WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- New Hanover County says the church-owned home where a drive-by shooting suspect was arrested Tuesday will no longer be tax-exempt.
After a drive-by shooting in Creekwood Tuesday night ended with police arresting a man at a home on Wood Ridge Road near Monkey Junction, we found the home is owned by 5th Avenue United Methodist Church. We also learned the church has been renting it out while not having to pay property tax.
"The General Statute says that a church that has property that is solely and wholy used for religious purposes is exempt from taxation," New Hanover County Tax Administrator Roger Kelley said.
Kelley believes the home was at one point used as a parsonage for church pastors, but the church told us it's been renting the house for a couple of years as Section 8 housing.
"We got an anonymous tip from someone that the church was renting out a house and getting the exemption on the house," Kelley said.
That tip led him to send an employee to check out the situation.
"The tenant verified that they were renting the house and had been renting it for the last four years or so," Kelley said.
Kelley says the church never informed his office of the change of use. Now he says the church owes about $6,500 in back taxes for the past five years. Unless the church can prove it used the home for church purposes, it will have to pay the full amount plus penalties by Jan. 6.
We tried to talk to 5th Avenue UMC Pastor Joseph Peterson again today. He confronted us outside of the church and threatened to sue us for reporting the story.
Pastor peterson did say the church did not know about the problem with the taxes. He says if the church does owe money, it will pay it.