Residents fighting Sugar Land church's expansion

If the church expands, its facilities would be 54 feet away from residents' backyards, and they fear it will invade their privacy

January 13, 2014 3:16:11 PM PST
Big expansion plans are in the works for a Sugar Land church that will soon nearly triple in size -- but not if nearby residents have their way.

Some homeowners are concerned but they're also parishioners, so they fear retribution if they speak out. Others are taking a stand, hoping the church will back down.

Cindy and John Highsmith love the view from their back windows.

"Before you know it, what makes First Colony so beautiful? We won't have that anymore," John Highsmith said.

If St. Laurcence Catholic Church has its way, that view and those of at least seven neighbors will soon include a two story, 80,000-square foot facility just 54 feet from their back fences. The Highsmiths and others fear it might become an intrusion of privacy, in addition to increased traffic and noise and a decrease of property values.

"Right now we feel that we are being bulldozed and that if we don't stand up and take a stand, something very bad is going to take place," John Highsmith said.

The church wants to expand its religious education and child care facility.

When first built, the property had not yet been annexed by the city of Sugar Land. Over the years, it was and it's now zoned "residential."

Homeowners say they've met with the church several times. The last time, they allege they were simply told their concerns would not be addressed.

"There's an arrogance. There's an arrogance there," Highsmith said.

The church's communications director, Sharon Ekrenkranz, told us:

"It's a shame this is happening. We certainly don't like anybody feeling that way. We are really looking forward to following the process."

These homeowners ask how the church can still say "Love thy neighbor" if it's going to follow through with this expansion.

Father Drew Wood says the church has already made some concessions to those homeowners.

Sugar Land's planning and zoning commission meets Tuesday night to hear public comment on this project. At some point after that, City Council will vote on whether to approve it.

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