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UPDATED: Church special-use permit sparks controversy in neighborhood
by Caroline Young
June 05, 2012 10:56 PM | 2427 views | 2 2 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Tensions rose Tuesday between a woman representing a Brookhaven homeowners' group and a church pastor before the Neighborhood Planning Unit-B zoning committee voted 5-2 to approve a special-use permit request from the Peachtree Road Evangelical Lutheran Church of Atlanta.

The vote, which came during the meeting at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Buckhead, was opposed by NPU-B zoning chair Bill Murray and NPU-B committee member Bob Connelly.

“Unfortunately this got really personal,” Murray said. “Neither party approached it in a mature adult manner. It’s all about negotiations.”

The church, located at the corner of Narmore Drive and Peachtree Road, plans to create a daycare in a church-owned building.

Cathy Boston, vice president of the Historic Brookhaven Neighborhood Association and head of its zoning committee, said she and most of her neighbors believe the nursery will be disruptive and decrease the neighborhood's property value. She added the church thinks she is a “child hater.”

"No matter how many children you love, who would want a five day-a-week, all-day daycare for 24 toddlers next door to you? I think anyone would recognize it's disruptive," Boston said.

She suggested the church construct a new building on its 2-acre property and pointed out the building needed more than a new coat of paint.

"I question it because this house has been sitting in major disrepair for years. I'm concerned about the possibility for mold and poisoning from lead-based paint."

However, Boston had no legal reason to deny the special-use permit. The Rev. Kirk Bridgers said the church would like to build a new daycare center in the future but sees the existing building as the only option now. He said they are not in the right financial place to build another facility.

"Many neighborhoods adjacent to institutional uses should get together with their own neighborhood committees and civic association and have a discussion amongst themselves," said NPU-B chair Sally Silver, "and then perhaps talk with the institution about plans and what is feasible and what is not."

Silver said she sees lawsuit after lawsuit over institutional buildings, not just churches, and special-use permits in Atlanta.

"It's a crazy thing," she said.

"I have plead for several years to the director of planning that any institutional uses that make an application with the city file a projected master plan so it is not to take small bites on and on and on," Silver said. "They would be held to a master plan."

Voicemail messages left with Bridgers seeking further comment had not been returned as of Wednesday.

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