another type of church, McEnerny said. "[This] allowed, in my view, a basis for the plaintiff to claim discrimination. As much I would like to deny this application, I have no grounds to do so.”

What do you think of the outcome? Tell us in the comments.

Adrianne Murchison (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Did you expect the Church expansion to be voted down?
Oliver July 18, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Oh. Golly gee. Who would've thought it. But here's the clue. When zoning exemptions are granted to one, the burden shifts from petitioner to city. "Defend THIS denial, having granted THAT exemption. And guess what. It can't be done. McEnerny's "I am troubled..." carries no water. She is troubled by the fact that her constituents may hold her accountable. "I didn't really want to do it...The devil made me do it... My hands were tied" ... yada yada yada... Well, McEnerny. Had you and your colleagues voted responsibly in the two earlier decisions, you could have voted in the interests of your constituents in the Scientology case. But instead, every bleating "religion" this side of Hell has a lock on Sandy Springs zoning. You politicians. What comical clowns you are. Pity we who have to suffer your smarmy incompetence. No offense, I hope.
Sue July 19, 2012 at 10:42 AM
I really had hoped so, now they have a bona fide cult on their hands. Way to go people, ya need to wake up!!!!
Oliver July 19, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Sue. Why is Scientology a cult, and Christianity not a cult. Water to wine, raising the dead, in and out of grave,walking on water, loaves and fishes. How is Scientology more preposterous, more delusional, more silly and contrived, than Christianity? Quit labeling others cults unless you are prepared to defend your particular brand of mind control as somehow less pernicious.
Dbc July 19, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Agree...dogma is dogma, regardless of the name/beliefs of a religion.
Shellback July 19, 2012 at 02:18 PM
The difference is, most Christian churches do not engage in rampant, organised harassment the way Scientology does. The moment Scientology gives up it's "scriptures" that direct members to "destroy" critics and use the legal system as a method to silence people is the very moment I will grant them the same tolerance I grant any religion. Frankly I don't care what people believe, unless they believe it's OK to harm people in the name of the "church" the way Scientology member do.
JW July 19, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I'm a long-time Scientologist and Atlanta native and I have found Scientology to be a very welcoming and helpful group. Being connected with the Church has improved the lives of myself and my family. I would want others to experience the same success I have had. Is it a perfect organization? Of course not, but in my experience, most people who criticize it have never been in the door of the place or read a book by its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. When the new Church facility opens I invite everyone to come in an look for yourself and to think for yourself, and not listen to the rantings of people who hide behind their computer screens and spew hate. To me those secret, faceless, online hate-mongers are the real cults - and don't think they could not find something about anyone to ridicule and hate. Facts can be twisted and anonymous lies are easy to repeat. Scientology is just an easy target because we stand up for what we believe and don't back down - ever. Every foul utterance the haters make further proves their small minded intolerance and bigotry. In another decade these same haters would have been at KKK rallies with their midnight cross burnings and hidden faces. They should not be feared, just shunned. So to the fair minded people of the area, please keep my open invitation in mind and come visit our Church. Look and think for yourself. As for Scientology, its here to stay and we're here to help. JW Scientologist
Adrianne Murchison (Editor) July 19, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Shellback, as a born and raised, and practicing Catholic, I have to say Christian churches are not perfect. We need only look to corruption and child sexual abuse.
Cheryl Huvard July 19, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Oliver July 19, 2012 at 07:13 PM
The issue, here, is whether we can justifiably label Scientology a cult while giving a pass to Christianity. Shellback's attempt to justify the distinction is fatuous, based as it is upon charges of thuggery and strong-arming. a) If we are to define "Cult" as thugging and strong-arming then Christendom's sordid and depraved 1600 year history of torture, Inquisition, incineration, beheading, impaling, racking, boiling, and de-limbing, amply offset anything Scientology might be charged with. b) The essence of "cult" is not its thuggish behavior, but rather its dependence on "mind control". On this count, too, Christianity has no rival to equal it. From birth to death, it is the threat of Eternal Hell Fire and the Promise of Eternal Bliss that keep its adherents in line. Scientology's "rattlesnakes in mailboxes" can't begin to compare. Again, then, I challenge: Please justify the charge of "Cult" against Scientology while at the same time exculpating Christianity of that same charge.
LeDingue July 21, 2012 at 12:15 AM
