La Vergne church still sidelined over disputed sidewalk plans - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

La Vergne church still sidelined over disputed sidewalk plans


It took a La Vergne congregation five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete a new church, but they've yet to hold a single worship service there.

That's because they still have to build a sidewalk in front of the church, and it's a sidewalk that would lead to nowhere.

The Rev. Wellington A. Johnson Sr. at Word of Life Church said he can't understand why a sidewalk that will not connect to anything is so important.

"There is no other sidewalk along this street. It's just a sidewalk in front of our property that's not connected to the property on either side of us," Wellington said.

But it's the one thing that's stopping his congregation from getting a certificate of occupancy to be able worship inside the new church.

"This is something that should not prevent us from going into our church, a sidewalk going nowhere, not being used," he said.

The problem is the 5-year-old site plan doesn't show a TDS Telecom phone box on it.

Apparently, weeks before submitting the plan, the church sold an easement to TDS. It happens to sit right in the path of the proposed sidewalk.

The Rev. Jason Blackburn and his Redemption Church congregation will be renting the new Word of Life building to hold evening services.

He assumed the right-of-way started from the pavement of Old Nashville Highway, but that's not the case.

An area view clearly shows the easement is set back a lot farther.

"From my understanding, as long as we approved plans for the sidewalk to go around the TDS box, the church was going to get issued a temporary certificate of occupancy," Blackburn said. "They turned their plans in Monday, and that didn't happen."

"It's at the building officials' discretion to issue a temporary certificate of occupancy. I don't take it lightly, and I don't usually issue a CO," said La Vergne Codes Director Randolph Salyers.

But he said he has done it before for a home owner.

The church members just found out Monday that they could have paid a fine in lieu of building the sidewalk five years ago.

That could still be an option.

"I would consider a 30-day temporary certificate of occupancy based on the approval of the amended site plans, and based on the fact that a contractor is standing ready, willing and able to start the sidewalk," Salyers said.

City codes officials said either one of those options will still have to be approved by city engineers and the planning commission.

The planning commission will consider the amended site plan or accept a fee in lieu of building the sidewalk at an upcoming meeting.

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