By John Schaffner

The Peachtree Heights East Neighborhood Association (PHENA) won at least a temporary victory in its bid to keep the Cathedral of Christ the King from obtaining permission for the construction of an expanded parking deck at 2699 Peachtree Road that would further encroach into the neighborhood.

By a vote of 7-0 with one abstention May 26, the Zoning Committee of Neighborhood Planning Unit B (NPU-B) approved the Catholic cathedral’s application for:

• A rezoning of the property at 2699 Peachtree Road to provide for certain expansion plans.

• A special exception to eliminate the required 226 on-site parking spaces for a church with a private school to permit off-site parking.

• A special use permit to allow church and school uses on the subject property, with the exception of a heavily contested proposal for the expanded parking deck facility, which was the heart of the controversy between PHENA and the church.

In a packed meeting room at the Hyland Center at the Cathedral of Christ the King, where the committee meets monthly, the NPU-B committee heard lawyers for both sides and neighborhood spokesmen argue their positions concerning the parking deck.

Months of negotiations between the church and the neighborhood left the parking deck as the only bone of contention in the church’s application for an expansion that mostly affects its educational and recreational facilities.

PHENA remained adamant in its position that the neighborhood, NPU-B and the city should not now approve the possible future construction — at least 10 years off — of an expanded parking deck for which both sides agree there is no proven need now or in the future.

Over the past several months, negotiators for the church and PHENA have met regularly and hammered out concessions to the church’s original expansion plans. The church removed plans for a new rectory and moved a proposed recreation building to eliminate the neighborhood’s objections to the facility crossing an alley and intruding into the neighborhood.

After many months of discussions, the neighborhood refused to budge on the parking expansion, which neighbors said would put a parking facility in their backyards.

Even two conditions agreed to by the church did not satisfy Peachtree Heights East.

One of the conditions read: “Redevelopment of the existing parking deck and expanded parking deck property to construct the expanded parking deck shall not commence until after 10 years from the date of the city of Atlanta’s approval and then only after certification to the PHENA board by an independent traffic or parking consultant that, for four weeks out of a consecutive eight-week period, on-street parking for the cathedral’s Sunday morning services has extended beyond Demorest Avenue, at times when the existing parking deck has been at least 90 percent occupied.”

The second condition guaranteed to maintain green space between the expanded parking deck, if it’s built, and the easternmost property line on the south side of Peachtree Way.

The neighborhood agreed to all of the church’s amended expansion plans north of Peachtree Way, but its seasoned land-use lawyer, Larry Dingle, made PHENA’s case that there was no reason “to make a decision today on something that may or may not be needed within 10 years.”

The Zoning Committee agreed with the neighborhood’s position.

The church’s applications go before the full NPU-B board for a decision June 2.