Leaders from Orchard Evangelical Free Church are abandoning their controversial plan to tear down eight homes in its Arlington Heights neighborhood to build a larger parking lot.
In a news release sent out after a church meeting Sunday, Chairman John Clarkson said officials heard the dissent from neighbors and have changed their plans accordingly.
"When we originally drafted plans for the expanded parking lot, we truly believed families living near our church would appreciate having fewer cars on the streets," Clarkson wrote. "We were clearly mistaken. Members of the Hickory Meadows neighborhood, of which the Orchard has been a part of since 1970, made their opposition known."
Orchard, which also has locations in Itasca, Barrington and Marengo, has been dealing with parking problems at the Arlington Heights location for many years, Clarkson said.
About 1,350 people attend Sunday services each week, with about 200 members parking on neighborhood streets. The proposed expansion would have added another 230 parking spots to the lots.
The plan included tearing down eight homes owned by the church. Tenants renting those homes were asked to leave in May, which caused many residents to speak out at a contentious community meeting the next month.
"In the plans (now) being considered, most if not all the homes owned by the church will remain intact," according to the church statement.
Instead the church will form a parking/welcoming ministry to oversee safe and effective traffic flow on Sunday mornings, maximize available spaces and provide shuttle and valet service, according to the release.
Earlier this month Orchard and Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 approved a 10-year agreement to share parking spaces between the church, Thomas Middle School and Olive-Mary Stitt Elementary school, an agreement officials said has been informally in place for years.
Clarkson said there are no plans to expand the footprint of the Arlington Heights building and that with future growth the church will continue to add new campuses, rather than build additions to buildings.
"There is no easy solution with such a complicated situation," Clarkson said in the release. "When all the new plans are presented, approved and completed, we are still likely to have some parking challenges. However, we truly believe that given the circumstances, this is the most balanced approach going forward -- one which improves our parking situation, while acknowledging and directly addressing the feedback from neighbors."