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Church may become 'gray space'
County likes site for senior center
lakeland  church WEB
The county commission has voted to buy Lakeland Southern Baptist Church on Sharon Road in south Forsyth and convert it into a senior center. - photo by Jim Dean

One Forsyth County senior citizen says he's heard enough about the color green.

"There's green stimulus, there's green space and we even have green tea," said Herman Tannenbaum as he urged county commissioners to "not overlook gray space."

Tannenbaum and about a dozen other seniors applauded the commission's decision Thursday night to buy and convert a south Forsyth church site into a senior center.

Commissioners voted 4-0, with Chairman Charles Laughinghouse absent, to acquire Lakeland Southern Baptist Church and about 11 acres off Sharon Road for $2.5 million.

Before the decision, the board held a public hearing to gauge residents' reaction to the plan.

Funding for the church site will come from last year's extension of the 1-cent sales tax, said Chief Financial Officer Bill Thomas.

Interim County Manager Doug Derrer told the board the county was getting a good deal.

"This is a great value for the product you're getting," Derrer said.

Commissioner Jim Harrell asked Derrer how comfortable he was with that recommendation "because I've had a couple phone calls on this one in terms of value."

Derrer stood by his assessment.

The county has 180 days before the deal closes, during which time it will put forward $15,000 in earnest money in case surveyors and inspectors find any reason to abandon the deal.

The 12,614-square-foot structure would be the county's third senior center, joining one on Dahlonega Highway in

Cumming and a second facility on Lanier Drive in north Forsyth.

The third location is badly needed if you ask Dorothy Jean Bagwell, who lives across from the proposed center.

"This would be great ... these centers are special places for seniors to go," Bagwell said. "I go three or four times a week to the senior center."

Lakeland Southern Baptist member David Rapson said the congregation voted unanimously to sell the church, though it's interested in leasing the building from the county for a while.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard has previously said that would not be out of the question as a revenue-generating opportunity and to give the church time to find a new home.

Rapson said the decision to sell the property was "based on the need of the community ... we discovered there was a real need."

Tannenbaum said it's a justified need.

"A community is judged by how well they treat their elderly," he said. "It is fiscally sound policy for us to invest in our senior presence."