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Plan to expand house for rectory protested

Plans by Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Lexington to convert a neighborhood home into a new rectory drew fire from residents of the Hill N Dale subdivision Tuesday night.

Residents were upset that they had not been notified by the parish of the plans to expand a 1,340-square-foot home at 541 Hill N Dale Road by nearly 3,000 square feet. By the time they found out about the expansion, all city permits to allow it were in place.

“There's no excuse for denying the (zoning) permit,” said Nancy Hall, whose home at 537 Hill N Dale Road is next door to the new rectory. “It is a perfectly legal building. It complies in every possible way with the zoning code and the building code.”

At the end of the two-hour meeting, held in a packed conference room at the parish offices, the Rev. Joe Muench, pastor at Mary Queen, apologized for not telling neighbors about the project.

Chief among the residents' concerns was that no survey of the property was conducted to determine how storm water would be disposed of. Many residents complained that their property is already burdened by poor storm water runoff, and some feared that the new rectory would increase flooding in their basements and pooling of water in their yards or next to their homes and garages.

Muench said it was not his intention to keep the plans secret, adding that information had been circulated to parishioners. He said that he did not feel obligated to “tell everyone in the neighborhood.”

But Glen Thompson, who lives on the other side of the rectory property at 545 Hill N Dale, said, “As a neighbor, just out of respect, someone could have knocked on my door.”

Muench replied, “I really wish that I had taken that time. … I was not trying to be disrespectful. I'm willing to be a better neighbor than I have been.”

Muench said he had looked at other properties, but he was trying to find a location near the church.

The front exterior of the new rectory will remain unchanged. But because the structure will include three “mini-suites” consisting of a bedroom, sitting room and bathroom in each, as well as a guest bedroom, the building had to be extended. The finished rectory will also have a screened-in porch and a three-stall garage.

Some residents said the enlarged footprint was out of character with other homes, which have spacious back yards. But Muench said it was important to keep the building on one level, in keeping with the look of neighboring homes and to accommodate older priests who would find stairs difficult to climb.

Councilman Don Blevins pointed out that the city has few restrictions on what property owners build in their back yards.

“You can do in your back yard what you cannot do in your front yard or your side yard,” Blevins said.

He also said the city does not review storm water management for single-family projects. In theory, architects or builders will police themselves because their licenses are at stake, he said.

In the end, Muench said he would order a hydrological study to consider storm water drainage, and he asked residents to meet with him again at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at the parish offices.

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