St. Joseph Catholic Church in Elgin has begun discussing preliminary plans for a new church with city officials and residents, who have concerns about how it would affect nearby parking.
The new church, adjacent to the current church at 272 Division St., would be the largest new construction project within the Elgin Historic District in recent memory, said John Wiedmeyer, chairman of the city's heritage commission.
Church officials and architects met with the heritage commission's design review subcommittee this week and with the Gifford Park Association last week.
The new church -- a $3 million project for which the church is fundraising -- would be shorter and set back farther from the street than the current church, in order not to outshine it, Wiedmeyer said.
"They did not have any designs. It was a very preliminary meeting," he said. "I'm glad they came before us at this stage rather than showing us a drawing without any input (from us)."
Committee members told church officials they hope the new church will incorporate some design elements and materials from the original church, Wiedmeyer said.
Residents said they support St. Joseph but are worried about the volume of attendance at a new church, which would hold 1,200 people compared to the current 300.
"They're a valuable neighbor ... but it's going to create problems," said Dan Miller, president of the Gifford Park Association.
Resident Caryl Clement, whose children were baptized at St. Joseph, said there are already parking problems during Masses. When the church holds festivals, "We are afraid to leave our homes because we might not find parking on the street when we get back," she said.
The Rev. Jesus Dominguez said the church wants to be a good neighbor and have open communication with city officials as the project moves along. He declined to give more specifics, saying there are no set plans.
The church raised about $500,000 as of December and there is no timeline for construction, he said. The plan is to use $1.5 million in church funds and apply for a loan from the Diocese of Rockford.
The new church would be on about an acre, including green space and two parking lots at 115-121 Center St. that are owned by the city. St. Joseph has requested two extensions to a late 2016 contract to buy the parking lots pending a zoning application, with a current July 1 deadline. Dominguez declined to say whether he was planning to ask for another extension.
St. Joseph is facing up to a $100,000 expense to replace the cooling and heating system, according to a post on its Facebook page this month.
"The heating and cooling system of the church, the gym and the school is in very bad condition since it is almost 100 years old. We had to repair it more than a couple of times," the post stated. "Now we have a problem right now."
Dominguez said he was confident the church would be able to get the work done, hopefully soon.