By John Schaffner

The board of the Peachtree Heights East Neighborhood Association (PHENA) says it was surprised to learn that the Cathedral of Christ the King planned to file for a special use permit for the expansion of its campus at Peachtree and East Wesley roads in Buckhead.

In a letter Jan. 20 to Bob Connelly, co-chairman of the church’s planning committee, PHENA President Sue Roberts said the plan “violates a long-standing agreement” between the church and the neighborhood.

Roberts was responding to a mailer the cathedral sent to neighbors in December, outlining a 20-year development plan; a town hall meeting for parishioners in early January; and a Jan. 9 article in the Buckhead Reporter.

“PHENA opposes the special use permit and special exception applications filed by the Cathedral of Christ the King. Institutional expansion was discussed and vetted by the Zoning Committee in 1998 and resolved for 20 years. We took the church at their word regarding no future expansion into the neighborhood,” Roberts said Feb. 17.

In the midst of negotiations, Christ the King reportedly filed the application for the special use permit this month. It is scheduled to be considered by Neighborhood Planning Unit B’s (NPU-B) Development and Transportation Committee on March 24, the Zoning Committee on March 31 and the full board, which meets at Christ the King, April 7 before going to the Zoning Review Board on April 9.

“Given our willingness to consider modifications to our existing and binding agreement from 1998 and our continued discussions, including those leading up to the holidays, we were sincerely surprised by this development,” Roberts wrote on behalf of the association.

“PHENA has clearly and consistently demonstrated a willingness to consider modifications to the 1998 ordinance,” Roberts said, “such as vertical expansion of the existing parking deck, green/play space east of 51 Peachtree Way, or the construction of priests’ residences on Peachtree Way.”

But she said the association has been just as clear about its opposition to some elements, such as the the horizontal expansion of the parking deck. PHENA “cannot support further encroachment into the neighborhood by parking decks/surfaces or other configurations not in keeping with the single-family integrity of our neighborhood.”

The campus expansion focuses on:

• Expanding green space with a courtyard park and other landscaping.

• Improving traffic flow, including a low-profile parking deck extension.

• Renovating buildings, including the Hyland Center, Parish Center and school.

• Adding a multipurpose facility, the Commons Building, along East Wesley Road west of the gym.

In her letter, Roberts said the only alternatives proposed by the church are “contrary to the best interests of the neighborhood.”