The Catholic Diocese of Arlington is suing Alexandria over a land dispute.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – There is a land dispute between a local church and an affordable housing project in Alexandria, Virginia. the Catholic Diocese of Arlington is suing the City of Alexandria over a proposed project that could serve many of its own parishioners.

The church in the center of the suit is St. Rita Catholic Church off West Glebe Road in the Arlandria district. The Church has served the predominantly immigrant community of Arlandria or Chirilagua (named after a town in El Salvador) for more than a century in the sanctuary and in the schools. Now the church is at the center of a lawsuit that could stall a long-awaited and much-needed affordable housing project.

“Affordable housing is important, especially in areas like this where the cost of living is so expensive,” said Drew Rivera, who lives in the area.

The non-profit association Alexandria Housing Development Corporation plans to build a Affordable housing complex of 475 units off Mount Vernon and Glebe roads. According to AHDC, this includes 100 very affordable apartments for families earning around $52,000 a year or 40% of the region’s median income.

Housing advocates with Tenants and workers united told WUSA9 that the price is the difference between families staying in their homes or being overpriced.

“We support all people who are entering homes, having homes and raising families,” said parishioner Rob Fernandez who picked up his children from the parish daycare.

But according to a lawsuit filed in April, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington argues that the driveway between the proposed project and the Catholic school belongs to the church — they even submitted the 1922 deed to prove it.

“If you deal with land title issues very casually, then a lot of problems are going to happen,” Fernandez added, “you get into conflict and conflict gets really, really bad.”

A mum also picking up her child from daycare stopped to weigh in, adding: ‘Churches and parishioners want to help especially those in need, I think it comes down to a lack of communication between the city of Alexandria and the Church. It’s the same as if someone came into your garden and used your garden for any purpose, obviously you would have a problem with that,” she said.

In a letter sent to families, church leaders expressed their support for the writing of the project: “We look forward to being the immediate neighbors of the residents of the AHDC project.” But his support does not mean the church has to “give up its right to property and its rights to due process”.

Billy Atwell, communications director for the Diocese of Arlington, said the church filed a lawsuit to protect its legal and property rights. Read the full statement here:

“Saint Rita Catholic Church, located in Alexandria, has been a part of the local community for over a century and is the spiritual home of nearly 1,000 families and 260 parish school students from kindergarten to grade 8. .

Alexandria Catholics support underserved and disadvantaged communities through programs such as parish pantry partnerships, clothing donations, housing for those at risk, a day center for the elderly, a legal immigration assistance and direct financial assistance to pay for rent, utilities, health care and other basic needs.

Saint Rita’s Catholic Church and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington support increased affordable housing options and mixed-use development planned by the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation on land adjacent to church property. With any development on adjacent property, the church must assess the impact of the development on its current operations, as well as ensure that its legal and property rights are protected. Current plans negatively impact the parish and school’s ability to serve its members and the local community and diminish its legal rights and property interests.

The diocese has had to take certain actions under the law, due to time constraints, to protect its property rights now and in the future. However, the Church has also taken steps to ensure that the parties involved now have enough time to discuss and resolve outstanding issues, so that it can continue to serve its parishioners and the local community. We hope these issues can be resolved quickly and amicably.”

Neither the city nor the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation has been notified of the official lawsuit, so they cannot comment on a potential dispute. But AHCD sent WUSA9 a statement saying they are excited to bring deeply affordable housing to the neighborhood.

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