Church gets approval to use Dove World property


Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 9:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 9:36 p.m.

A growing Gainesville church moved closer to taking over the property of the controversial Dove World Outreach Center Thursday.

The city Plan Board unanimously approved a permit for the Spirit of Faith Christian Center to locate and eventually expand on the roughly 20-acre property, which is in the 3700 block of Northwest 58th Place and next to a residential neighborhood.

Spirit of Faith is in negotiations to purchase the property. If the sale goes through, Dove World has plans to move to the Tampa Bay area, pastor Terry Jones said Wednesday.

Since 2009, Jones and his small congregation have generated controversy for their anti-Islam message. A planned Quran burning on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks drew international attention before being called off at the last minute. The following spring, the reaction to a YouTube video and news reports of a Quran burning by a Dove World member included a riot in Afghanistan. At least 20 people were killed.

At Thursday's meeting, Clay Sweger, a land planner representing Spirit of Faith, said that at neighborhood meetings regarding the church's application, residents were "very welcoming of the change" and of "this new neighbor."

Spirit of Faith currently holds Sunday service at the Phillips Center.

If the Dove World purchase goes through, the church, which has a congregation of approximately 1,000, plans to renovate the building on site and move in by September.

The permit approved on Thursday allows for future expansion to include a school and day-care center.

Sweger said those potential plans may be years away but the church wanted to "spell them out up front."

The conditions of the permit cap the congregation at 1,800, the enrollment of the planned school at 300 and the day care at 150 children.

There has to be landscape buffer along Northwest 37th Street, according to the permit. If and when future development moves ahead, a second entrance/exit to the property and sidewalks would be required.

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