Tremont Temple Missionary Baptist Church has been fighting zoning officials over plans to sell its historic property.
Now it’s fighting the tax man, too.
In an unusual move, the Macon-Bibb County Board of Tax Assessors has filed two lawsuits against Tremont Baptist Church Inc. to appeal decisions from the Board of Equalization.
Such appeals in Bibb County Superior Court aren’t common, and they’re almost always appealed by the property owner rather than the Board of Assessors.
In the lawsuits, the tax assessors say the church is improperly getting tax exemptions for places not being used for church business.
One of the properties in the lawsuit is 860 Forsyth St., the historic location of the church that has been for sale for seven years and vacant for most of that time. Martin Luther King Jr. was among the pastors who preached services in the building, according to the church’s website. The church wants to sell the building to a developer who plans to turn the property into a Dunkin’ Donuts shop.
In the lawsuit, the tax assessors say the property doesn’t get a religious exemption because it’s vacant and not being used for religion.
“Latent ownership of a property by an otherwise tax exempt entity is not sufficient for the property to qualify as tax exempt,” the assessors wrote.
The property is valued at $177,494. Tax assessor documents say the land — which is close to The Medical Center of Central Georgia — is worth more than the building itself, which could be expensive to raze. An online bill from the Bibb County tax commissioner’s office lists the current taxes as about $2,400 on the property, with pending back taxes of about $10,650.