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Church plans would ruin neighborhood
Letter to the Editor
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Published: 4/15/2009 12:00 AM

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In April, the Libertyville board of trustees likely will vote on whether to allow the First Presbyterian Church to tear down 212 W. Maple Ave. a historic home in the heart of downtown Libertyville, in order to enlarge an existing asphalt parking lot. This is the latest step in the church's systematic destruction of the homes in the surrounding neighborhood, many of which are over a century old and have been featured in historic walking tours. In recent decades, the church has demolished numerous homes in the vicinity to further its onerous expansion. Unless this disturbing pattern of teardowns is put to a stop now, 212 W. Maple will not be the last home that is lost; the church still owns six other residential properties nearby, in addition to three parking lots and a vacant lot, and envisions, in its own words, a church "campus." In the face of overwhelming neighborhood opposition to the project, and for reasons that are not entirely clear, the Libertyville plan commission voted to recommend approval of the church's plan. This recommendation now goes to the board of trustees. Four of the seven board members, including Mayor Harger, are members of the church. There are indications that they will not recuse themselves from voting on this issue despite this blatant conflict of interest.

Our neighborhood, graced by diverse architectural styles and large trees, provides a sense of community identity and memories. Its charm, character, and walkability, not to mention property values, are in serious jeopardy. It is a shame that a church congregation that emphasizes community service is willing to destroy a part of Libertyville's heritage as well as a part of the neighborhood that is the church's home. Libertyville was founded upon houses like 212 W. Maple, and it's time for village officials to stand up and protect the homes in this historic downtown neighborhood instead of promoting their needless destruction.

Jill Dennor