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La Vergne Church Faces City After Constant Occupancy Certificate Rejection--Mikayla Lewis

Stream Fox 17 newscasts LIVE starting with TN Mornings at 5 am and News at 9 pm.

LA VERGNE, Tenn.--The City of La Vergne will not allow a local church to open its doors and hold service. Word of Life Family Worship Center on Old Nashville Highway, built and completed its new facility more than two years ago. The church says after constant challenges with the city moving the goal line, Word of Life filed a lawsuit against La Vergne. Tonight, the church took another approach facing the planning commission.

Members of the Word of Life and Giles Creek Baptist Churches filled La Vergne City Hall earlier tonight.

Giles Creek pastor Terry Campbell says, " Are we being religiously antagonistic? Why would any community want to stop a church?"

It was just one of many questions that Pastor Campbell asked the board about repeatedly denying Word of Life its occupancy certificate. Pastor Campbell helped build and complete the church with other volunteers more than two years ago.

Campbell says the church followed all of the city's requirements with the parking lot, landscaping, fire wall, detention pond but now there is a new obstacle. Campbell says the church is not allowed to hold service in its brand new building because of a sidewalk issue and utility box owned by TDS Telecommunications.

Right before the church sued the city, La Vergne released this statement to Fox 17 News :

When a site plan is submitted and approved by the Planning Commission, all specifications of the plan must be complete prior to occupancy in accordance with city ordinances and codes.  There are two separate issues or technical items that need to be resolved for the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the Word of Life site.


1.       Sidewalk.  The sidewalk submitted as part of the site plan could not be completed because a TDS box was placed where the sidewalk was designed to be built. The Planning Commission approved a fee in lieu of sidewalk on November 26, 2013 so that issue was resolved.


2.       Easement / Right of Way. The site plan was approved in 2008 by the Planning Commission. The church had given a right-of-way to the city through the site plan, but that easement had already been sold by the church to TDS two months prior to submitting the site plan. The church did not inform the city of the sale of the easement to TDS.  The easement which now contains a TDS box is in the same location as the city right-of-way. The city understands that to move the TDS box, it would cost taxpayers approximately $30,000.


As always, the city remains open to working with the church and other interested stakeholders in reaching an equitable resolution to this matter.

Kathy Tyson

PIO / Assistant City Recorder

Campbell says, " The cabinet is outside of the easement, that the city requires. The city has a requirement of 50 feet, 25 ft either side from the center line of the road. The front of this cabinet is sitting at 27 ft and 2 inches."

Pastor Campbell says the sidewalk that the city may or may not ever build leads nowhere, because there are not any other sidewalks along the road nearby.

Word of Life Pastor Wellington Johnson says, "Even if that utility box was not out there, they would probably find something else. I am convinced that they are looking for anything to keep us out. I don't know what the hidden agenda is."

Pastor Wellington says he is thankful for Pastor Campbell. Campbell also questioned the city on if it was using race as a factor in withholding the occupancy permit for the predominately African-American church.

Campbell says, " We can't afford the appearance of mistreating any group of any ethnic background."

The city of La Vergne declined to comment on the matter tonight. The city attorney gave Fox 17 the resolution which states the next step is taking civil action against the church.

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