Nuwaubian expansion rejected
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 28, 2000
Rebecca McCarthy - Staff
Athens --- The Clarke County Board of Adjustments denied a
zoning variance request Tuesday from the leader of the
United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors to waive all buffer and
setback requirements for a Broad Street building adjacent to
a historic neighborhood.
Malachi Z. York, aka Dwight York, who moved with his
followers from Brooklyn, N.Y., five years ago to an
Egyptian-style community of 400 acres in Putnam County,
lists an Athens address on his petition. He wanted to add a
second floor that would double the square footage of the
one-story brick structure, formerly a toy and novelty story,
and use it as a fraternal lodge for his group.
In Brooklyn, York's Muslim-oriented group was known as
Ansaru Allah Community; in Putnam County, the group changed
its name, garb and ideology, and built numerous
Egyptian-style statues and pyramids outside Eatonton. In
cities across the country, including Athens, stores offer
classes about the group and sell Nuwaubian writings, a blend
of philosophies from the Bible, ancient Egyptian polytheism
and end-of-the-millennium alien visitation prophecies.
In Athens, York bought the Ideal Amusement building for
$285,000 this spring. It sits against the property line of a
historic house on Dearing Street, its roof line level with
the house's back yard. On its east side is Church Street, a
narrow road with a steep incline leading from Dearing to
Several residents of the Dearing Street neighborhood, where
homes date from the 1800s, spoke against granting the
variance, saying the lodge would further add to parking,
pedestrian and traffic problems. The neighborhood is one
block south of Broad Street.
Dearing Street homeowner Farley Richmond, head of the drama
department at the University of Georgia, said his street was
in "a delicate balance" and any change could cause serious
upset. UGA sociology professor Mark Cooney, a neighbor, said
the Board of Adjustments would be setting a bad precedent if
it granted the variances.
If the board allows a second floor to be built, said Dearing
Street resident Walter O'Briant, the Nuwaubians will have to
hire a helicopter to reach it because they won't have any
rear access to the building.
NAACP member Thomas Oglesby said the response of the
residents was racist and that the Nuwaubians have as much
right to do business as anyone else. Bernard Foster, who
identified himself as a contractor on the building, tried to
assuage the concerns of the residents, even as he chided
them for "prejudging" the Nuwaubians. He said the lodge
wouldn't have rowdy activity or disturb the people living
behind it. It would, he said, simply be a place where "we
could go as members of a fraternal organization and do the
things we do in unity."
After the unanimous decision to deny the variance, Foster
said he doesn't know whether York will use the building as a
lodge without expanding it or find a different location.
In Putnam County, Nuwaubian followers staged a rally at the
courthouse in Eatonton Tuesday afternoon, upset that the
names of some followers were taken off voter registration
rolls. A sheriff's spokesman said the rally seemed peaceful.