Highland Park Presbyterian Has Filed to Rezone

Just got the news myself.

For the unfamiliar, HPPC has been under fire from surrounding homeowners for proposing  construction of a new parking lot on church property. This post contains a few reader responses, as well as links to HPPC’s information page and an opposing group’s blog.

Details to follow!

46 thoughts on “Highland Park Presbyterian Has Filed to Rezone

  • May 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm
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    for pete’s sake, the neighbors should embrace this plan.
    it will cut down on the number cars parked around the rest of the area and make for safer streets due to fewer cars parking in head in spaces.

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  • May 25, 2010 at 11:58 pm
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    Which house near the church is yours?

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  • May 26, 2010 at 7:03 am
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    Drove around the neighborhood yesterday….100’s of signs against the parking lot. Seemed like every house not owned by the church had one up.

    What do you think the result would be if the church congregation actually got a vote on this after a presentation from both sides?

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  • May 26, 2010 at 8:48 am
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    I’m one of the church members who is against this. They have shown us pretty pictures, but they are just that- pretty pictures. What I worry about is the damage we are doing to relationships with the people around us. There seem to be so many who oppose this, and I just want us all to get along.

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  • May 26, 2010 at 9:42 am
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    I understand the skepticism from the neighbors and community. Will it look like the beautiful pictures?

    Question for everyone?
    If the proposed parking lot looks like the plans and “pretty pictures” and no cars can be seen from any of the streets than why do you oppose the plan? I am truly asking out of curiosity.

    I am a church member that is for the parking lot. I have been at the church since 1973 and I live nearby. The plans are beautiful and I believe they are working very hard to make it appealing to the neighborhood.

    I would love to hear your opinions for or against this lot – other than “preserve our neighborhood”.

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  • May 26, 2010 at 10:05 am
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    I do want to point out the the people who made the signs have self confessed that they walked around and placed them in everyones yards. Sure people have left them there but I wonder how many people would have “swung by” to pick one up and place it if a few people hadn’t taken it upon themselves to put them at every house and even every empty lot in the neighborhood.

    Is this an issue really of 100’s of people or is it a couple pretty angry people who are trying to create something that really not everyone is concerned about. And don’t try to tell me that you have 100’s of signatures on a petition. I think if you stopped by my house and told me an angry story from your point of view about how mean spirited and ugly the church is being I’d probably sign it too.

    The point is perspective. The haters keep finding new avenues to attack. The bottom line is you don’t want a parking lot. Don’t try new tactics every time it suits you and you think of a new way to try and get people on your side. Remember a year ago the church was going to do something quite different and they have clearly listened to the neighborhood and tried to conceal the parking lot as much as they possible can.

    I’m sure that there will be quite a few rebuttals and even angry responses to this post. I can only say that I am sorry for coming across angry. The last house I bought I made very sure that I knew exactly who owned everything surrounding me and I asked difficult questions about what they might do with their property. Guess what, something got built there but I knew that was a possibility. Did you question your decision to buy a house in a neighborhood with a pretty big church, a fire station, city hall and a couple of parks that are used quite heavily by the YMCA and other sports leagues?

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  • May 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm
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    @Signs of the times. So to be clear here, you are saying that most of the signs (if not all but the one in the yard of the sign-maker)are just up because the residents are too lazy to take them down. Also, any petition out there against the parking lot only has signatures because the residents were told an angry story. You have a very low opinion of the residents surrounding HPPC and of yourself if you would just sign some petition willy nilly because someone showed up on your doorstep selling some angy story on an issue.

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  • May 26, 2010 at 2:13 pm
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    It’s difficult to accept “perspective” from somebody who describes their neighbors as “haters”. I’m not sure a large group of individuals who are trying to protect their homes could be called haters. I guess you really are angry.

    After you cool down, here are a few facts for you to consider: First, to date the number of people who have signed a petition against the parking lot exceeds 450 individuals. Second, no signs have been placed without the expressed permission of the owner of that property. Third, the tactics of the neighbors all reflect a consistent core message, they don’t want a parking lot.

    Finally, your point about buying next to a “pretty big church” as being a questionable decision only hurts your argument. You are basically admitting that big churches are scary neighbors because they aggressively pursue their expansion goals at the peril of their neighbors.

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  • May 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm
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    What is the expected market value impact of a church putting a parking lot on its property? There are signs in yards that are well down the street and shouldn’t be impacted by the lack of beauty of a parking lot. Is it the thought that a parking lot would potentially lead to increased church attendance and just fill the lot and streets again?

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  • May 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm
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    If you don’t want church parking in your neighborhood, don’t buy in a neighborhood with a church. Seems pretty simple.

