Altamonte Springs church could be torn down for low-income housing

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ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - Altamonte Springs residents are devastated Monday over a developer's plans to tear down their church in Seminole County.

The 250 church members are trying to stop the 21-acre property on 1130 Merritt St. near State Road 436 and Ronald Reagan Boulevard from being rezoned and replaced with 159 affordable income apartments.

Church officials said they only moved into the leased building four months ago and had plans to expand.

Out front, a temporary sign still stands.

They're writing dozens of letters to county leaders to keep the doors open.

"It would be a terrible disaster," Bertha Smith said.

Other people in the community believe the areas needs more housing, especially when Sunrail starts making stops at the Altamonte Springs station next year.

The complex could include bicycle parking, a coffee shop and a news stand.

Altamonte Springs resident Wealthy Bird said she has lived across the street from the church property since it was orange groves. She worries the low-income housing could attract crime like it does at complexes nearby.

"All kinds of riff-raff was moving in which we didn't want, and I am afraid that is what is going to happen over here," Bird said.

The developer said the church knew its lease was up next year, but that's not deterring church members and the pastor from trying to stop the county from re-zoning the property from residential to "planned development."