OP-ED: Orchard Evangelical Free Church Should Be a Good Green Neighbor; Don’t Blacktop Homes in Hickory Meadows


After careful analysis of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church plans to raze eight homes owned by the church, and expand parking, it is obvious expansion of blacktop is not a good plan because the expansion of parking areas is a negative factor for the environment, the local neighborhood, and the local economy.

From a Green Perspective — Negative for the Environment
Vast areas of pavement contribute to the urban heat island effect, which causes metropolitan areas to become significantly warmer than rural areas with less human invasion of the environment.

Urban heat islands exacerbate heat waves in a city. Heat waves and the extra heat of the Urban Heat Island effect increases mortality from heat illnesses (1,000 people die each year due to extreme heat in the United States). The nighttime effect of Urban Heat Islands can be particularly harmful during a heat wave, as it deprives urban residents of the cool relief compared to the cool grass and trees of rural areas during the night, when most people are trying to sleep and rest comfortably.

Urban Heat Islands affect energy costs by requiring greater use of air conditioners to achieve safe and comfortable living during a heat wave. The greater need for air conditioning has a negative impact on energy requirements and the environment, and a negative effect on the pocketbook of the homeowner.

Research shows that when Chicago and New York experience unusually hot summertime temperatures, elevated levels of illness and death are predicted. In contrast, parts of the country that are mild-to-hot year-round have a lower public health risk from excessive heat, because people are more acclimated physiologically to warmer temperatures year round. This is especially harmful to elderly residents because aging decreases physiological adaptation capabilities.

Urban Heat Island effect is correlated with higher rainfall and could be the reason that the northwest suburbs are experiencing a higher number of “100-year rain floods” recently.

Recent Rain Records — Caused by Urban Heat Island Near Lake Michigan?

As of 1 a.m., July 29, 2011 the monthly rainfall total recorded at O’Hare International Airport stood at 10.45 inches — already the wettest July on record. Before July 2011, the previous July rainfall record was 9.56 inches, set in 1889. The overnight rainfall also ranked July 2011 the eighth wettest month ever in Chicago.

The all-time wettest month in Chicago was reported in August 1987, when 17.1 inches of rain fell. During that month on August 14, 1987, a day’s record 6.49 inches of rain was reported. That day’s record was broken on September 13, 2008 (6.64 inches) and July 23, 2011 (6.91 inches).

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago continues to work with communities to create Watershed Planning Councils. Currently there are six watershed planning councils: Lower Des Plaines, Poplar Creek, Upper Salt Creek, Little Calumet River, Cal-Sag Channel, and the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Arlington Heights is included in the Upper Salt Creek watershed along with Barrington, Deer Park, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Roselle, unincorporated Cook County, Elk Grove Township, Palatine Township, Schaumburg, and Wheeling Township.

Arlington Heights is also included in the Lower Des Plaines River Watershed, which includes an additional 76 communities.

The extra heat provided by the Urban Heat Island effects leads to greater upward motion of moist air, which can induce additional shower and thunderstorm activity. In addition, the Urban Heat Island effect can create a local low pressure area where heat rises and relatively moist air from rural areas converges, possibly leading to more favorable conditions for cloud formation. Our proximity to Lake Michigan can also lead to favorable conditions for cloud formation and precipitation, as the cooler lake temperatures cause the clouds formed to dump their rain on our suburbs. This could be especially worsened at night when temperatures are cooler after a day of heat and evaporation of moisture into the clouds above — a recipe for clouds dumping precipitation. The recent flooding rains of July 2011 fell mostly at night. Watching the weather radar, one could see images of thunderstorms form directly overhead — much of it along Lake Cook Road. The thunderstorms literally grew overhead and “trained” through our area.

In meteorology, thunderstorm training is defined as repeated areas of rain, typically associated with thunderstorms, that move over the same region in a relatively short period of time. Training thunderstorms are capable of producing excessive rainfall totals, and causing flash flooding. “Thunderstorm Training” is analogous to a railroad train and its railroad cars traveling along a track (moving along a single path), without the track moving. From a strictly scientific perspective, thunderstorm training is actually a fascinating weather phenomenon to watch on weather radar.

Scenes from Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect during heavy rainfall on July 23, 2011. Roads were flooded to an extent in the northwest suburbs that fire engines were delayed when impassable roads were discovered on the routes to the Mount Prospect apartment fire shown in the video. Notice the time stamps documenting the persistent heavy rain. The video also shows high water at Green Slopes park just north of Orchard Evangelical Free Church. The heavy rain was a result of thunderstorm training over our area.

Research shows that rainfall rates downwind of cities are increased between 48% and 116% from the Urban Heat Island effect. Partly as a result of this warming, monthly rainfall is about 28% greater between 20 miles to 40 miles downwind of cities, compared with upwind. Some cities show a total precipitation increase of 51%. That actually means that our problems could actually be caused by increased convection from increased blacktop pavement to the west and southwest of Arlington Heights. The Urban Heat Island contribution from Arlington Heights could be causing increasing rainfall downwind from Arlington Heights — Niles, Skokie, northwest side of Chicago neighborhoods, etc. The result? Greater flooding all over Chicagoland from the increased generation of rainfall caused by the Urban Heat Island effect, and the increased runoff from blacktop pavement surfaces into storm water drainage systems — increasing the chance of flooding.