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  • May 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm
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    “peril of neighbors”? – really

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  • May 26, 2010 at 5:45 pm
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    Has anyone looked into using the high school parking garage and a shuttle service like PCBC does at Preston Center?

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  • May 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm
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    jc, Great question! The neighbors have been asking the church to consider this and several other alternatives for the past year.

    Shuttle service has worked for many years at PCBC (which built a large-capacity underground garage and still needs additional parking!) and at HP Methodist (which does not have its own parking lot–SMU owns the parking spaces and HPUMC has an agreement to use them). It seems that HPPC could use this alternative very successfully.

    Valet parking is another option. Since the parking lot was originally advertised as being for the church’s senior members, why not instead use a valet service to allow seniors and other challenged members to drive right to the door? This option has been used very successfully at First Presbyterian in Houston for years. We have an estimate indicating that HPPC can use a valet service 4 hours per Sunday, 52 Sundays per year, for almost 20 years…..for about the same estimated cost of a surface parking lot.

    Other alternatives are to encourage families to ride to church together (the church has said that many families take more than one car to church every week) or to spread out worship service times so people don’t all arrive and leave at the same time.

    For HP Guru and Signs of the Times: yes, we knew we were purchasing a home near a lovely historic church, and we knew that the church owned several homes on a nearby block…BUT, we did our research and learned that those homes were all occupied by ministers and their families, several with kids who went to school with our kids. We considered it a great asset to have a church AND its ministers and their families as our neighbors. Never did we dream that the church would adopt the current strategy-to displace these ministers, tear down the homes they had lived in, and build a surface parking lot!

    University Boulevard and McFarlin Boulevard are two of the most recognizable and well traveled ‘signature’ streets in the City of UP. I hope that all UP homeowners would have a sense of pride about these gateway streets in the heart of our city. and would see that rezoning an entire city block for commercial use (which a parking lot would require) is not the best and highest use for this property. We love UP for its beautiful homes, wonderful caring neighbors, great amenities, and yes, its lovely churches. Numerous alternatives exist that would accommodate church members and preserve the quality and aesthetic of the neighborhood, not just for those living nearby, but for all UP residents. We hope our city leaders will agree.

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  • May 26, 2010 at 11:11 pm
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    Surely, it can’t be that difficult for the Church and the neighbors to get together on a parking plan so that everybody is happy.

    Most people in the Park Cities are proud of our churches and their success. But, with that success comes some challenges for the churches and the neighbors who live around them.

    Dallas has its own car culture. Unfortunately, that applies to work as well as worship.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 1:11 am
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    Being a member of HPPC and living in UP several blocks from the church my concerns about the construction of this parking lot are many. All you have to do is read the comments so far and you can see the frustration this is causing not only the neighbors who live across the street in either direction but from those who are in favor of the parking lot. When any rezoning change happens in a neighborhood there will always be passionate views expressed that can tear a community apart. in my case I am concerned with preserving the integrity of our residential neighborhood and our unique city character with it’s green space, mature trees, yes parks, and most importantly, friendly neighbors.I have a protest sign in my yard that I put there of my own accord and will support the preservation of homes and yards in any UP neighborhood. Even though HPPC owns the property i hope they will see the importance of being good neighbors and the important role they have to be a leader in the neighborhood and show their neighbors the same respect they have show church members by not complaining about the parking in front of their homes. My other comment would be, has anyone ever really seen a beautiful parking lot? No matter how disguised it is it is still a parking lot.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 6:30 am
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    HP Guru: The issue is a Parking Lot, not “church parking”.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 11:12 am
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    Jesus walked all over the Middle East. These Sunday Christians really need to be that close to the church?
    A parking LOT? In the middle of UP residential?
    Yes, let’s change the landscape of the community for the 4 hours a week the church needs its parking.
    INSANE.
    How does one get on the P & Z commission to shoot down idiotic ideas such as this?
    The church must feel wonderful about itself. The pope would be proud of a power play like this(I know its not a catholic church).

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  • May 27, 2010 at 11:59 am
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    A parking LOT? In the middle of UP residential?
    Yes, let’s change the landscape of the community for the 4 hours a week the church needs its parking.

    @ Grump
    As a parishioner at HPPC, I was ambivalent about the parking lot. Actually, we did consider buying a house very close to the church but the idea of a parking lot scared me off. Thinking about it in these terms though, as I quoted you above…this seals the deal on my opinion of it.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm
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    People really. Please don’t try to narrow this to a Sunday morning issue. If you don’t know the things the church does during the week please pay attention to it. This isn’t just for Sunday. There are schools, youth ministry, boyscouts, gym usage and choirs that happen at the church all week long.

