Church, Neighbors at Odds Over Sports Ministry

Neighbors reject bright lights, late nights.

Prayer took a back seat to presentation as the pastor of Carrollton's First Baptist Church sought a miracle of sorts from city council members, hoping for a change in zoning that would clear the way for the church to build a massive athletic complex to support a sports ministry.

First Baptist Church already owns the 73 acres of land north of state Highway 121 just east of Hebron Parkway.   Since the city council first approved the construction of a new church campus in 2002, the plans have changed. 

Church leaders, seeking more community appeal through athletics, revised its plans to include a sports ministry --  A $5 million complex complete with two football/soccer fields, two baseball/softball fields, two sand volleyball courts, a park setting and a building for a small number of worshippers.

The entire area would require significant lighting for night games, which is only one of the obstacles faced by the project.

The major obstacle is that neighbors who live in very affluent homes adjacent to the church's property don't want athletic fields with games being played all day and at night under the lights.  They cite noise, crime, traffic, property values and hundreds of lights all as negatives.  Neighbors also told council members that when they invested in the area, a new church coming to the neighborhood was what they welcomed, not athletic fields.

Carrollton's zoning commission has repeatedly rejected the changes proposed by the First Baptist Church, but church leaders took their case to council members who have the power by super majority to overturn it.   They did just that in a 6-1 vote after receiving assurances about how far the fields would be from the homes and the times at which the lights will be turned off each night.

Homeowners in attendance at the meeting heckled council members after the vote and some questioned whether at least two council members actually attended or were members of First Baptist Church and if they should have abstained instead of casting a vote.

Just two votes against the zoning change would have sunk the church's plans for the sports ministry.

Now the project is full speed ahead, church leaders said work can begin immediately on the athletic fields, but building a massive new church at the location, could take years, perhaps until 2017.

Homeowners were so angry at the decision that many of them spontaneously began beeping and blaring their car horns in disgust outside of city hall.

A group of the homeowners have sought legal representation and may challenge the decision, taking their appeal to the courtroom.

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