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Rockdale commissioners deny application for church’s preschool

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Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Conyers says it will appeal to Superior Court the Rockdale Board of Commission’s decision to deny a special use permit to open a preschool on its premises at 2533 Stanton Road.

The 195-year-old Ebenezer, believed to be the oldest church in Rockdale County, wants to expand its preschool program that operates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to one that operates 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to assist working families. 

Two of the three commissioners—Chairman Richard Oden and Commissioner Oz Nesbitt—voted April 8 to turn down the church’s application. Commissioner JaNice Van Ness, who owns the private Peachtree Academy, abstained from voting.

The board denied the application, even though the Rockdale Planning Commission and county staff had recommended approval.

Nesbitt said he voted no because he did not want to set up “interference” with local enterprises and competitors.

“These decisions aren’t easy decisions, but you have elected us to make tough decisions,” Nesbitt said.

Oden said he was concerned about doing what is equitable, pointing out that churches do not pay property taxes and businesses do. 

“This is not to send a message to churches that we don’t like churches,” Oden said

 Paige Rogers, who is Ebenezer’s church administrator, said she doesn’t understand how the board reached its decision.

 “None of what they addressed has anything to do with the codes and their decision should have been based on what the county codes say,” said Rogers. “From what I understand, we have 30 days to appeal to the Superior Court and that is what we’re going to do.”   

Rogers said the church applied for the special use permit because there is a greater need now for full-time preschool programs.

“We have operated our part-time daycare for 26 years. It was primarily for stay-at-home moms who wanted to bring their children a few hours every day. Now, moms are working full time and need full-time care,” said Rogers. “We want to be able to accommodate them.”  

Ebenezer now serves about 40 children ages 1 to 5. The church has the capacity to serve 70 children, Rogers said.  

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