    The church serves the community for CBS BIble Study with hundreds of community members (neighbors) on Tuesdays, there are 300 boyscouts and dads there on Monday Nights (neighbors), the YMCA uses the gym to host Junior High Girls volleyball (neighbors), the Park Cities Basketball league this year hosted 300 Junior and senior high boys all winter for games (neighbors).

    Remember again that in the middle of the residential area is a church, a fire station, a city hall and yes parks that get used a ton by the community. The City hall does have a parking lot too, it’s in the middle of a neighborhood surrounded by bushes so you can’t see it.

    Ok I’m done. I just again don’t want the issue to be watered down. To the neighbors you keep using different tactics. Just say you don’t want a parking lot don’t try to say why the church doesn’t need it. Your argument is much stronger when you just say you don’t want it and stop trying to use arguments that are weaker.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 2:50 pm
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    Arguments tend to be stronger when there is a main thrust (ie: we don’t want a parking lot in our residential neighborhood) supported by numerous other reasons (ie: details of why they don’t want it and why it is not needed). Some might call that a well-rounded argument. I find it odd that anyone would denigrate these homeowners for having issues on multiple levels with the parking lot. As well as whining about how the homeowners are continuing to do research throughout this drawn out process coming up with more items to support their cause when more details or ideas are brought to light. I mean really, who would think the homeowners would perform some due-diligence? That would just be silly.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 2:55 pm
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    Re: Follow Up
    City Hall: 30 space lot
    Church: 145 space lot
    “Our design task force has planned a plaza that uses our property to get 145 cars and our church vans off the streets, allowing our seniors, mobility impaired members, other members and visitors a beautiful and convenient place to park.”
    Uh, why not just ask the abled bodied people to not park at the church?

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  • May 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm
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    Grump- Thank you for finally admitting that there is already one parking lot in the neighborhood.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm
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    Due dilligence maybe should of happened before they bought their homes.

    I don’t think your multiple supportive reasons helps your argument. It just makes you look like you are hiding it. Just declair nimbyism and own it.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 7:47 pm
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    As a native of the Park Cities, I agree that we must preserve the beauty of our neighborhood. I don’t live close to the church, but it seems if the nearby homeowners don’t mind people parking on the street in front of their houses, then keep the status quo! Don’t tear down historic houses to build a parking lot just because walking two blocks might be a little inconvenient. My sons attended Boy Scout meetings at HPPC for 10 years and never once complained about parking. Same thing about kids going to the gym for basketball and volleyball – can’t they walk a block or two? Come on, we can all use a little exercise anyway! (Even in high heels, women can handle a quick stiletto strut). In fact, it’s part of our Park Cities culture – kids walking to elementary school, families walking to church, neighbors visiting with each other on the sidewalk, etc. Earlier posts bring up many viable options, and I’m sure the church can designate more handicap parking for those who truly need it.

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  • May 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm
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    ScoutMom- Good points. I concede that all of Texas needs to walk more. 🙂

    L

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  • May 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm
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    @Avid response: Most of us who moved in by the church did do that in the first place. Since we did our due-diligence then, as you suggested we should have done, what do you suggest we do now that they have changed the zoning and are planning to build this regardless of community input.

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  • May 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm
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    Just drove down University on my way home, like I do every day. I noticed the protest signs are gone from over half the homes. My guess is that the church wins this one.

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  • Pingback:Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society is Eyeballing HPPC House « Park Cities People

  • May 28, 2010 at 6:54 pm
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    They want to do what now?! For a parking lot? Over my dead . . .

