Raleigh neighbors plead with church not to tear down historic homes for parking lot

Wake County News

Neighbors made a passionate plea Monday night, not to tear down six homes in historic Five Points.

The houses on White Oak Road are slated to be bulldozed to make way for a church parking lot. During a community meeting Monday, people who live in or near the homes asked the pastor of Hayes Barton Baptist Church if there was a solution that could make everyone happy.

“Once they are gone you can’t build anything of this quality,” said one person who attended the Five Points Citizen Advisory Council meeting.

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The meeting was standing room only as Pastor David Hailey presented the church’s case for needing additional the parking spaces.

The church began purchasing the homes in the early ’90s, and turned them into rental properties. Hailey says church now needs the six properties for an additional 78 parking spaces to accommodate the growing congregation. According to Hailey, many worshipers park on the grass or farther away from the building for Sunday service.

“We think that over time it will be accepted, and we are going to landscape it beautifully,” said Hailey.

The plans also include adding additional handicapped accessible entrance closer the the building’s chapel and nursery.

“If they did use this as a parking lot, it would pretty much be for two hours one day a week. So to me it just doesn’t make sense,” said Hattie Sage who lives in one of homes owned by the church.

Hailey says the church functions as a community center, and extra spaces would be utilized when they host basketball games, music classes and various meeting during the week

“While many of these space will not be used — we admit that — the access to these church will be used on a daily basis and we think more spaces might be used than many people might think,” Hailey said.

The big concern voiced by many during the meeting was that knocking down the homes would strip the neighborhood of some of its historic charm.  The homes were built in the 1920’s. Residents also raised concerns over safety, traffic and storm water runoff.

They want the church to consider other options, like holding multiple services on Sunday to ease the parking burden.

Hailey says his congregation prefers to “worship as one,” but they would consider multiple services once the congregation outgrew its chapel.

During the meeting Raleigh resident Gregg Stebben asked why they wouldn’t make the change now.

“It’s inevitable you are going to go to multiple services given the course you are on today,” he said. “So why not accept the inevitable today and make 250 people very very happy?”

Another option residents posed to the pastor was knocking down only one of the houses, the allow the church to still build its second handicapped entrance. During the meeting congregants said they were opposed to that idea.

“Your love for your community is the love we have for our church, and you are blocking us from trying to reach out to the community,” said Hayes Barton Baptist Church member Edward Walker.

Hailey says the plans are still in the conceptual phase, but they do plan on moving forward. Sage said she was told she’d have to move when her lease ends this summer.

“We anticipate going forward. We also anticipate listening to our neighbors, and listening to their questions and answering their questions. What we said is any good idea, wherever it comes from will be considered,” said Hailey.

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