Neighborhood opposition quiets as church expansion plans fail to materialize
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After several months of bringing their concerns to the Arlington Heights village board about a possible church parking lot expansion in their neighborhood, members of the Hickory Meadows Community Group say they are backing off the issue, for now.
Dozens of community members have attended nearly every board meeting since March, when they first learned of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church's plans to tear down eight homes and expand its parking lot.
The church's plan, however, has yet to materialize.
Officials from the church at 1330 N. Douglas said they would submit plans by April, and families living in the church-owned homes on Haddow Street were made to move out by the end of May. A contentious community meeting was held in June, but by mid-July the church still had not submitted any applications to the village.
"We've continued to come to board meetings because every week we've been told the church is about to request the village to vacate Haddow," Hickory Meadows resident Denis Jones said at Monday's board meeting. "Week after week we've waited. Perhaps they will request it tomorrow. We hope not. It certainly makes no sense.
"At this moment, though, we are no longer under an imminent threat by the church. So we intend to step back, and allow you to focus on the many other things on your plate," he added.
Orchard continues to discuss the expansion internally, said Claire Bechard, director of communications and congregational life for the church. The church is not commenting on whether neighborhood opposition has caused them to reconsider, she added.
Village Manager Bill Dixon said the church hasn't signaled that it is walking away from its plans, but they also haven't moved forward. The village would have to approve any application to tear down homes and other variances dealing with the expansion.
Community members have insisted there is no real parking problem at the church, arguing that they often see open spots on Sundays. During the rest of the week, when church services aren't being held, the lot sits empty, they said.
John Clarkson, chairman of the church board, told community members at a meeting in June that Orchard has been dealing with parking problems for 15 years and has tried many other solutions such as shuttling attendees from farther away lots, opening new satellite locations in Barrington and Itasca and adding an additional church service.
About 1,350 people attend Sunday services each week, with about 200 members' cars parking on neighborhood streets. The current site has about 290 stalls, and the expansion would add about 230 more to reduce street parking, Clarkson said.
Neighbors have said they don't mind the street parking a few hours a week, though.
"If the church wants to pursue this nonsensical plan — we'll be back by the hundreds to ask you to send a message that you support residents and neighborhoods," Jones told the board this week.
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