Sometimes when things are gridlocked, compromise is the only option.

 

          Take the case of Hillcrest Church , an interdenominational congregation of 2,500, and the neighbors living nearby. Conflict between the two started as far back as the early 1990s, when the church, near Hillcrest and

Willow Lane

since 1988, bought the lot of a burned-down house on nearby

Yorkwood Circle

and turned it into an additional parking area. Though neighbors along the cul-de-sac were unhappy with the acquisition, the church purchased additional lots nearby, which were also converted to parking.

 

          At that point, neighbors thought expansion efforts were at an end. But then resident Jayne Latta received a notice of a new expansion request by the church.

 

And thus, SONG — or Save Our Neighborhood Group — was started, consisting of approximately 10 area families that felt they would be severely impacted by additional parking lots near their properties. Members of SONG put signs up around the neighborhood to inform fellow residents about what the church was doing, and also filed a lawsuit against the church after discussions failed (a second lawsuit was filed by a different neighbor).

 

          “We have no objection to them being there,” says Hillcrest Forest Neighborhood Association treasurer and SONG member Latta, “but they keep taking over the neighborhood, our green spaces, and putting in parking lots with thousands of cars. If you live in a residential neighborhood, you just don’t want a big huge parking lot next to you.”

 

          The lawsuits dragged on for more than a year; finally, mediation was ordered by the court, where a final compromise was hammered out.

 

          Under terms of the agreement, the church has submitted an application to the city to be zoned into a Planned Development District (PD). Included in this PD are plans to limit church frontage on certain neighborhood streets and to limit future land acquisitions in the neighborhood. The church must also erect a wall to screen its parking areas and install lighting that will reduce visual pollution and glare. Many other provisions of the PD can be found on Hillcrest Forest Neighborhood Association’s Web site at hillcrestforest.org/ZoningChurch.html

 

Although the two sides have come to an agreement, Latta says there is damage that can’t be undone, and some issues remain unsolved.

 

“It will never end. If you drive down

Willow Lane

, it is a complete mess,” she says. “Very little of our agreement has been actually completed, and they’ve gone over the time frame.”

 

But Jack Clinton, a board trustee who managed the Hillcrest Church project for six years, responds that the church leaders and congregation are as ready as the neighbors to get the project done.

 

“They [the congregation] are pleased that we have come as far as we have toward resolution, and there is some anxiousness to finish it up.”

 

Clinton says others could learn from this whole ordeal.

 

“It’s been a long and challenging project, and I think you are seeing more and more this kind of stuff in Dallas . There has to be some way for churches and neighborhoods and cities to work these things out.

 

“Maybe churches have to state right out their plans for future growth and expansion,” he says. “There needs to be an easier and less expensive way to get through something like this.”

 


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