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Holy Cross Church gets a big surprise: ‘No Parking’signs

Photo: "No Parking" signs along the south side of Iris Lane, adjacent to the Holy Cross Catholic Church.

Two Mondays ago, Father Richard Murphy met with Vero Beach code enforcement officials to discuss safety issues Iris Lane residents say are caused by Holy Cross Catholic Church attendees parking on their street.

“The city officials sent me away with the impression that we could work out a compromise that would address the problem,” the Holy Cross pastor said, “then they pulled the rug out from under our feet.”

Two days after the meeting, city workers installed “No Parking” signs along the south side of Iris Lane, adjacent to the church – a move that sparked outrage from Holy Cross parishioners and left Murphy questioning the integrity of Vero Beach officials.

Murphy also was puzzled by the timing: Not only were the signs posted without warning during the height of Vero Beach’s busy season, but the city installed them only days before the start of Lent, a 40-day, pre-Easter period when even many less-devout Catholics attend Mass.

“People have been parking there for 30 years, and it has never been an issue,” Murphy said. “Now, all of a sudden, it’s a problem? Two days after we meet, they put up signs? Without a warning?

“We don’t want to fight with the city or the people who live there,” he added. “We’re prepared to do whatever we’re supposed to do to make this work for everybody. But nobody from that street has come to talk to me.

“The first we heard about any problem was a couple of weeks ago when the code enforcement people contacted us.”

City Manager Jim O’Conner said city officials have received calls and emails from “almost everybody on Iris Lane.” The complaints cite “uncontrolled parking” and “erratic driving,” including churchgoers backing onto lawns, damaging yards and sometimes knocking down mailboxes.

“It’s not just that they’re parking there – it’s the way they’re parking and how they’re driving to get in and out,” O’Connor said. “I lived on Iris Lane my first year here, so I’m familiar with the situation.

“Some people choose to park on the street, even when there are spaces available in the church lot, because it’s more convenient,” he added. “At this time of year, that can be a hectic parking lot to get out of after Mass, so people prefer to park on the street.”

Murphy, who estimated the Holy Cross lot can hold upwards of 350 vehicles, said Vero Beach police issued warning tickets to churchgoers who parked along Iris Lane last weekend.

Winter resident Jim Black said he has been attending Mass at Holy Cross for the past six years and had never heard any complaints about parking on the street – until now.

“This is the first year anyone has mentioned it,” Black said. “Parking has always been an issue because the church’s lot is in a live oak canopy, which limits the available space. That’s why people park on Iris Lane.

“For the busiest masses, I’ll bet there are 50 to 70 cars parked there, from A1A to Mockingbird Drive,” he added. “This isn’t just the busy season, it’s church season for Catholics. So there will be hundreds of attendees affected by the city’s decision to put up those signs.”

According to Holy Cross’ church bulletin, weekend Mass is offered at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturdays, and at 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Sundays.

The 4 p.m. Mass on Saturdays is “standing room only” during the winter months, Black said.

“For the city to do this now – without any advance warning – someone with a lot of influence who lives on Iris Lane must’ve gotten pretty aggravated about something,” Black said. “This is something that should’ve been addressed during the summer.”

Murphy was scheduled to meet again with city officials Wednesday in hopes of finding a solution, at least temporarily. He said he hopes the city will relent enough to allow on-street parking on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

Murphy said he spoke about the parking issue at each of the Masses last Sunday, adding that he doesn’t condone churchgoers showing any lack of consideration for the Iris Lane homeowners’ property.

“I have no problem with putting a stop to that,” Murphy said. “If someone damages someone’s property, they should pay for it. If someone blocks someone’s driveway, they should have their cars towed away.

“But we have to come up with a solution that works for both the church and the residents,” he added. “I don’t know what that is, but there must be some compromise we can all agree on.”

One possibility, O’Connor said, is for Holy Cross to run a shuttle between the church and a parking lot at nearby Riverside Park.