A couple operating a Christian study space in their former home on Elizabeth Street will have to wait on a decision that would allow them to install parking lots after the Greenville Board of Adjustment postponed action on a special use permit.
The board was conducting a public hearing on a request from Richard P. and Meridith Rizzuti’s to operate a multi-purpose center at 500 Elizabeth St. when a neighbor outlining her opposition said that she was there even though her mother had just died on Monday.
The board voted in favor of postponing the matter until Feb. 23 to allow Elitrous Squires to return home to her family. The vote came after the board had already deliberated extensively on the request.
The Rizzutis are seeking the multi-purpose center special use permit so they can build a parking lot in two lots located at 414 Latham and 702 W. Fifth streets, which are immediately behind the house.
The house, which the Rizzutis renovated and lived for more than a decade, is where they operate the East Carolina Study Center, which Meridith Rizzuti described as a place where students can study and get free coffee.
“We have an opportunity to offer a free, safe place for students to study and to have community and be in community with like-minded believers,” Rizzuti said.
The organization’s website describes it as “A center for Christian life and thought at East Carolina University and Pitt Community College.”
Rizzuti said the center has struggled with people parking on the street. A multi-use center designation would allow the center to establish a parking lot so students don’t have to park on the street.
The property currently has residential zoning, and a residence isn’t allowed to have a parking lot, said Travis Welborn, the city’s civil engineer.
A multi-purpose center is defined as a facility owned and operated by a governmental unit or a nonprofit organization, said Wayne Harrison, city planner. The facility can provide multiple services including, but not limited to, serving as a library and museum extension, adult education facility, child or adult day care, meeting space and health screening site, if no medical treatment is offered.
Harrison said because such a facility can have so many uses, the activities at the facility have to “be specifically considered by the board of adjustment” and activities not specifically approved are prohibited.
Harrison went on to say the facility can’t offer overnight shelter and cannot serve as a college and “other institutions of higher learning, business or trade schools, vocational rehabilitation center, auditorium, theater, and commercial activities including but not limited to retail sale.”
The area around 500 Elizabeth St. has a mix of single family homes, an apartment building, one commercial structure, and two fraternity houses, Harrison said, so a multi-use center would fit in. Harrison said the only condition the city would place on the property is that the owners produce a certificate of nonprofit status from the N.C. Secretary of State.
Squires, who has lived in a house next to the proposed parking lot for about 17 years, said the center has generated excessive street parking that has created problems for her since August.
Squires, who used a cane to move about the city council chambers, where the meeting was held, said she has disabilities that limit her mobility. She said people at the center park too close to her car, which makes it difficult to access the trunk of her vehicle and to get out of her car and into her house.
Squires said friends who help her around the house have had trouble finding a place to park because of the center’s traffic.
The parked cars prevented the city’s street sweeper from collecting leaves, she said. She worries the parked cars could prevent fire trucks from entering the road.
The vehicles also interfered with her ability to visit with her mother, who would make what she called “curbside visits” to her home. Since August her mother hasn’t been able to make her curbside visits because she couldn’t find a place to park, Squires said. “It was aggravating and frustrating.”
As Squires’ spoke, one of her companions handed the city’s chief planner, Chantae Gooby, a stack of papers.
Gooby separated the papers and handed stacks to the board’s individual members. The stacks included copies of photographs of vehicles parked along a street and copies of police and fire department reports related to a house fire that occurred on Latham Street.
Squires said the fire happened before 8 a.m. so the truck’s weren’t obstructed but if it had occurred after 8 a.m. the trucks would not have been able to get down the street.
“This has negatively impacted my health with the stress and aggravation,” Squires said. She then said her mother died Monday and instead of being in mourning with her family she had to speak before the board of adjustment.
Board chair Sharon Evans at that point asked if a board member wanted to make a motion to continue the hearing so Squires could go to her family.
Board member Hunt McKinnon made the motion, which was seconded by Ryan Purtle. Evans called for a vote, several other board members began to ask questions. Alternative board member Daniel Worrell said delaying action would mean Squires had to live with on street parking for another month.
McKinnon said there were other facts he would like staff to answer but the board had completed the vote to continue the hearing by that time.
Assistant city attorney Don Phillips said the board had to reopen the hearing to to ask staff, Squires or the Rizzutis more questions, which the board did.
They asked questions about the number of parking spaces available in the two lots. Welborn said that wouldn’t be known until a plan was submitted.
McKinnon said Squires referenced “they” during her comments but wanted to know what evidence there was that the parking was connected to the center. He asked if the board could get copies of parking citations and the address of the people cited to determine if the cars were associated with the center.
Philips said the board had to use the evidence presented to them at that meeting to make its determination.
John Landrine asked if the board could get additional photographs of parking in the neighborhood.
“That is a conversation I wanted to have with staff privately,” Evans said. She then asked if there was a motion to end the discussion, which she received.
The board also was scheduled to hear an appeal of a notice of violation involving a large sign at the intersection of Charles Boulevard and Red Banks Road. Staff said Ashley-Nicole Russell, who received the notice with her husband, asked that the case be delayed until Feb. 23, which the board granted.
The board unanimously approved two other special use permits:
- Operate a child day care facility located at the southeastern corner of West Gum Road and North Memorial Drive.
- Place a mobile home at 2 N.C. 33 East.