Local Family Fight to Protect Historic Church

White Rock Chapel in Addison. | Image by White Rock Chapel

A local family is fighting to preserve the White Rock Chapel in Addison, fearing that it could be demolished.

White Rock Chapel is a historic Texas church originally founded by former slaves in 1884. The church has long been considered a place of “racial reconciliation and understanding.”

Since its founding, the church has endured the destruction of two of its buildings, with the first being demolished in a storm and the second burning down due to an alleged case of arson in 1960. The congregation worshiped in a parsonage for 21 years following the fire before finally replacing it with a new fellowship hall in 2009.

Donald Wesson and his family bought the property the church was on in 2018 when it fell out of use. The Wessons had feared that the church would be demolished, according to NBC 5 DFW.

The Wessons have since been taking measures to revitalize the building and transform it into a place of worship for all faiths, filing a request with Addison to rezone it. However, the family has encountered setbacks, including residents who oppose the move.

“When we were moving forward with the permits that we needed to restore the chapel, neighbors in the surrounding neighborhood put up opposition,” said Wesson, NBC 5 reported.

One such resident had written public input for the prospective rezoning back in May, claiming that they were “deeply concerned” about the unintended consequences of rezoning the church, with the main concern being a reduction in quality of life.

“Things like increased traffic, noise, and loss of privacy, especially considering that my property is immediately adjacent and at a lower elevation with no fence,” reads the comment. “In my private meeting with the Wessons, I was told in effect, ‘if I could have busloads of kids here every day, then I would.’ This is absolutely unacceptable just by itself, not to mention all the other things which could also come along with a permit change as I border the church property.”

Addison officials said they had received similar complaints from 20% of residents within 200 feet of the proposed rezoning site.

Despite their efforts, the family’s last special use permit filing failed to pass by only one vote.

“It was disappointment. It was really disappointment,” said Wesson, according to NBC 5.

However, the family continues to attempt to protect the church and has engaged in a legal battle with the town. Jeremy Dys, an attorney with First Liberty Insitute, is demanding that the town reverse its decision.

“They don’t have a permit to occupy the building, they can’t use it as a church, and so we were left with really no option but to suggest that the law is opposed to the city of Addison here, and if they don’t reverse course, and do so really quickly, then we’re going to be left with no choice but to take them to court,” said Dys, according to NBC 5.

Addison has since stated that it has been a supporter of the church for a long time and has even opted to waive the one-year waiting period for refiling, allowing the family to file once again.

The Wessons’ plan is to continue efforts to protect the historic church property.

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