The Bellaire City Council is considering a specific use permit that will give the Bellaire Church of Christ the green light to construct additional church parking on the northern portion of 8001 South Rice Ave.

The deliberation on the lot comes not only as Bellaire Church of Christ looks to expand its parking from 70 spaces to 102 spaces—a necessity for the church that would help it meet a 100-space minimum required by the city’s zoning ordinances—but also as it looks to construct a new building.

“We’re now in an aged and declining building,” Pastor Brian Haley said during a public hearing on the permit. “It’s just old. For a number of years, the elders have discussed how we’re going to improve that building, either to renovate it or build a new building. Ultimately, our architect and builder convinced us the wisest approach was to build a new structure.”

According to church officials, however, building a lot to meet the needs of its growing congregation was the priority; coming into compliance with the city code was a bonus.

“It was very fortuitous as we figured out that we needed more parking places not only to accommodate potential future growth, but obviously it was a requirement of the zoning ordinances,” Haley said.

The move to build a new parking lot, which was formerly located at 7911 South Rice Ave., is multifaceted. Not only would the church work to construct the lot, but it would also install an underground water detention and drainage system that covers 50% of the lot and 30% of an acre to help offset drainage concerns caused by the additional lot coverage, according to the agenda report.

Should the specific use permit be approved, the church would then remove a portion of its parking lot located at 1012 Pauline St. within 90 days of constructing the new parking lot and sell the property for single-family residential use in order to help defray the purchase cost of the land where the new parking lot will go.

A petition in opposition to the specific use permit has been signed by several homeowners surrounding the church property. The petition has been reviewed and validated by city staff.

Council members Catherine Lewis and Jim Hotze raised questions about why those neighbors were concerned. Lewis, specifically, requested access to the petition in order to not only see those concerns, but also to identify those neighbors.

“The one thing I would ask is: Those who signed the written protest, did they know that the church was giving up that Pauline parking lot?” Lewis asked. “I don’t even know if they knew.”

Because of the written protest, in order for the specific use permit to be approved, a minimum of six of the seven-member city council will be required to vote favorably, as opposed to a simple majority.

July 19 is the anticipated date of deliberation for the permit.