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Some Southern Pines Residents Concerned About Local Churches' Expansion

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SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Some Southern Pines residents say they are tired of local churches sacrificing historic homes in the name of growth.

Residents like Abigail Dowd are worried about a recent trend in which churches buy old properties with houses on them, knock down the houses and expand the churches.

Brownson Memorial Presbyterian replaced homes with a parking lot. First Baptist plans to do the same, but wants to build an education wing, instead. Church leaders say they have more members and programs than ever before and that they need the space.

"I don't want to push churches out," Dowd said. "They're important to us, but I think they need to plan their growth the same way we need to plan our community, and I don't know if we've done a good job of either here."

Dowd wrote a new rule that town leaders want to adopt, which would require churches to obtain "special-use" permits before they can expand their buildings.

"We need to start looking at planning in a larger sense: the community, the town, the county, the state," Dowd said.

Residents will submit the amendment to Southern Pines' planning board for consideration Wednesday evening.

Church members did not want to comment to WRAL on camera.