Opinion: Church to ask Zoning Board to build parking lot
A parking lot is a blight in any of Haddonfield’s residential neighborhoods. Think fumes, headlights, noise, beer cans, cigarette butts and trash — next door to you.
Believe it on not, in this year, when we’re celebrating 300 years of Haddonfield’s heritage, the watch-dogs appointed to preserve our town’s historic character, the Historic Preservation Commission, last month said yes to a 22-car parking lot in a residential neighborhood located in Haddonfield’s Historic District. Yes, to 22 cars parked just a stone’s throw from our hallowed Historical Society. Believe it or not, this month, a majority of the Planning Board said yes to this 22-car parking lot.
In 2007, the Christian Science Church purchased and demolished a two-story brick residence on Sylvan Lake Avenue with plans to create a parking lot next to the church for its 40 members.
It says that it needs a parking lot, it needs to accommodate many members who drive from out of town, it needs handicapped parking, needs it because members are inconvenienced when high school activities compete for available on-street parking spaces.
Our zoning ordinances do not welcome parking lots in neighborhoods zoned as residential neighborhoods. On Sept. 17, the church will ask the Zoning Board to give it a variance to build this parking lot in a residential neighborhood.
Let’s look at the facts.
I and every resident in Haddonfield are temporarily inconvenienced when our whole business district on Kings Highway is closed to parking for the weekend for the annual crafts fair that attracts thousands to our town, for the annual antique car show, for popular Friday night concerts in July when the Mango Men or the Pick-Up Band have children dancing in the streets. In our tightly packed, historic borough, limited parking inconveniences us all from time to time.
Have you ever tried to get a parking space near the high school on our annual Thanksgiving Day football game?
Shall we say yes to knocking down buildings to build parking lots to deal with temporary inconveniences?
Shall we say yes to a parking lot in a residential neighborhood when the church says in its 80 years there it has never requested the borough to give it handicapped parking on the street, when the church has not asked the borough for designated parking for church use only on Wednesday evenings, when the church has not asked the neighboring Historical Society for use of its off-street parking spaces?
I say no. The church does not need a parking lot.
The neighborhood provides 120 legal, on-street parking spaces within one block of the church. From 60 of these parking spaces, congregants can walk to the church without crossing any street.
In the last 12 months, on 48 out of 50 Sunday mornings when the church has a service, 80 legal parking spaces have been empty and available.
In the last 12 months, on more than two out of three Wednesday evenings when the church has a service, 60 (50 percent) of these legal parking spaces have been empty and available.
I hope you’ll join us at the Zoning Board meeting, Sept. 17, in Borough Hall to knock down another attack on the Haddonfield we know and love.