City pursuing title for church land

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 12, 2002

The city filed paperwork in Suffolk Circuit Court last week to assume the title of condemned property now occupied by a church.

The certificate of take filed against Greater Love Outreach Church this past Wednesday will transfer ownership of the church building – a renovated ABC store at 317 E. Washington St. – to the city, said City Attorney Ed Roettger.

The action was taken to ensure the city can proceed in January with its plans to replace the dangerous four-way intersection at East Washington, Hall, Culloden and Pinner with a traffic loop.

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Meanwhile, the church, through its newly hired lawyer, Joseph Waldo, is continuing to negotiate with the city to settle on a price. Condemnation papers given to council members last month show the city is willing to pay $140,000 for the property.

&uot;There is no way the church can get another building for its outreach program with the offer the city has made,&uot; said Waldo, who specializes in condemnation law. He said he believes the church would head to court if necessary.

The city also told the church it would not be responsible for any expenses incurred because of a relocation, Waldo said. &uot;That could run into thousands of dollars,&uot; he said.

The Rev. Willie Royster, pastor of Greater Outreach and founder of the church, said his congregation is willing to give up its church building and outreach center for progress.

&uot;We are not fighting against the city,&uot; Royster said. &uot;We want to see this area fixed up.&uot;

Royster said he retained legal help after learning the church building had been condemned last month.

&uot;I have a responsibility to make sure that we get whatever is due us as a church,&uot; he said.

Also, Royster said, he expects the city to live up to its promise made seven months ago to help the church find a new location. Although he said several months passed without help, he is now meeting with the city’s development coordinator, Elizabeth McCoury.

&uot;We’ve been looking on our own all along,&uot; Royster said.

The church’s outreach center has implemented several successful programs, including a mentoring program, a GED-preparation course, and a program designed to help young mothers move into the work force.