JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A small church in Oceanway says the City of Jacksonville is threatening to shut it down unless it begins a process that could cost it thousands of dollars. According to church leadership it’s all over a piece of paper.
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There’s been a church on the property here on the intersection of Cedar Point Road and Boney Road since the 1940′s.
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Windell Wingate has been attending since he was a little boy and still goes to the church currently named Oak Grove Lighthouse Mission Church.
“These are the people that brought me up in the church and my mentors,” Wingate said.
Wingate told Action News Jax the current congregation moved into the building about eight years ago and everything went fine up until a routine inspection earlier this month.
“Told us that we don’t have a certificate of occupancy,” Mike Jenkins, one of the trustees at Oak Grove Lighthouse Mission Church, said.
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Jenkins said the city told the congregation without that document, they’d have to vacate the property by March 10th.
“And you’re going to have to hire an architect and have them create a life safety plan and that’s about $7,800, which is more money than the church actually has in its coffers right at the moment,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said the $7,800 is just the cost upfront.
He explained applying for permits and potential repairs down the line could add on an additional $10,000 or more - Money Jenkins worries the small congregation of roughly 20 members can’t scrape together.
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Wingate suspects the certificate of occupancy has become an issue to try and force the church to close and the property owners to sell the land.
He points to the new developments in the surrounding area as a possible explanation.
But Wigate said he won’t let his sanctuary be closed down without a fight.
“We’re gonna stand for this church and I’m one that will stand in front if I have to,” Wingatecsaid.
We reached out to the city, which confirmed the church must develop a life safety plan.
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“The next inspection is scheduled for April 10, but that timeline is often extended while progress continues,” Caroline Adkins with the City of Jacksonville said.
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