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Residents, church agree to delay parking lot

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Catholic church in Snellville will delay building a new parking lot until a lawsuit filed by its neighbors wraps up.

The agreement between St. Oliver's Catholic Church and Brooks Drive residents was reached Tuesday, shortly before a judge was to hear arguments in the matter.

The homeowners were seeking a temporary injunction to ensure the 80 parking spots are not built before their lawsuit reaches trial.

Although the judge recused himself, the agreement between the two sides appears to settle any need for a temporary injunction.

The case is now on hold until a new judge can be appointed.

"I guess now we just wait," said Jerry Oberholtzer, a 22-year member of St. Oliver's who attended the court proceedings at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Located at one end of Brooks Drive, St. Oliver's needs the extra parking because it has outgrown the 265 parking spots that surrounds its sanctuary.

However, because the gravel lot would go in the middle of the residential block, homeowners maintain it would disrupt their neighborhood and hurt their property values.

Last year they sued Gwinnett County and the Archdiocese of Atlanta after county commissioners gave the church permission to put parking in the middle of the neighborhood.

Then, when the county issued the church a development permit in March so work could begin on the contested parking lot, the residents quickly sought a temporary injunction to block any construction activity.

Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Richard Winegarden recused himself from the case Tuesday because he knows parties involved, but both sides agreed between themselves that no work will occur before a the case is decided, said Douglas Lenhardt, the residents' attorney.

The parking lot would go about 600 feet from the church, which would have to install a crosswalk and a sidewalk.

"We're just exploding," Oberholtzer, who is also Snellville's mayor, said of the church congregation. "It's from the influx of Hispanic families."

Brooks Drive residents referred questions to their Gwinnett County attorney, who refused to comment.