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  • May 29, 2010 at 12:47 am
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    Follow Up: Thank you for your advice regarding our rhetorical efficacy. Your claim that we are diluting the issue, however, is absolutely false. I realize that it is easy for those who have not been following these developments closely to be misinformed, and therefore I will undertake the task of both clarifying the facts of the case and expounding upon the very redoubtable arguments against the church’s proposal that have been cited frequently by my colleagues above. If any party is tergiversating in its argument, it is the church, whose leadership has tried everything from senior accessibility to traffic reduction in their desperate but vacuous attempts to articulate a real parking need that one of our many alternative proposals cannot confute.
    It is a confirmed fact that property values in a neighborhood decrease due to the introduction of a planned development. By the estimates of professional appraisers who have been consulted on the issue, the values of adjacent houses could decline by as much as twenty-five percent as a result of the church’s current plans. The pertinent reality is that we bought our houses when the 3900 block of University was zoned for single family homes, and if the new construction is approved, we will be forced to sell our houses at a discount because that status quo will have been violated. In effect, were the development to be implemented, we would lose up to a quarter of our most important personal assets in order for church and community members to expend slightly fewer calories in their weekly commutes. Yes it is true that church buildings are used on almost every day of the week. But to suggest that this usage necessitates a surface parking lot for convenience is either a plain sophism or a terrible reflection of your own peremptoriness. Before 1991 the church had more than twice its current membership and yet survived brilliantly with the same parallel and street parking it has now. For seniors and those with small children, we suggest valet parking. For everyone else, demanding a parking lot that is indisputably detrimental to the surrounding neighborhood simply in order to save a few sweat glands is grossly provincial.
    Perhaps more unsettling, however, is the threat said parking lot poses to the integrity of the neighborhood itself. Besides the fact that two of our neighbors’ houses would be replaced by an incongruously conceived brick wall, the planned development would drastically change the constitution of the surrounding community in the long term. As time progresses, the church will have the precedent it needs to expand construction on the block even further, especially since the rezoning obstacle will have been surmounted. On top of that already insidious effect of uncertainty, the resentment and mistrust that a parking lot would incite (and, to a large degree, has already incited) among neighbors should be enough for the plans to be disregarded altogether. It saddens me that there is so little concern for the nefarious consequences that have already redounded upon the entire community for over a year as a result of this ridiculously expensive and unnecessary proposal, but I can only hope that the Planning and Zoning commission will make the right decision when it hears both sides this summer.

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  • May 29, 2010 at 8:58 am
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    Rev. Scates, head pastor of HPPC, publicly admitted that he would not want a parking lot in front of his home. And yet he wants to put one in front of ours. If you do not understand our anger (petition is over 500 names now) I’ll bet you do not live anywhere near the church!

    This is not the first time Scates has forced an unwanted parking lot upon church neighbors. When he was pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, he did the same thing, in spite of “a big uproar from the neighbors,” his words. If you look at the satellite image of this church and it’s 5 parking lots, it sure isn’t “pretty.” It’s 5 scars on the face of the planet and the one he installed (furthest lot NW) is almost entirely made of asphalt with a few small trees.

    Please look for yourself (Google Earth: 7308 York, Baltimore. Satellite mode). I’ll bet he made that one sound great to the neighbors, too, when they took over park land to make that giant concrete slab.

    But there is one thing Rev. Scates could adopt from his old church for HPPC. There is a group of volunteers who park in their most remote lot every sunday, thus freeing up the closer 4 lots for those who cannot or will not walk as far. I suggested to Scates that as head pastor, he could ask young and able-bodied volunteers to park a block away. Good-hearted, healthy Christians would have not problem with serving the church body this way, wouldn’t you think?

    I live one block away from HPPC, a 2 1/2 minute walk to the front door, and there is parking every sunday on my block. This is LESS OF A WALK than from NEIMAN MARCUS to NORDSROMS! If church members aren’t willing to walk that far, maybe their hearts aren’t really in it, anyway.

    In the end, this whole thing isn’t even really about parking. It’s about RE-ZONING and then being about to develop the entire block as the church wishes. When this was suggested to the Scates, he commented that if the church never expanded, he wouldn’t be sitting in the Hunt building right then.

    This is all about usurping the block for future expansion. The parking lot is their Trojan Horse.

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  • May 29, 2010 at 9:26 am
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    A NOTE ABOUT THE REMOVAL OF SIGNS ON UNIVERSITY: Several signs were posted and then shortly thereafter those houses were put on the market to be sold. No wonder the owners don’t want to advertise, in their own yards, the fact that a parking lot could go up across from or very close to their homes. Why? Because because MOST HOME BUYERS DO NOT WANT TO LIVE ACROSS FROM A PARKING LOT! You will notice the empty “for-sale” lots, as well, do not have signs. Wonder why?

    There are also a few neighbors who do not support the parking lot plans but who are AFRAID of voicing an opinion against their pastor and church. They may have good reason, for some church members who are opposing the parking lot have been ostracized inside the church walls. People are literally turning their backs to them as they pass.

    There are also a few owners in the neighborhood who are not posting signs for business or political purposes. Just because there isn’t a sign does not mean the owners are in favor.

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  • May 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm
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    FYI – years ago members of HPPC were allowed to park on both sides of University – not just one side – the city does not allow parking on both sides anymore so the number of spaces has diminished

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  • May 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm
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    The pastor and/or elders have issues.

