What to do about cars exiting from church lot


August 28, 2005

Dear Mr. Azrael:

All documents referring to our street in land records indicate that it's a cul-de-sac.

I was under the impression and by definition that a cul-de-sac was a street with only one access and a turnaround at the closed end. Our closed end has a driveway from a church to filter their traffic into our cul-de-sac. During church dismissals, our street is inundated with cars (approximately 100 cars at a time).

The church has three other exit routes. We feel our rights are being violated by this continuous unnecessary traffic.

Do we have any rights or must we continue to be harassed and denied access to our street?

Dear Reader:

Deeds and other legal documents must be examined by a lawyer to determine if the church has a right to use the driveway for ingress and egress.

A title and land use search should focus on the following issues:

Who owns the driveway? If it is not on land owned by the church, the church may have a recorded easement that defines its rights to use the driveway. Any existing easement should be reviewed to determine if the church is exceeding its rights to use the driveway.

Are there any recorded private restrictions or covenants that prevent the land from being used as a driveway? Land use in many residential subdivisions is regulated by a recorded declaration, which restricts the use of lots to "residential use." A driveway for cars to enter and leave the church may violate a restriction of this type.

Is the use of the driveway inconsistent with the approved site plan for the church? When the church was built, the county may have approved a site plan, which specified how vehicles would enter and leave. If the driveway was not approved, there may be a basis for preventing its use.

Are there any zoning decisions that relate to the driveway? If the church required any zoning variances or special exceptions, the written zoning approvals may relate to the use of the driveway. Any relevant zoning decisions should be reviewed.

The residents on your street also can open a dialogue with the church to limit use of the driveway. Religious institutions often are willing to consider reasonable requests to avoid inconvenience to their neighbors.

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