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Hickory Meadows Neighborhood Group Opposes Orchard Evangelical Free Church Parking Lot Expansion

Tue April 02 2013 8:01 am
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Google Street View of near the intersection North Haddow Avenue and East Olive Street — looking toward the segment of Haddow Avenue and trees that would be eliminated to make way for a parking lot.

In 2005, a concept plan was submitted by Orchard Evangelical Free Church (formerly Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church) to expand the church and build a parking garage. The preliminary plans were reviewed by the village’s plat and subdivision committee but were strongly opposed by the neighborhood group Hickory Meadows Group, which was formed in 2005 in response to the church expansion plans.

The church never followed through with a formal application for the expansion project that involved a larger church as part of the 2005 plan.

In 2011 the Orchard Evangelical Free Church submitted a concept plan that involved razing eight homes owned by the church, and the construction of a parking lot in place of the home lots. The Orchard Evangelical Free Church owns nine properties, including eight homes and one vacant lot on Haddow, which are maintained by the church. The homes are leased to residents, who were made aware at the signing of their leases that the properties might be developed.

The neighbors in the Hickory Meadows group oppose losing the Haddow Avenue cul de sac, and the addition of more pavement, and the associated loss of trees, shrubs and grass in the neighborhood.

Demolishing the homes requires Village of Arlington Heights review, but already the church has contacted JULIE (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators) to mark underground utilities, which is required to prevent construction or digging from interrupting utilities.

Meanwhile individuals in the group have come up with suggestions to avoid razing the homes, including adding additional church services, for example, expand from two services to four services. Neighbors have also expressed that they approve of the street parking that is currently necessary during church services and other events.

Residents also point to the loss of local sales for businesses and loss of tax revenue caused by the loss of housing occupants shopping locally.

Neighbors in the group are also monitoring the property for any construction planning that appears to be happening at the church. Recently many trees have been tagged by a landscaping contractor, which neighbors fear are marked for removal. An ordinance for tree preservation exists, which is a concern and a talking point for neighbors. Some remaining houses not owned by the church would be affected by new parking lot borders very close to their property — not the greatest feature regarding the parking lot, if it is not buffered by plenty of trees between a resident’s patio, backyard and side yard, and a new expanded parking lot.

The neighbors attempts to meet with Pastor Colin Smith or another representative of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church have so far failed.

According to The Orchard Evangelical Free Church News published online on March 21, 2013, the project plans include the following details …

– Village approval will be sought in April with demolition and construction to begin in spring/summer.

– Project completion is estimated to be September 2013.

– The additional parking does not involve a multi-story parking structure.

– The project itself is not being completed to add more people at the church.

– Estimated cost of the project is around $1 million, none of which are related to congregational tithing.

– All funds are being raised through separate fund-raising efforts.

– There are no plans for expansion of the church building beyond its current footprint.

Previous efforts to offer an offsite shuttle program to reduce the 100-200 cars that park on the streets nearby did not engage enough participation to warrant continuing with the service. The church has not been real clear on why it isn’t satisfied with overflow on street parking. There is no word mentioned from the church why Thomas Middle School, Olive-Mary Stitt School, or the medical professional (1430 N Arlington Heights Road) parking lots are not available for parking on Sundays.

The church is surrounded, in large part by open space, including Thomas Middle School athletic fields, Green Slopes Park, Hickory Meadows Park reservoir and ice skating area, Olive-Mary Stitt School athletic fields and Greens Park.

Traffic is heavy during the Sunday services and during events, such as Christmas concerts which makes it harder for pedestrians to cross between cars; however there doesn’t appear to be a high rate of accidents related to the on-street parking. Police are often present during high traffic periods.

Neighbors have attempted to gain political support and guidance, and have had meetings with Village President candidates Ron Drake and Mark Hellner, and incumbent Trustee candidate Thomas Glasgow.

Current Trustee and Village President candidate Tom Hayes is a member of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church, which likely causes him to have to recuse himself from decisions regarding the development plans.

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The appearance of existing parking at the corner of Olive Street and Belmont Avenue.

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