- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Members of a Catholic church in Waterloo are unhappy after the City Council narrowly agreed to donate a parking lot to a developer who plans to build townhouses at the site.

The council voted 4 to 3 on Monday to donate the 50-stall lot adjacent to Queen of Peace Catholic Church to Black Hawk Contracting and Development, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (http://bit.ly/1jNVmkl). The company plans to build six brownstone style townhouses. The church had offered to buy the property at its assessed value of $72,000.

“I see the development of the property is in the best interest of all the citizens of Waterloo,” said Councilman Pat Morrissey, who supported the housing plan.

Church members said there is little parking around the church, which is the only Catholic church on Waterloo’s east side.

Craig White, a parish council chairman who also is a Black Hawk County supervisor, said 833 families are members of the church, which has been at the location more than 100 years.

Given how much the church relies on the parking lot, church member William Schmid wondered why the city couldn’t work with the developer to build housing at another site.

“I find it very hard to believe this is the only site available in downtown Waterloo, Iowa,” Schmid said.

Besides donating the property, the city will provide 10 years of 50 percent property tax rebates. Even with the rebates, the development will generate $7,500 to 9,000 annually in taxes, which will double after the rebates expire.

Mayor Buck Clark promised to work with church members to alleviate parking concerns, even if that could include removing parking meters or closing a street during events.

“What we’re trying to do is establish a tax base with that property,” Clark said. “The last thing we want to do is affect the church in any negative way. We’re proud that it’s there.”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com