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Church to demolish home, add parking for expansion
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First United Methodist Church will demolish the historic house at 2129 Monticello St. to create a gravel parking lot to accommodate expansion, but a nearby neighbor argued the house should be preserved.

The Covington City Council voted 3-1 on Monday to allow the demolition to take place. Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams opposed the motion and Councilman Chris Smith abstained, because he is a church member. Councilwoman Ocie Franklin was absent. The council's vote affirmed the decision made by Covington's Historic Preservation Committee, which approved the demolition in a split vote.

Sharon Lord lives across the street from the home and opposed the demolition because of the home's history (it was built in 1937) and because she believes it will lower her property value. She asked why the church had allowed the house to become dilapidated.

The church purchased the property in 1999, before Covington's historic preservation ordinances were created, and the Rev. Douglas Gilreath said the church had always intended to convert the house into a parking lot.

He said First United Methodist is a member of the North Georgia Conference, which requires churches to have adequate parking space before expanding operations to new facilities. The additional parking will help with expansion plans during the next three to five years, and will connect the church to the recently purchased Episcopal church.

Senior Planner Scott Gaither said the demolition request met the city's requirements and said that the house is not one of a kind. When a historic house is one of the last remaining homes of its particular historic style, extra consideration is given to preserving it under the city's ordinance. The 2129 Monticello St. house also had non-historic additions.

Lord said she respected the council's decision, but worried that the decision could set a precedent that historic home owners don't have to keep up their properties.