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  • May 29, 2010 at 11:32 pm
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    I have been a life long member of HPPC, but I recently went to another church and discovered how much this church sucks. Honestly, they don’t need a parking lot. I would be pissed to if I lived near the church and had to deal with all those cars, but you chose to live there. And the church used to have a much bigger population before it split. Now the church is only shrinking, so I wouldn’t worry about all the traffic for now. Its a shitty church and will only get worse as time goes on. They don’t need a parking lot, maybe they should focus on the youth program. Seeing as how that is in need of attention.

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  • May 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm
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    FYI level headed: you can park on both sides of university between westwick and preston. i have been checking for 5 weeks in a row now and there has been lots of available parking on both sides between 11 and 12, church peak hours. at least half of the block, on both sides have been available for the weeks i have been closely watching.

    there is no need for a parking lot.

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  • May 30, 2010 at 8:52 pm
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    Levelheaded: You have a very good memory and a valid point. In fact, we neighbors have also realized that expanding parallel parking on University to previous levels would be a fantastic way to provide more space and reduce the need for a surface lot. In preliminary talks with the city, we have been told that it would be quite easy to redesignate both sides of University for parking on Sundays given adjacent homeowners’ approvals. I would invite you to read all of our proposed alternatives here; this specific one you mention is under heading 2b: http://nohppcparkinglot.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/hppc-parking-lot-the-present/ Note that the church itself has not provided a single rebuttal for any of these alternate proposals. Is it really worth estranging the entire surrounding community when so many other options are readily available?

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  • June 2, 2010 at 4:03 am
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    How would the parking lots affect the property base? Being church property, would they be exempt from taxes? Are they exempt now? Perhaps that would be a way to discourage the garage idea and encourage a shuttle.

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  • June 6, 2010 at 8:10 am
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    mrsz1ppy: Good questions regarding taxes. I don’t know about church tax laws, but if you think about how the property values of the neighboring homes are most likely to fall up to 25% (per 2 tax experts), then we are talking about losing many millions and millions in the U.P. property tax base. A BIG LOSS for the city and all the tax payers in it. Taxes might have to be raised overall to make up for the loss.

    This whole thing is very distressful to me but the one thing that keeps popping up in my head is, HOW COULD THESE CHURCH LEADERS HAVE SO OVERWHELMINGLY VOTED FOR THE DENIGRATION OF AN ENTIRE BLOCK OF HOMES AND A NEIGHBORHOOD?!!

    I can honestly say that I would not have, under ANY circumstances, voted to start taking down homes on a fully residential block to install a parking lot in front of other people’s homes. Not anywhere. Not in Kansas, not in NYC, not here. I’m sure most of the elders have homes of their own. They know how profoundly sentimental and protective all human beings are of them. They know that most people would not choose to live across from a parking lot. WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS TO US?!!

    This parking lot issue has come up in previous years, but once the church leaders heard that the neighbors were upset about it, they shut the whole process down. This thoughtless vote clearly illustrates that we are now living in a graceless age where SELFISH DESIRE COMES BEFORE RESPECT FOR OTHERS and their property. And these are the”Christians.”

    HPPC ministers and elders: You’ve made ‘Love thy neighbor” a complete joke.

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  • June 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm
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    I do not live in the surrounding neighborhood nor am I a member, but I do drive down University frequently when the church has activities going on. It is a BIG safety issue to me that those parking on University already assume the street is a parking lot and walk blindly into traffic without thinking twice. I have learned that pedestrians can walk into the street from behind every car parked there and shake their fist at you for not immediately stopping for them. Someone is going to get hurt despite UPD sitting on the side of the road most days.

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  • June 7, 2010 at 11:08 am
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    It says something about a church when instances like this happen. Whether it’s parking lots, too tall spires, church schools, or bells ringing.

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  • July 6, 2010 at 10:11 pm
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    Isn’t there another location you could allow for parking that is nearby (or not necessarily nearby) and have shuttles set up to take the parishioners to the church (like every 10 minutes from 7am until 1 or 2pm on Sundays), just like they do for college students at large universities during classes each day of the week.

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  • July 6, 2010 at 10:24 pm
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    One thing I do agree on is about all the parked cars along the streets in front of the houses. I’m so worried that someone is going to walk out in traffic without looking, and with so many children that aren’t being held close to their parents, that they could get hurt. I’m familiar with the area and on Sundays after I come from my downtown FUMC to go to lunch in the Preston area, I always try to be extra cautious when traveling back in that residential area. I had never heard about anyone shaking their fists at drivers before, that seems pretty rude. But we as drivers do need to acknowledge that pedestrians have the right of way and we need to be courteous to them. I’m still in favor of setting up a shuttle system. Sounds like it could be a win-win for everyone concerned.

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