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Decatur Planning Commission recommends approval of St. Thomas More construction plans

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Decatur Planning Commission recommends approval of St. Thomas More construction plans

Decatur City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Planning Commission recommended a draft ordinance for approval, with conditions involving a long term plan for the St. Thomas More Catholic Church to build and renovate buildings on its property. 

The property is designated as an institutional zoning district, which is regulated by a comprehensive site development plan, according to the planning commission’s staff report. As the church looks to renovate and build, it will require the city commission’s approval of its new comprehensive site development plan next. 

“So this is kind of future build out plans and this is very common for institutional uses because they are unique, and they require a bit more flexibility and many of them incrementally grow,” Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill explained to the commission members.

In the next couple of years, the church hopes to build a bigger school building, renovate an existing worship building, make improvements to its athletic fields and construct a stormwater detention in its athletic field area, Paul Flippo, a consultant for the church’s project, said on Tuesday. 

In the next 10 or more years, the church would like to build a new worship building, parish commons and renovate an administration building, Flippo said. 

“They are proposing initially that kind of phase one with the school building and then future plans would be that worship building. So what you’re looking at is that comprehensive site development plan which is both phases of the build out,” Threadgill said to the commission.

As part of the construction plans, the church will have to follow the city’s tree ordinance for trees it intends to cut down for the projects. 

There was some opposition to the construction by residents living in Charter Square, located across from the church’s property. The residents were concerned about the construction potentially increasing existing traffic and parking issues around the church. 

Multiple residents expressed frustration over the church and school not doing enough to prevent parents from parking in Charter Square and blocking residents in when they come to pick up their kids from the school. 

While the Planning Commission cannot directly help with this issue, commission member John McFarland said he hopes representatives from the church that were present at the meeting would hear the concerns from their neighbors about the issue. 

The commission voted to recommend approval of the comprehensive site development plan for the church with conditions and amendments. 

This includes a cap on the enrollment for the school to remain at its current max capacity of 516 students. This lines up with the church’s intentions to increase the square footage of the school, but not for the purposes of increasing enrollment.

The commission also recommended a condition that the construction parking be limited to the church’s property or to an off-site location that is managed by the church, so as not to burden neighbors in the area.

This meeting was chaired by Rachel Cogburn, who was voted in as the new chair for the commission. Greg Chilik was voted in as the vice chair. The commission was also joined by two new members, Marc Brambrut and Jenny Stein. 

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