By John Schaffner
After months upon months of negotiations between the Cathedral of Christ the King and the adjacent Peachtree Heights East Neighborhood Association (PHENA), the neighborhood’s prayers were answered June 2.
That night, Neighborhood Planning Unit B agreed to the church’s expansion plans minus a proposed lateral expansion of its parking deck that would have further encroached upon the neighborhood.
With lawyers and partisan representatives for both sides filling most seats in the audience at the meeting at the Hyland Center at the Cathedral of Christ the King, the full NPU-B board voted overwhelmingly to follow its Zoning Committee’s recommendation of May 26 and approve 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.
The months of negotiations between the church and the neighborhood had 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.
Both sides agreed at the Zoning Committee meeting May 26 that the parking deck expansion would be removed from the special use permit request.
PHENA had 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 agreed 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. At the end of the NPU-B board meeting June 2, both sides still were hammering out details of certain concessions, which they refused to discuss with the media. By the Zoning Committee meeting May 26, the church had 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 the many months of discussions, the neighborhood had refused to budge on the lateral parking deck 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, and the parking deck expansion plans were removed from the special use application.
The church’s applications were scheduled to go before the city’s Zoning Review Board in early June and before the Board of Zoning Adjustment on Aug. 6.