(Lakewood) -- The removal of a symbolic dome from a church in Lakewood's Birdtown neighborhood has caught the attention of the City of Lakewood, mainly because the dome was removed without the city's permission. The Eparchy of Parma, which owns the now-closed St. Gregory the Theologian Byzantine Catholic Church, hired a contractor which last week removed the building's golden onion-shaped dome. Since the church has closed, the Eparchy wants to remove religious artifacts before putting the building up for sale.

The dome's removal was observed by neighbors, who contacted city hall to complain, saying they were not happy with the change the dome's removal would bring to the neighborhood.

Lakewood Law Director Kevin Butler tells WTAM 1100 that it's not an issue about religion, or even architecture, it's about safety. "We have to concern ourselves with safety of passersby, people who occupy those structures, whether they're employees, congregants or visitors."

Butler says the Eparchy could be in violation of city ordinance because its contractor did not obtain the proper permits from the city, and the contractor was not registered with the city. According to Butler, the contractor has since registered, but it may be some days before permits are issued.

For now, the Eparchy has been served with a Notice of Correction. Butler says the Eparchy and the contractor can't do anything until proper steps are followed. One other step that wasn't followed was to have the planned removal of the dome go before a citizens commission.

Butler says in addition to safety issues related to the removal of the dome, "We just want to make sure that whatever goes there in (the dome's) place is safe, and it doesn't look woefully out of place."

WTAM 1100 contacted the Eparchy, which referred questions to the Eparchy's attorney. Bishop John Kudrick of the Eparchy tells The Plain Dealer, "Of course we're sorry this happened. We'll certainly do what we can. We will contact our attorney and he will certainly do whatever it takes to comply."

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(Copyright 2013 Clear Channel, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Colin McEwen/Lakewood Patch

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