Hiland Park Baptist Church Expansion Goes Before Commissioners

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PANAMA CITY, FL- The dispute between a local church and its neighbors wound-up in-front of Bay County Commissioners Tuesday. Hiland Park Baptist Church officials were asking the county to abandon 2-alleys so they could expand.

The church needs ownership of the alleys to meet the requirements of their approved expansion plans. But neighboring homeowners think the changes could have an adverse affect.

Hiland Park Baptist Church has been around since 1943, and their pastor, Steven Kyle says they've outgrown their current space.

"Talking about abandoning an alleyway,' Kyle said. "It's so much more than that. It's ab out continuing to meet the needs of the people that God has placed to us as a church in this county."

The church plans to make $8 million dollars in improvements and expansions. Church leaders say they need the 2-alleys located behind the church parking lot to get their local, and state permits.

Church representative Nevin Zimmerman said, "They believe that this is something that makes since for the community, come from this, because there is no need for the public easement there. And there's alot of good that can come from this by allowing the project to move forward ."

But residents who live near those right of ways voiced their concerns.

Lee Clements said, "We have serious questions about our access, stormwater, flooding , and safety."

"Give us a dedicated exit," Ken Siders added. "Turn left snd go back to Headland Avenue. It's easy, it can be done, I've talked to the engineers they'll allow it. Otherwise we're going to go between two large continuously wet ponds on a 15 foot strip of land."

After hearing the comments, board members voted 4 to nothing in favor of abandoning the alleys. Commissioner Bill Dozier abstained from voting because he's a member of the church.

Commission Chairman George Gainer said, "I think that those concerns were answered today in the form a legal easement that will give them more rights than they had before."

The church agreed to keep the alleyways open for the residents to use. They are expected to break ground on the new construction Sunday May 20th.

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