The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted Feb. 21 to approve two variances for Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church and its school.

The two variances allow the church to reduce its parking from 337 spaces to 274 spaces and to increase its lot coverage from 35 percent to 60 percent as part of its school expansion and addition of a new rectory.

The Our Lady of the Assumption church and school. (Google Earth)

OLA, located at 1320 Hearst Drive, received approval in December from the City Council for three special land use permits as part of its expansion, which will add 28 more students for a total of 608 students in pre-K through eighth grade.

But traffic continues to remain an issue for neighbors of the church and school, which have operated on Hearst Drive for 66 years.

Ben Fons has lived at 1347 Hearst Drive for 37 years and spoke out against the variances. Cars idling in the carpool lane in front of his house for about an hour during drop-off and pick-up times create pollution and exhaust fumes, he said. Because he suffers from severe medical conditions, the fumes make it harder for him to breathe, he said.

Carolyn Denise, also a Hearst Drive resident, also opposed the variances. As a member of a committee that is raising funds to dredge Silver Lake, she said OLA has never contributed any money to the project over the years.

“They have not contributed a dime to the lake. But they do contribute to the runoff into the lake,” she said. “And the traffic is so terrible. When does it ever end?”

Those speaking in favor of the variances were members of the church with children attending the school, as well as OLA’s communications director Ann Stevens. She said the church and school actively participate in bettering the community through food drives, blood drives, helping at homeless shelters and its Adopt-a-Cop program with the Brookhaven Police Department.

Stevens also said students at OLA who are members of the Boys and Girls Scouts volunteer by cleaning up trails around Silver Creek.

Eric Johnson, a member of the church with children attending OLA school, said a traffic task force was formed following the December council meeting. Councilmember Linley Jones recommended OLA find a way to involve neighbors and the police department in coming up with different ways to alleviate the notorious congestion in the neighborhood.

Former mayor J. Max Davis, who also has children attending OLA, said two years ago the City Council approved funding for a sidewalk from Lanier

Drive to St. Martin’s Episcopal School at 3110 Ashford-Dunwoody Road.

“When the city finally builds that sidewalk you will see a transformation,” Davis said. More kids will be able to safely walk to school and will help reduce traffic, he said.