Monday, June 13, 2011

Will the new St. James Church cause a parking problem in Belvidere?

This is my concern.  Take a look at the letter I submitted to Belvidere Planning and Zoning regarding the issue.  I am asking only that the Church comply with the zoning mandate and provide one on-premise parking space for each five seats.  That equates to 170 on-site parking spaces now that the church is to hold only 850.  I wish the zoning law required more because I foresee cars clogging the streets in all directions. The Church’s architectural firm wants 110 spaces.

Click on the photocopy to enlarge or read the printed letter shown below the photocopies: 

6-13-2011 letter 1

6-13-2011 letter 2

6-13-2011 letter 3

6-13-2011 letter 4

Here is the two page letter portion in an easier to read format:

June 13, 2011

Belvidere Planning and Zoning Commission

615 North Main Street

Belvidere, Illinois 61008

REFERENCE: Case Number 2011-15; St. James Catholic Church

I oppose granting the applicant any deviation from City Code Section 150.204C3b. (One parking space per 5 seats at maximum capacity [Ratio 5:1 on premise spaces to capacity])

I am a St. James parishioner who regularly attends 10 AM Sunday mass. This service most always overcrowds the 350 capacity church. All parking spaces on parish grounds are filled and on-street parking for several blocks is jammed packed. The applicant is asking for a deviation from Section 150.204C3b because of the availability of on-street parking. I question whether adequate on-street parking will be available for the new 850 capacity church.

I have counted the current number of parking spaces available on parish property and identified them on an aerial map which is attached. Currently there are 130 parking spaces on parish property. The applicant indicates that once the new church is built and the old church torn down, there would only be 115 parking spaces. Diagonal parking would be built at applicant’s expense however it is questionable if this would increase parking on Church Street because only one side of the street will be parked after this change.

Page 3 of the applicant’s Narrative states that: “Random surveys conducted during mass in early 2011 show that parishioners currently use 70-80 on-street parking spaces in the near vicinity of the church along Julien, Caswell and Church Streets” If the code deviation is granted, on-street parking would have to supply all additional needed parking. Just multiplying the current on-street parking (as supplied by the applicant) by the increase in capacity (850/350 times the 70 current on-street slots) on-street parking increases approximately 143% to 170. Using figures more nearly matching the actual cars to church capacity ratio of the current church (see chart below), on-street parking increases 430% to 371 spots. (For an analysis of needed parking for a range of such ratios see Attachment 2)

Either figure would cause massive on-street parking stress in the St. James neighborhood as well as adjacent areas. Cars from St. James could well fill all the spots throughout these neighborhoods. Moreover, all worship services will be near capacity because the chief reason for the new church is to decrease the number of scheduled masses. Such massive parking issues could never have been imagined by the neighbors of the church when they moved to the area.

Old church parking --350 Church CAPACITY

New church parking-- 850 Church CAPAPCITY at current ratio

130 spaces on parish property

70 on-street parking per applicant’s survey

200 TOTAL spaces utilized

CURRENT RATIO: 200 spaces/350 capacity (1.75)

115 spaces on parish property

371 on-street parking (maintaining 1.75 ratio)

486 TOTAL spaces utilized

Ratio: 486 spaces/850 capacity (1.75)

Bold Items Obtained by using the current ratio from old church survey

Should the church’s neighbors be required to supply the vast majority of the church’s parking? Using the chart shown on the previous page, it appears that on-street parking currently provides 35% (70/200) of St. James parking. Will you allow on-street parking to provide 76% (371/486) of the new St. James parking at maximum capacity?

It appears that staff is recommending approval of applicant’s deviation request regarding Section 150.204C3b, subject to the applicant providing (prior to occupancy permit) proof of attempts to buy, rent or lease 55 off-street parking spaces in the area. I am opposed to such action.

St. James Church has been notified by the actual owner of the church property, the Diocese of Rockford, that no construction can occur unless the parish deposits $1,000,000 with the diocese for this project and the parishioners sign pledges for approximately half of the projected building costs. Figures are supplied weekly to parishioners. Statements from the Building Committee indicate that these financial hurdles will not be reached until early 2012. I suggest that the city postpone further action on the application until the applicant provides a workable plan of action to acquire additional off-street parking sufficient to meet the code requirements of one parking space per five seats at maximum capacity.

St. James Catholic Church should agree to such a delay because it will have no material effect on its building schedule and the postponement will afford the church an opportunity to better inform the parish and community of its plans. The applicant’s Narrative indicates that until approximately two months ago, St. James intended to build this large church outside the city. Obviously there has been little or no opportunity to acquire additional property for parking at the current parish campus. If the applicant agrees to a postponement, the full plans (including additional on-premises parking) for the proposed St. James institutional district will be available for the public’s consideration.

On a more practical level, I pose this question: “Once the church is built, would the Planning Department or the City Council really refuse an occupancy permit to a church for not reasonably pursuing additional parking for this project?”

Hopefully my analysis will help you in your decision. I trust that you will agree that St. James’ requests should not be approves until applicant can provide adequate off-street parking.


9592 Denver Drive

Belvidere, Il 61008

815 544 5115