|Board of Adjustment members Steve Kowolonek, Carol Dixon, Steve Dauer and Jim Beineke. Not pictured: Carla Austin.|
They submitted a design plan in October 2016 for a 23-space parking lot and the addition of a driveway that would allow for a circular flow of traffic entering on Chalfonte Place and exiting on South Fort Thomas.
RELATED: St. Andrews Proposed Parking Lot Plans Progress (November 2016)
Amid residents' concerns, the church withdrew that application and started fresh.
"We went back to the drawing board," said Jeff Flaherty, the lead for Cardinal Engineering. "The citizens had some concerns, so we listened to those and I think we've addressed them."
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The lot, which is proposed to be 117 feet by 60 feet will add 62 plants, trees and shrubs after seven trees are slated for removal. It will turn off from S. Fort Thomas Avenue and will slope down to grade. There will be three street spots eliminated with the construction of the parking lot apron. General Services Director, Kevin Barbian, added that the plan addresses the city's requirements in terms of landscaping and lighting and that the church had gotten the proper approvals from the Kentucky Department of Transportation, Duke Energy and the Fort Thomas Fire Department.
"Also most notably they were able to save the biggest and most-known tree in the greenspace bowl," said Barbian.
|St. Andrews. FTM file.|
Barbian noted that the church is currently zoned residential, but the church was requesting a conditional use permit to allow for the construction of a parking lot.
"They could decide to build a house on that greenspace tomorrow and so long as they adhered to the setbacks and site designs, (the city) could not have a say in that," he said.
Board Chair, Jim Beineke, echoed those sentiments.
"We all like greenspace, but we have to remember this space is privately owned. They could build a house there tomorrow and there would be nothing we could do," he said.
Still, some residents expressed their concerns with the proposed parking lot and said they'd much prefer a hypothetical home to be built rather than a parking lot.
Charles Schroer, an attorney and resident of Chalfonte Place said he sees this as another potential stepping stone for the church to continue to develop the greenspace in the area.
"This is private property but it's not a given that the church is entitled to the parking lot if this board determines a parking lot would be detrimental to the neighboring residents. If you're going to grant this, I'd like to see a condition put in place that there would be no further development with regard to a driveway on the west side of the property with a cut curb onto Chalfonte," he said.
That driveway, which was stricken from the most recent site plan, was originally proposed to run alongside Blake and Sandy Broering's home on Chalfonte. Their family has lived in the home for over 70 years.
|Broering's home (left) and St. Andrews (right). The original plan called for a driveway cut through the space between. FTM file.|
Melanie Powers said she has meticulously watched traffic patterns every Sunday and she believes a parking lot is not needed.
"(The church) is requesting to ruin the greenspace for everyone in the city. They'll ruin the historic integrity of the building and the space without investigating other alternatives like a shuttle or simply using other spaces around the church," she said.
Powers said that there are routinely open spaces across the street at Guardian Savings Bank and at the U.S. Post Office.
"The question is not whether you can do this, but whether or not you should," said Tonya Tulley, also a resident of Chalfonte Place. "You are going to leave a permanent mark on this city with this decision. And for what? One hour a week on Sundays? I think it's a waste."
St. Andrews' pastor, Fr. Jeff Queen, said his church population is aging and with an average of 200 people at each service, a parking lot is absolutely needed. He said that besides services on Sundays, there are programs throughout the week, specifically on Mondays and Wednesdays. "Our intention was always to be good neighbors and to try to keep with the integrity of the space," he said. "We are now $20,000 in with comments from residents, the city and the city staff. When is it going to be enough?"
Some parishioners of St. Andrews also spoke to the need of the parking lot.
"There are nine Protestant Churches and two Catholic Churches in Fort Thomas, which average 75 spaces for parking. Eight of those have adjacent parking lots next to their foundations. For 107 years St. Andrews has been without parking spaces. This is something our church needs," said Bill Holmes.
Ultimately the Board of Adjustment gave the plan approval for conditional use of a parking lot (5-0), albeit with a few conditions:
1) They asked the church to amend their site plan to eliminate two spaces and plant higher trees on the turn-in from S. Fort Thomas Avenue. Instead of 25 spots in the lot, there would be 23.
2) The church must have their site plan approved by the Tree Commission and Planning Commission as well.
Fort Thomas Matters will update this story.