ELMHURST – Redeemer Lutheran Church's modified application for a conditional-use permit for the reconfiguration of its parking lot and sale of buildable lots has advanced to the Elmhurst City Council following the April 9 Development, Planning and Zoning Committee meeting.
The church at 345 S. Kenilworth Ave. in Elmhurst would like to sell land plots it currently has for parking near its Redeemer Center to be able to pay for improvements to the church, such as making the church more handicap accessible.
David Hanni, congregation president at Redeemer Lutheran, previously told Suburban Life the church wants to install a three-level interior elevator and refinish areas near the elevator, move and turn the pipe organ so it faces the altar area, add a fire alarm system, do asbestos abatement, and make various changes to make the church more handicap accessible. These changes include rebuilding bathrooms, lowering the communion rail to floor level, using movable risers in the choir loft and removing some pews in the main sanctuary.
Currently, the only handicap-accessible accomodation is an individual chair lift from a side entrance to the church, he said previously.
The total project cost is roughly $3.1 million, which would be paid for with a capital campaign, an estimated $2.5 million worth of land sales and equity, Hanni had said. The elevator alone would cost about $1.6 million.
Neighboring residents have challenged the church's application, citing concerns about traffic, safety, landscape buffering and consistent enforcement of the city code.
At the April 9 meeting, the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee discussed a new application submitted to the city, which included several variations, as well as the condition that the city can mandate the church add additional parking spaces on the property if the city finds them necessary at any point in the future.
Assistant City Manager Mike Kopp said in an interview after the more than three-hour discussion at the meeting that the committee decided to approve all the variations proposed.
One of them was to approve the land banking, as long as the city approves landscaping plans prior to the City Council's approval of the ordinance, and all engineering documentation, such as stormwater and landscaping, is compiled in preparation for parking spots to go in if needed.
Instead of putting in the normally required 82 parking spaces to accommodate both the use of the community center and the church, Redeemer Church would put in eight behind the church and 45 in another lot, Kopp said.
"If we ever say, 'You have to put it in,' all that work is already done," he said.
The rear-yard setback, which is normally 50 feet for a community center, would be 30 feet to correspond with the nearby residential lots Redeemer Church would sell off, Kopp said.
"Part of the argument was that residential homes only require [the] 30-foot setbackin that area ... which allows those lots to be the right size, which is 60 feet by 155 feet," Kopp said.
Alderman Michael Honquest, chairman of the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee, said he would have a problem with the application if the street were "covered" in cars every night of the week, but that is not the case in his view.
He said the residential homes that would be built would be "very nice" for the neighborhood, not a commerical building.
Honquest and alderwoman Noel Talluto expressed during the meeting they would have liked to see the neighbors and church resolve the contention between themselves and earn each other's trust.