Historic church wants parking issue with city settled

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Parking problems for Main Street Baptist Church, a historic black church in downtown Lexington that dates back with the city to the mid-80’s, hit an emotional speed bump at Tuesday afternoon’s urban county council work session.

“It’s a sad day for our city,” says Richard Moloney, Urban County Counncilmember in regards to a take it or leave it letter the city sent to Main Street Baptist this week with a proposed solution to a parking space problem decades in the making.

The church wants the city to guarantee 250 parking spaces for its congregation as the spaces its been using are being taken away by construction of the expanded Central Bank Center and Town Branch Park. The city offered 250 spaces in the Central Bank Center garage when the center doesn’t need them along with more permanent parking from a land swap with the park. The city’s letter said if the church doesn’t accept the offer, permanent parking and the land swap are off the table.

“There’s no one here that is doing anything but working as hard as they can to make this work for everyone,” says Tyler Scott, Mayor Linda Gorton’s chief of staff.

The church says promises the city made in 1985 are now being ignored and all the favoritism being shown to Town Branch Park.

“When you are at a position, and I’m the pastor of the church and I’m hearing from the mayor’s office that 250 parking spaces would not be guaranteed and would not be given to you all, then you get into survival mode,” says the church’s pastor, Reverand Victor Sholar. “Now you’re thinking about your future. Now you’re wondering whether we’re going to be able to remain because I refuse to allow my church die.”

Emotions ran high at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is not the way you do work with people and this is a disgrace,” says Moloney. “I’m still more upset now than I was when I previously did because it basically tells me that somebody in house made you all write something without doing their homework first.”

The church says it only wants an acre from 8 acres the city is giving the park, designated spots in a new parking garage, or the Jefferson Street Bridge Viaduct.

“Do I think this is going to be the arrangement 10 years from now with the church? I would be surprised if that’s what the arrangement is because I think something better will come along,” says David Barberie, lawyer for the city.

The city says it’s trying to honor the verbal agreement made decades ago, but can’t under law spend public money for private use which further complicates possible solutions to the parking problems.

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