Prattville – The Prattville Board of Zoning Adjustment voted 3-2 to disapprove the petition for a Use-On-Appeal by First United Methodist Church Tuesday afternoon at City Hall.
The church and neighboring homeowners are in opposition over whether a 56-space parking lot should exit onto East Fifth Street. The church feels that the exit is needed to remediate traffic that is currently emptying only onto East Fourth Street. Neighboring residents are concerned that such a move would devalue their homes and have a possible detrimental impact on the historical district.
Will Barrett of Constantine Engineering, speaking on behalf of the First United Methodist Church, suggested that the exit would enhance the area, not harm it.
“I’d like to debunk allegations that this outlet would do damage to the surrounding historical district,” Barrett said. “A manned gate (on church days) would alleviate any traffic problems and prevent non-church members from parking in the lot.”
Church senior pastor Bill Elwell is not the biggest fan of parking lots because they need to be maintained. He does, however, feel that this exit is necessary because church attendance is increasing.
“We’re a growing church and took in 83 members last year, so that’s more cars. We also have a unique situation in Prattville because we have so many of our churches in one area. I believe Daniel Pratt had a vision for that,” Elwell stated.
Roger Kennington, of 125 East Fifth Street, believes that the current church parking situation is sufficient.
“I’ve watched the lot the last two or three Sundays and they have no problem getting out of the grass parking lot. There is no reason why they need to come out on Fifth Street,” Kensington said.
Kennington was also concerned about the effect the exit would have on his property values.
“In this economy, I don’t need to take a hit on home depreciation,” he added.
Dr. Gerald Cimis, also in opposition, stated that his main focus was on preserving and maintaining the historical nature of the district.
“Alabama law says you must take into consideration the character of the neighborhood and the suitability of the use in conserving the value of the buildings,” Cimis said. “Prattville ordinance says that Use-On-Appeal is an exception and that the Zoning Board is to preserve and protect the character of the neighborhood.”
Prattville Board of Zoning Adjustment Chairman Leo Jamieson stated a lack of prior cooperation from the church, public input, and the effect that the exit would have on the area, as his rationale for voting against the church’s request.
“My major concern was the possible detrimental impact this would have on the historical district. I was also bothered by the fact that citizens were not kept informed and they were not getting the information out to the residents,” Chairman Jamieson said.
It is not known at this time whether the church will appeal the Board’s decision to Circuit Court.
Article by Marc Parker
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