Church drops suit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 25, 2004

First Baptist Church has dropped the lawsuit against the City of Selma filed in federal court in Mobile, which means that apparently the Old YMCA Building on Broad Street is saved, at least temporarily.

According to the church’s bulletin, ‘The Evangel’, the church moderator presented the deacons from the Old Y Building committee a motion on August 18.

“The deacons recommend to the church that the present suit in Federal court be dismissed and the plans for demolishing the Old Y Building

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and enlarging our parking lot be suspended,” the bulletin read.

The announcement brings at least a momentary end to the strange saga that saw the church file suit against a Selma City government in which many prominent members of the church work.

The suit came about after the Selma Historic Development Commission voted unanimously to deny the church’s request in early May to destroy the building and put up a parking lot. Selma’s historic ordinance requires the commission’s approval to make changes to a building in the historic district, which includes the YMCA.

The church had the right to file an appeal or take it to federal court.

Tim Bjelke, an outspoken member of the Selma Historical Society, was pleased with the announcement.

It’s great that’s wonderful the historical society would love to sit down with first Baptist church people and talk about some ideas on what to do with it,” Bjelke said. “I know it’s in bad shape but it’s just a tremendous asset to the town. We look forward to doing whatever we can, pulling people together, grants, funding, anything we can do to get this thing going, to make it a viable part. Our main street just needs businesses. It needs buildings. It just doesn’t need parking lots.”

According to the bulletin, the committee unanimously informed the church that they have instructed their attorney, John Kelly III to proceed with dismissing the lawsuit.

Although Kelly could not be reached for comment, the suit has apparently been dropped.

“By suspending the plans, we feel that as a new pastor comes to our church, his goals, plans, visions and subsequent growth may dictate the need for something other than just simply additional parking in this valuable space,” the committee announced in the bulletin. “By suspending the plans, we will not spend money now and then at a later date, spend additional monies to meet future needs.

This will result in proper stewardship of the church’s funds.”

Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. said dropping the suit is “the Christian thing to do.”

The YMCA building was built around 1887. It’s designed in the Second Empire style and once featured a central, Mansard-roofed tower and two smaller towers on each side. However, it has fallen into a state of complete disrepair.

The Times-Journal was unsuccessful in its attempts to contact Kelly or First Baptist Old Y Committee member Elton Ralston.