METAIRIE, La. -- Neighbors are concerned about the fate of a 20-acre spiritual retreat in Metairie. Nuns sold the property to the Archdiocese of New Orleans earlier this year.
Now, to the dismay of those living nearby, the church is looking to sell almost half the lot.
"We wanted this lot because we had this green space next to us. The levee behind us. It's like suburbia but living in a park almost," said neighbor Lisa Ross.
For a half century the Cenecle Retreat House run by nuns served as a spiritual oasis to visitors in one Jefferson Parish neighborhood. In early 2013, financial difficulties forced the sisters to sell the land to the Archdiocese.
Lisa and Robert Ross have lived next door for 13 years and worry their view could soon change. The Archdiocese is trying to have the 20-acre property subdivided into two lots, so it can sell 8.1 acres.
"It's not uncommon that we see all kinds of different wildlife. This here is a picture of a bald eagle," said Robert Ross, holding up a photo album at a public hearing on Thursday night. He joined other neighbors to voice their concerns in front of the Jefferson Parish Planning Advisory Board.
On their list of grievances is preserving wild life in the area, storm drainage, and possible future development.
"I do have some concerns what kind of building would be placed if this lot is up for residential development," said one neighbor.
Representing the Archdiocese was attorney Todd Gennardo. He emphasized that there are no official plans for the acreage the Archdiocese would like to sell, and no re-zoning request have been filed.
"While there may be a sale of this property. There is no intended use at this point. We don't know what that use may be. So any development at this point would be speculative," said Gennardo at the hearing.
However, those words don't ease some neighbors fears. They worry a residential development is in the pipeline that would change the very nature of what the Cenecle has come to represent.
"We're not only fighting for the land. We're fighting for the legacy and spirit of the nuns," said Robert Ross, who also submitted 20 petitions from other concerned neighbors to the Planning Advisory Board.
The family says the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has also confirmed it will send out a survey team to see what wildlife inhabits the Cenecle property.
On Thursday night the Planning Advisory Board deferred its vote on whether or not to approve the resubdivision request until Nov. 21.
In response to neighbors concerns the Archdiocese issued this statement:
"After several months of working with Jefferson Parish offices, representatives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans are going to the parish to request to resubdivide the Cenacle site into two lots of record. The Archdiocese of New Orleans is committed to continuing the ministry for women at the site of The Cenacle and maintaining it as a peaceful place of prayerful and spiritual refuge in our community. We are surprised by opposition as no one has contacted us directly to oppose this subdivision but are open to hearing the concerns of the community and answering questions as we move forward."