Church and city remain entangled in legal dispute

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2005

The congregation of Greater Love Outreach Center has been worshiping at its new church on South Saratoga Street for nearly a year.

But the church and the city, which forced Greater Love out of its home at 307 E. Washington St. in late 2003 through condemnation, have yet to strike a financial deal on the property.

Less than a decade before the condemnation, Greater Love bought the 100-year-old brick building which generations of Suffolk residents remember as a liquor store. In subsequent years, the church renovated the spacious building, creating worship space, rooms to carry out its numerous community ministries and installing high-tech wiring needed for Internet access.

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The church is satisfied with its new home and the city has long since completed work on the new G.W. Carver traffic circle, viewed by some city leaders as the kickoff of the $10 million urban revitalization project, The Fairgrounds.

Though the &uot;quick-take&uot; arrangement, the city, working through the courts, paid the church $180,000 for the property last year, said Norfolk attorney Joe Waldo, who is handling the case for Greater Love.

But according to a private appraiser, Greater Love’s total value is around $400,000. The city’s initial payment for the property does not adequately compensate the church, Waldo said.

&uot;With respect to the issue on just compensation, the church still feels strongly at this point that it hasn’t been treated fairly,&uot; he said.

That figure, which is based on an old appraisal, does not account for everything the church lost because of the condemnation, Waldo said. For example, the church had just had a costly architectural plan for an upward expansion completed a few weeks before learning of the condemnation, he said.

&uot;Right now, it is set for trial on Feb. 4,&uot; said Waldo, who is representing Greater Love. &uot;But the city wants to talk settlement. They have called for a settlement conference sometime in January.

&uot;We are hoping we will be able to settle it out of court,&uot; he said. &uot;But we are prepared to try the case next month if no agreement is accepted.&uot;

City Attorney C. Edward Roettger would not comment, citing ongoing legal discussions.