Concerned about parking and traffic issues raised by neighbors, the Apalachicola Planning and Zoning Board has granted a 30-day extension for the operation of the Apalachicola United Methodist Church’s new day care center.

By unanimous vote, P & Z on Nov. 12 granted the extension to the Christ Community Academy, at 75 Fifth Street, after the board split down the middle as to whether to grant the special exception outright.

Whether or not the church even needed a special exception to operate its program, which has been in place for several weeks, was an issue itself.

The Rev. Themo Patriotis said the day care program was another ministry of the church, and thus covered under the church’s right to operate over its more than century-long tenure at the corner of Fifth Street and Avenue E.

But questions were raised as to whether the academy had a separate financial identity, and the discussion continued regarding the special exception.

At the heart of the issue before P & Z were traffic and parking issues raised by several of the neighbors, including Gene Smith, and Will and Jodi Rosenbaum. They said problems had been exacerbated by the new academy, as well as other church activities such as 12-Step meetings that it sponsors. In addition, questions were raised as to whether the alley behind the church is being used appropriately.

In addition, P & Z member Lynn Wilson raised parking issues on behalf of her business, the Coombs House Inn, which is across from the church. She stressed that while she supports the work of the many churches in the area, she felt obliged to speak out whenever hers, or other neighboring business, are impacted.

After P & Z member Geoffrey Hewell moved to grant the academy a special exception, Wilson cast one of the four nay votes. Only Hewell, Bachrach and new member Robin Vroegop voted to grant the special exception outright, with P & Z Chairman Tom Daly, Sally Williamson, newly appointed member Atul Patel and Wilson all voting no.

Daly stressed that he supported the academy, but wanted to see a 30-day extension to give all parties a chance to work out difficulties with parking and traffic that persist in the area at various points in the week.

Patriotis said he had been working out details of the issue with the neighbors, including placement of a clearly marked stopping, but not parking, area in front of the church. He said he had confidence that matters could be worked out to satisfy the concerns of the neighbors and the needs of the church and its new academy.

The church issue was not the only matter to stir heated discussion at the meeting.

P and Z members reviewed plans for a new Family Dollar store to be placed at the corner of U.S. 98 and Clairmont Avenue, in the wooded lot adjacent to the Best Western.

In April, the P & Z had moved unanimously to confirm that the new store, slightly larger than the existing facility adjacent to the Gulfside IGA, was consistent with the C-3 zoning district.

But after lengthy discussion at this month’s meeting, developer Brett Woodward was told that the store would require a special exception, which will require a public hearing.

In addition, Hewell informed the developers that there still needed to review of both signage and tree removal proposed for the site.