Religion

Vineyard dropping out of school deal

Henry Clay Boulevard residents put up signs opposing the purchase. Some neighbors feared the possibility of increased traffic, parking problems, noise and church outreach programs.
Henry Clay Boulevard residents put up signs opposing the purchase. Some neighbors feared the possibility of increased traffic, parking problems, noise and church outreach programs.

A Lexington church told congregants Sunday it is dropping plans to buy the former Julia R. Ewan Elementary School following neighborhood opposition to the sale.

Jimmy Fields, executive pastor of Vineyard Community Church, said Sunday there will be a 3:30 p.m. news conference Monday on the steps of the school on Henry Clay Boulevard.

Fields would not confirm the church's plans, but the change was announced to the congregation Sunday morning.

"It's been a real challenging time," Fields said. "We're just going to share with the public" on Monday.

Bill Meade, the owner of the property, didn't return a call Sunday night. Bruce Simpson, the church's attorney, wouldn't elaborate on the plans.

Fairway Neighborhood Association president Valerie Askren said she had heard rumors but declined further comment.

In July, Vineyard announced plans to buy the school from Meade, who purchased it at public auction in 2009 for $1,225,000 from Fayette County Public School s.

Vineyard, which had a contract to buy the school for $1.5 million, was the third party to express interest.

Creation Kingdom Fairway, which hoped to buy the school for a childhood development center, abandoned its monthlong effort in April.

Last September, Lexington's Good Shepherd Day School abandoned its efforts to buy the building for use as a faith-based school. A church official said it was unable to raise the money to buy the property.

Vineyard has been looking for a new building for the congregation of about 500. It rents a site on Winchester Road, but the lease is expiring at the end of the year.

Its plan to buy the Ewan property came under fire almost immediately from neighbors, who posted signs in their yards reading "Say No to Vineyard."

Neighbors expressed concerns about increased traffic, parking, noise and the church's outreach programs to the poor at public meetings.

Vineyard member Fred Boggs said that he was disappointed when he heard the news at the 10 a.m. service but that he supports church leaders.

"I think that's the wisest decision that the church could make," Boggs said. The transaction had gotten too complicated to pursue, he said. He's hopeful that there will be other opportunities for the church to serve the community.

Brent Webber, who has attended Vineyard for about two years, said people "were surprised" when pastor Kevin Clark said the church was dropping the move.

Last week, staff of the Lexington-Fayette County Board of Adjustment recommended approving the sale, with restrictions on parking and church activities. A board vote was set for Friday.

But Clark told church members that Fairway Neighborhood Association probably would appeal and that even if the church won, it would not have neighborhood support.

"You can fight the battle, but in this case, why?" Webber said. He said the congregation is concentrating on "not harboring any grudges or ill will, just believing something better will come along."

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