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updated: 7/15/2012 6:48 AM

Officials losing patience with church over parsonage

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  • The parsonage at First United Methodist Church in West Dundee is the subject of debate. Preservationists want the historic building saved and spiffed up. But church leaders want it razed and turned into a parking lot.

       The parsonage at First United Methodist Church in West Dundee is the subject of debate. Preservationists want the historic building saved and spiffed up. But church leaders want it razed and turned into a parking lot.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer, 2008

 
 

West Dundee authorities have waited months for leaders at First United Methodist Church to respond to their latest proposal, which outlines a plan to save a historically significant but crumbling parsonage on the church's property.

But because they've mostly gotten silence in return, patience at village hall finally has run out.

On July 3, the village filed an order of correction against the church, a move that forces the church to fix 14 code violations at the parsonage and sets up a showdown between the church and the village.

"We have had no substantive discussions or communication since March," Village Manager Joe Cavallaro said. "We've been trying to establish a dialogue and find a successful compromise and mutually agreeable solution but ... this has been a one-sided conversation."

The violations include failing to maintain the roof and failing to control the mold. The church has 45 days from the date of the order to bring the parsonage up to code, but appealing is an option.

Tom Sullivan, an attorney representing the church, says there is no money to fix the violations.

Failure to comply with the order could result in the village filing a complaint with the Kane County Circuit Court or going through a local adjudication system. The church could face daily fines of up to $500.

"It's economically not feasible for the church to make all of the corrections that the village has ordered," Sullivan said. "I hope the order isn't a line in the sand."

The parsonage was built in 1849 by Alfred Edwards and is one of the oldest buildings in West Dundee. Edwards sold it in 1850 and bought it 20 years later for his daughter, Ella, and her husband. The church bought the house in 1954 and used it as a parsonage until 2004. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture.

The church's intention has been to demolish the parsonage and pave a parking lot in its place or make room for a future expansion.

But because the parsonage lies within the village's historic district, the board of trustees has final say over whether to award a demolition permit to the church -- and the board already said no.

"A song comes to mind from years ago, I think it's something along the lines, 'They paved paradise to put up a parking lot,'" Trustee Norm Osth said. "They're going to tear down the second-oldest building in West Dundee to put up a parking lot? I don't think so."

The village offered to partner with the church to fix up the parsonage and wanted to match funds with money the church reserved for demolition, then work together to figure out a plan for its use.

But the plan only calls for fixing up the exterior, rather than the interior.

It wouldn't be fair, Sullivan said, for the church to have a parsonage that looks good on the outside but is unusable on the inside. The church also needs to hash out who would pay for the building's future costs and who would have say over how it's used -- the village or the church.

"Bottom line is we need to have a long-term plan before we throw some money into it for just a short-term solution," Sullivan said. "If we can't come to an agreement ... then it's really going to come down to the village is going to seek to enforce code violations in court and, potentially, the church is going to reactivate its petition to demolish the building."

He also disputed the notion that the church strung the village along and deliberately let the parsonage fall into disrepair. The church is willing to talk, he said, but personal issues and problems coordinating church leadership to discuss the issue prevented further movement.

Sullivan mailed a letter to the village that explained all of these points Thursday, and the village confirmed its receipt on Friday.

Since 2006, the village has been trying to work with the church leadership to save the parsonage, but talks have been fruitless because the church wasn't open to anything other than demolition.

While Trustee Osth says saving the parsonage is one of the most important things to him, he needs to know whether residents feel the same way and urges them to contact village leadership.

"We don't want to be using the village's resources inappropriately," Osth said. "If we're doing something counter to what they want us to do, we should fold our tent and go away."

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