By John Schaffner
It took Dist. 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook and attorneys for the Catholic Archdiocese to step in to settle a stalemate that had persisted for almost a year over signing off on an agreement that was part of the special use permit granted Christ The King church for its expansion plans.
That stalemate finally was brought to a conclusion June 16 with the exchange of a formal agreement for signatures by the Peachtree Heights East Neighborhood Association and Christ the King Catholic Church.
At issue has been agreements that were reached last year regarding the building and use of a Courtyard Park at the rear of the church’s school buildings along East Wesley Drive.
Those agreements, reached by the the neighborhood association and the church were a major reason Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board and City Council approved a special use permit allowing certain construction improvements for the church, which had been prohibited from expansions through prior covenants.
According to Sue Roberts, president of the neighborhood association, which is called PHENA, the neighborhood agreed to the approval of the special use permit because it had reached an agreement with the attorneys for the church and was assured a signed agreement would be immediately forthcoming.
Almost a year later, the neighborhood association had no signed agreement and the church was refusing to put restrictions on the use of Courtyard Park green space. However, the church had moved forward with building the Courtyard Park.
Father Frank McNamee had sent a letter to PHENA on March 13, 2009, describing the Courtyard Park as being used for a “grassed playground” for the school children and “no structures are proposed or planned for the lots east of the current campus boundary (the alleyway) between Peachtree Way and East Wesley Road.” The letter also promised the park would be green space, landscaped and environmentally sensitive.
However, Christ the King School’s fall newsletter last year stated the Courtyard Park would include a meditation space and grotto that can be used for an outdoor classroom or a place for mass. That conflicted with the promises made to the neighborhood. Other expanded uses also were described.
The neighborhood asked Shook to get involved and seek to rescind the special use permit council had approved last year. Neighborhood Planning Unit B Development vice president Sally Silver became involved as a negotiator between the two parties.
Shook, who at one point was a member of the church, made it clear that the special use permit had cleared council because of the agreements. He told the church it needed to make good on the agreements.
Finally, after lawyers from the archdiocese got involved in the discussions, the paperwork was finalized. The two sides signed the documents on June 16.
“Miracles do happen sometimes,” Silver said.