Runoff and flash flooding is an issue in Arlington Heights and Chicagoland, even with the development of the Deep Tunnel Project. Increased blacktop parking lots increase storm water runoff and increase the load on drainage systems.

Also, hot pavement and rooftop surfaces transfer excess heat to stormwater, which then drains into storm sewers and raises water temperatures as warmer water is released into streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. In August 2001, rains over Cedar Rapids, Iowa led to a 18.9°F rise in the nearby stream within one hour, which led to a fish kill.

Mitigation of the urban heat island effect can be accomplished through the use of green roofs and the use of lighter-colored surfaces in urban areas, not constructing blacktop parking lots, which absorb more sunlight and absorb more heat. Increasing unnecessary parking lots is contradictory to efforts by cities to improve the environment.

Extra Blacktop Parking is a Negative Factor for the Local Neighborhood
Extra parking available from a parking lot is not going to correct the problem of late arrivals to church rushing and speeding through the neighborhood. While the number of serious accidents is apparently low historically, it does not mean they are not likely to occur in the future. The same applies to people rushing to leave the lot to get to their next engagements for the day. The neighborhood is congested and will be congested whether there is a new parking lot or not.

The expansion of parking lots up to existing residential homes is undesirable. The currently configuration provides a nice buffer.

The current residents of the homes on Olive Street provide a good neighborhood watch source over the parking lot at Olive-Mary Stitt School, which is already a popular gathering place for youths in cars. The parking lot at Olive-Mary Stitt School has a potential for reckless behavior, including street racing and illegal drug transactions.

The addition of additional blacktop parking results in the neighborhood receiving a direct local negative effect of the Urban Heat Island effect.

Extra Blacktop is Bad for the Local Economy
The elimination of eight houses translates to less sales to local business, including restaurants, grocery stores and other retail stores.

Use Existing Parking Lots; Make the Shuttle Fun
There are large amounts of existing parking areas very close to the existing church property, that should be negotiated by the church, perhaps with incentives to parking lot property owners by the Village of Arlington Heights.

A vast amount of parking is already available within two blocks of Orchard Evangelical Free Church:

Approximately 100,000 square feet of parking already exists at the medical professional buildings in the 1400 block of North Arlington Heights Road.

Over 16,000 square feet of parking already exists at Thomas Middle School.

About 17,000 square feet of parking already exists at Olive-Mary Stitt School.

Over 78,000 square feet of parking already exists at a parking lot at a vacant property (formerly AT&T), just north of Arlington Heights Fire Station 2 (fire department headquarters).

The church should give the shuttle buses another try, but make the buses colorful and fun. Include colorful graphics with spiritual and evangelical messages on the outside of the bus. Include onboard Wi-Fi and televisions, which could include spiritual messages, Cubs or Sox games, or Chicago Bears pre-game shows. See what works. Make the buses more fun than running 100 yards or more in the rain or snow from the parking lot or street parking. Renting parking lots and renting or owning buses could be a lot cheaper than building and maintaining a $1 million parking lot.

The church is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and parks in a neighborhood where residents strongly reject the idea of additional parking that would harm the neighborhood. At its current size and associated traffic flow, the church would probably NOT be approved as a brand new church — if the property it now holds were a vacant property. Orchard Evangelical Free Church is a great positive for Arlington Heights; don’t turn it into a negative.

See also …
S. A. Changnon, Jr., K. E. Kunkel, and B. C. Reinke (1996). “Impacts and responses to the 1995 heat wave: A call to action“. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 77 (7): 1497–1506.

J. F. Clarke (1972). “Some effects of the urban structure on heat mortality“. Environmental Research 5 (1): 93–104.

Robert E. Davis, Paul C. Knappenberger, Patrick J. Michaels, and Wendy M. Novicoff (November 2003). “Changing heat-related mortality in the United States“. Environmental Health Perspectives 111 (14): 1712–1718.

Fuchs, Dale (2005-06-28). “Spain goes hi-tech to beat drought“. The Guardian.

Goddard Space Flight Center (2002-06-18). “NASA Satellite Confirms Urban Heat Islands Increase Rainfall Around Cities“. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Archived from the original on June 12, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-17.

Chiel C. van Heerwaarden and J. Vilà-Guerau de Arellano (2008). “Relative humidity as an indicator for cloud formation over heterogeneous land surfaces“. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 65 (10): 3263–3277.

Urban Climate – Climate Study and UHI“. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2009-02-09.

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago — www.mwrd.org

The Cardinal About 2.2″ of Rain in Light Thunderstorms Overnight

The Cardinal Storm Report: Flooding, Downed Power Lines

The Cardinal Mount Prospect Extra Alarm Fire: Colonial Greens Apartment Building on Algonquin Rd, Top Floor and Roof Destroyed

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1 Comment

  1. Take a look at the maps on VAH.com and you’ll see that the Haddow Ct cul-de-sac is at the top of a FEMA designated flood zone.

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