Prattville church denied for third time

Written by: Jennifer Oravet - bio | email
Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) - A downtown Prattville church's growing pains will continue after a third denial by the Board of Adjustments. Prattville United Methodist wanted to expand its parking, but neighbors say the addition would disrupt the "sanctuary" of their quiet community.

Tuesday afternoon the board voted three "for" and two "against" a measure that would have allowed the church to move ahead with plans to build a new parking lot. Four members were needed for the measure to pass.

The crossroads meet in Prattville's historic community over a plot of land near Fifth Street and Chestnut Street, a busy thoroughfare right in the middle of a neighborhood focused on preservation. That runs contrary to the church's focus on the future.

"We are growing tremendously with the heavy influence of our military community in our area, and right now we are having a parking problem..." explains Associate Pastor Olivia Poole.

The church's solution is to convert a nearby field into a parking lot with an additional driveway on Fifth Street.  It's a new route that's driving homeowners like Gerald Cimis to the zoning board.

Cimis is worried about speeding cars and the increased traffic through the neighborhood. "An institutional parking lot coming in between two houses is not what you would expect in a historic district," he says, " and there's no need."

Neighbors say they've tried to meet with the church's board of trustees. In one attempt Cimis said the pastor mentioned the drive would help for future building plans, another source of contention.

"The pastor in his response letter that we just received Friday night said that he felt they were just going to put it in the hands, that the time for compromise or dialogue was over."

Poole disagrees saying the church has offered to put up a gate at the new drive and take neighbors to churches with similar landscapes. "We have tried ask our residents to come with us to look at these places," she said. " To our knowledge, they have not."

WSFA 12 News will have reaction to the board's vote on WSFA 12 News at 10:00pm.

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