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ZAP case revives memories of church-neighborhood battles
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves
The Zoning and Platting Commission had no objection to voting in new zoning for St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in
This case had already been delayed once by ZAP, with little progress in the interim. The St. Vincent de Paul church campus, located off
The church will eventually serve up to 3,000 families, from both Davis Spring and Avery Ranch subdivisions, church officials said last night. That more than doubles current church membership.
At last night’s meeting,
City staff, in its recommendation, was more comfortable with GO-CO, a general office zoning category with a conditional overlay intended to limit daily trips. Such zoning, according to the staff recommendation authored by Planner Sherri Sirwaitis, would be sufficient to provide the zoning envelope for the church’s proposed development.
The Davis Spring community, however, has not been St. Vincent de Paul’s most enthusiastic neighbor, especially on Sunday mornings. At last night’s ZAP meeting, President Dan Harris noted that the community association was willing to negotiate on any aspect of the parking issue except a binding agreement to meet its obligations.
The church, on the other hand, preferred less-binding legal measures, such as setting up Sunday morning “no parking” zones to discourage neighborhood parking. Initial plans are to increase parking from 120 to 420 spots scattered from the church sanctuary to the current Catholic primary school that belongs to the church. Neighborhood association members questioned whether any parishioner – or, more specifically, any woman in heels carrying a small child – would follow such rules.
Attorney Ronald Walker, legal counsel for the Diocese of Austin, said the diocese wanted to work with the neighborhood on the parking issue but the church’s memorandum of understanding with five concessions to neighborhood parking was a “no go” with the Davis Spring Homeowners Association.
“The increased zoning does allow for more parking needs to take place,”
The church is willing to compromise,
Commissioner Donna Tiemann noted that parking on a neighborhood street, even in front of a stranger’s house to attend a church service, is not a prohibited use of public right of way. And Baker noted that it was hard for ZAP to deny the zoning change, saying that the proposal was considered reasonable in and of itself.
Commissioner Sandra Baldridge, who admitted that she attends a large church, noted that churches do like to grow, and that involves young children growing into teen drivers. She asked about the church’s growth projections concerning those drivers in the short and long terms, but church officials were unable to come up with a precise answer.
Current attendance is around 1,100 families. Tiemann asked what the growth-projection models were. Walker was a bit vague on this issue, too, but noted that growth at St. Vincent was expected to be consistent with other parishes in the area and that a new parish would be created at around the 3,000-family mark.
ZAP agreed to postpone the vote until February, in the hopes that
Baker suggested that both sides limit the number of participants in order to avoid a David-versus-Goliath situation, as it would be too easy for the church to overwhelm the neighborhood with participants.
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