HOUSTON - A church is facing a parking dispute with a Meyerland Plaza Mall realty company.
At the same time St. Thomas Episcopal Church celebrates 60 years of service to the Meyerland community, they are facing one of their biggest challenges yet.
"I hate to use the word 'threat' to us, but it's a big deal. It's a big deal for us," said the Rev. David Browder.
St. Thomas' church and school are nestled between Meyerland Plaza Mall and a residential neighborhood. Over the years, the plaza owners allowed St. Thomas to use a parking lot for free.
Apart from limited street parking, the mall lot is the only area for parishioners, staff and parents going to St. Thomas.
"For the entire history of our church and school we've had access to this parking lot," said Browder.
However, that will soon change. Meyerland Plaza was sold to Fidelis Realty Partners. Now Fidelis wants to charge the school $380,000 a year to park in the lot.
"It's a lot higher than we can afford," said Browder.
Local 2 contacted Fidelis, but a representative said the realty company would not comment.
Browder said he's trying to negotiate with Fidelis. But he is also searching for other options and leaning on his faith.
"It might not be exactly what we want to do right now, but it may be where God is leading us, to say, 'Hey look, you all better start thinking about this, thinking about the future for St. Thomas,'" said Rev. Browder.
Browder said St. Thomas is planning to hire consultants and architects to see how they may be able to alter the current campus buildings to add parking. Browder said that would likely mean adding more levels to the building. They would have to build up instead of out.
Browder said somehow St. Thomas will continue serving the Meyerland community.
"I just want to let all the parents and parishioners know that we're solid. We're staying," said Browder.
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