An East Dallas church is caught in the middle of a dispute between a developer and neighbors who don’t want the church torn down.
Douglas Shaffer has found solace in the sanctuary of White Rock Community Church for more than 17 years; first as a member and now as the lead pastor.
You can sometimes find him walking down the rows of pews in the sanctuary.
He doesn’t mind that the air conditioning unit is broken or that temperatures inside hover around 90 degrees, according to a thermometer.
“Being in this large space, along with God and having this sense of my being very small and God’s bigger plan,” he said about the space he says he will greatly miss.
After much prayer and years of consideration, Shaffer says his congregation has decided to take on a new mission.
“We want to go outside the walls of the church and really embed ourselves in the community, doing missional work, expanding some of the work we’ve always done,” he said.
They have decided to sell the church located along Garland Road.
The sanctuary dates back to the 1960s and the chapel dates back to the 1950s, according to records obtained by the church.
There are many maintenance problems aside from the broken air conditioning system, said Shaffer.
The roof needs to be replaced and the entrance to the chapel flooded in a recent storm.
The church decided to sell to a developer who owns adjoining property.
According to Shaffer, the developer plans on tearing down the buildings to make way for new apartments.
However, the sale is contingent on a re-zoning application made by the developer.
Nearby residents plan on attending a Dallas Planning and Zoning meeting at 1 p.m. on Thursday to voice their concerns with the plans for the property.
“I wish they would meet us more in the middle,” said Lou Simmons who lives in the nearby Forest Hills Neighborhood. “This should be more of a parkway situation. There should be people walking or on bicycles and you can’t do that right now and so when they build a huge apartment block, it’s only going to encourage more cars not people walking around.”
Simmons says residents want the developer to try and salvage the buildings or at least listen to their input.
“Instead of four stories of apartments, maybe half of that and then some retail space or some sort of place for the community to gather. That doesn’t make money, but it does go far in helping the neighbors feel like this is a part of their neighborhood.”
Some have even suggested turning the sanctuary into a music venue.
“But they don’t realize we have about 30 parking places that are with our property,” said Shaffer of that idea. “My perception is they’re looking at any reason to try and save the building and try and keep it here and unfortunately I just don’t think that any of those are a realistic possibility.”
Shaffer says it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make improvements to the building.
Laura Doscher, chair of the church council, says the decision to sell the property has nothing to do with money problems, but rather an opportunity to invest their money into their programs instead of costly repairs.
“Everyone is really ready to see what God has for us next,” said Doscher.
White Rock Community Church has welcomed the LGBT community since it opened.
The church opened their doors and held funerals for people who died of AIDS when others wouldn’t, said Doscher.
“It’s been used for far too many funerals, it’s been used for very joyful holy unions and it’s had quite a few weddings,” she said.
The church says the money from the sale will help them expand programs that help those living with HIV/AIDS, those with mental problems and the homeless.