MARYLAND

Rockville Jehovah’s Witnesses at odds with neighbors over expansion

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ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - A Rockville church is at odds with its neighbors. The dispute centers on a project to expand the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness along Great Falls Road near Maryland Avenue.

The congregation wants to add a worship hall onto this house to lessen the burden on its main facility next door. But some residents would rather preserve the property. Photo: Kevin Lewis/WJLA

The controversy lies within a 1920’s home, which the church bought five years ago. The congregation wants to add a worship hall onto the structure to lessen the burden on its main facility next door. But some residents would rather preserve the property. 

Historians say the property was owned by freed slaves during the 1880's.

“So this is a very important property and area to preserve and we want to get more history documented as we go forward,” says Jim Coyle, president of the Rose Hill Falls Homeowner's Association.

But the Kingdom Hall, which owns the land, wants to build a 135-seat worship hall onto the back of the house.

Church elder Rod Escobar says his parish bought the home in 2008 after it sat abandoned for two years.

“It was in ill repair,” he says. “It needed a lot of work. It was full of rodents, overgrown, no one could see the house.”

The church poured $40,000 into renovations and collected $500,000 for construction. 

“We knew it was going to be an effort, but not like this, not five years.”

“It looks like an appendage that doesn’t belong,” says Marsha Douma.

Douma is against the addition, requesting Rockville add the house to its historic registry. 

“We will no longer have a house that can function as a reminder of the historic value and history of our community," Douma says.

“We want to have good relations with our neighbors. You know, we don’t want to fight with them because that’s not what we preach. We preach love, like Jesus did," says Jackson Jimenez.

The Rockville City Council is accepting public input through Monday with a final vote expected by Oct. 14.

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