"Please justify the charge of "Cult" against Scientology while at the same time exculpating Christianity of that same charge." This is not difficult... what makes scientology a cult and not a religion (it was the IRS that gave it the tax exemption "religion" status under overwhelming legal duress of thousands of lawsuits and other harassment): it is isolationist and coercive to its adherents (disconnect from family; label critics as the enemy; do hard labour in re-education camps for making mistakes etc) and it reveals its otherwise secret (and copyrighted!) "scriptures" only upon payment, as well as requiring numerous expensive "study courses" and confessionals to be undertaken. -Isolationist, coercive & punitive -charges large fees to reveal its "scriptures" = cult
LeDingue July 21, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I would add that the main function of scientology's hard fought religion tax status allows it to cry "religious persection!", "religious discrimination!" at any opportunity or criticism. Also this religion tax status enables the cult to bypass controls for the medical and psychological wellbeing of its adherents/clients (its practices cannot be scrutinised even though they have been shown many times to be harmful). Historically, when simply a business, they were convicted of 'practising medecine without a licence' but now it practices "spiritual" and "religious" "techniques". I'm not an advocate of any religion, let alone cult, but comparing the vastly profitable scientology corporation with other religions is *exactly* the way they want people to think and thus be unable to (rightly, imo) ctiticise them.
Jimmy Sopa August 02, 2012 at 05:22 AM
The information shared from ex-Scientology execs and other defectors clearly demonstrate that Scientology is a ruthless and dangerous cult. From coercion to secret jails, missing people, mysterious deaths, and classic 'brainwashing' techniques, this cult makes Jonestown look like Disneyland. The pure practice of Scientology may not be inherently malicious, however the power-hungry warmonger David Miscavige has methodically morphed the organization into a supercult like none other before. Many of Miscavige's techniques are directly aligned with another charismatic cult leader -from Germany. I apologize for lack of detail in this monologue, but a quick search of "Scientology village voice" can shed light for anyone searching for the facts. In regards to the story above, I feel sorry for the town of Sandy Springs. The cult of Scientology will inevitably do irreparable damage to community and it's members. God save their souls.
Amanda Hugenquist August 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I'm a Scientologist, and I am very happy about it. My daughter is in the Sea Org, and she loves the long work hours, and the basic rations that they feed her. I haven't seen her in 5 years, but that is because she is too busy clearing the planet to come home for the vacations and visits that they said she would get. She called once about 6 months ago and told me that she was just too busy, with more important things and had to skip her grandmothers funeral. We miss her, but are so proud of the work she is doing. I know she isn't doing it for the money because she is making less then $50 a week, and we send her money for her to live on. She is very important, and doing important work. It's sad her brother isn't as theta as she is. He left Scientology, and the Sea Org and has made CRAZY claims about what goes on in it. We don't talk to him anymore, because of that. We want to continue up the bridge to total freedom, and we can't do that if we are talking to our supressive son. Our ethics officer was clear that talking to him was ruining our eternity. I wish he would stop talking crazy nonsense so that I could talk to him again and still go up the bridge. But maybe next lifetime he will do better. I don't know why additional parking is needed, it's not like we are going to use it. Our Org (church) has been slow for ages, but I'm sure it will expand like the rest soon. ARC
Rex Fowler August 28, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Cool, so there are car park spaces for 105 cars but even their biggest "orgs" only have like 10 or 15 people at any one time in there. The only time 105 car park spaces will be needed is when they ship in paid actors for the opening ceremony who pretend to be scientologists to make it all look good for the cameras. The cult is shrinking, too many people know about the child slavery and the forced abortions, not to mention the creepy Tom Cruise and Travolta stuff. I look forward to when FBI agents go and arrest David Miscavige. It's coming.
An informed reader August 29, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Why all this fuss about the cult... ooops, "Church" of Scientology? Find out for yourself. Just go to Wikipedia and look up "Scientology" or its predecessor "Dianetics" or their inventor "L R Hubbard" a college dropout who was kicked out of the Navy, sought psychiatric treatment, and then became a hack science fiction writer. THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.
David Miscavige August 29, 2012 at 11:47 AM
In so far as shrinking, sir, you couldn't be more wrong. We are expanding, upwardly, vertically and upwardly. People of Sandy Springs, we look forward to your patronage. Please remember to use unscented Auditor's Choice hand cream.
David Miscavige August 29, 2012 at 11:49 AM
I will take care of this immediately...with my OT powers.
David Miscavige August 29, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Please refrain from verbal tech. You message has been noted in a KR. Expect a call from OSA. Remember, If your lips are flappin', I come a-slappin'!


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