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Mt. Zion says hotel encroaching on church property

John Grant, pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, has filed with the city about hotel construction crews trespassing on church property as a large hotel goes up next door on South Spruce Street. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The head pastor of one of Asheville's most historic churches said city leaders have been giving him the runaround.

At issue are numerous complaints John Grant, pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, has filed with the city about hotel construction crews trespassing on church property as a large hotel goes up next door on South Spruce Street.

Grant said the developer of the Foundry Hotel has repeatedly trespassed on the church's property. He said the developer is also parking construction equipment on the church's side of the private street.

"That's our property. We feel we should be allowed to us it. We shouldn't be deprived of use of our property because a hotel is doing construction next door," Grant said.

The developer of the Foundry said hotel officials have bent over backward to accommodate the church's requests. The developer said Monday crews will erect a barrier to improve safety.

There's a chain link fence that serves as a dividing line between Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church and the Foundry Hotel. Grant, president of the 137-year-old church, has photos that show construction equipment on South Spruce Street and bins on church property he said have gone unchecked for a year, even after numerous emails.

"We have notified them in person in writing and all to no avail," Grant said, displaying emails he's had with the developer and city leaders.

"We submitted about 55 pages of photos to the city which clearly and indisputably show that they are trespassing on church property," Grant said.

The church owns one side of South Spruce Street, the developer the other. On Oct. 16, Grant asked the city to suspend the Foundry's permit because of concerns about safety, saying "Afi' s(or the hotel's) contractors have repeatedly given oral warnings to Mt. Zion's elderly congregants, staff and visitors all on foot, with some congregants also using canes that they need to exit the church property that lays inside South Spruce Street."

The church also reached out to Asheville police.

"We notified the chief of police on three different occasions by writing that we'd like for them to come and issue a citation," Grant said.

Instead, city manager Gary Jackson contacted the church.

"He subsequently informed us that he was responding on behalf of the chief of police.

City officials have now ordered the hotel to build a safety pedestrian barrier, and the developer has agreed. Grant just wishes it didn't have to come down to telling his story on TV.

"Just a little baffling to us what's going on here," he said.

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