Church will talk to neighbors about parking lot plan. But removal of houses still likely.

A Raleigh church that angered its neighbors with a plan to destroy a half-dozen historic homes to add parking and improve building access wants to talk with its critics, but says it does not expect to change direction.

David Hailey, pastor of Hayes Barton Baptist, said the church has not canceled its plans to raze the six houses it has acquired over the years facing White Oak Road, but it will talk with neighbors who were upset when they learned of the plan last week. The houses are included in the Bloomsbury National Register Historic District off Glenwood Avenue at Five Points.

“Our neighbors have been good to us, and we want to be good to them,” Hailey said.

He and others from the church will be meeting with neighbors and city officials to discuss the proposal.

The plan was crafted by a church committee that searched for a year for solutions to several issues the church has, including a dearth of parking in a neighborhood with narrow streets. During the week, those who live in the area or work, shop or dine at the nearby businesses often use the church’s parking. On Sunday mornings, worshipers who don’t arrive in time to get a space in the church lot may park on the street or in the lots of nearby businesses that aren’t open during worship hours.

To remedy the parking problem, the church plans to level six homes it has bought over the years, including one it closed on just last week. The houses were built between 1920 and 1925.

The church held its first worship service on its property in 1926.

Clearing the houses, which occupy less than three-fourths of an acre total, would allow the church to add more than 70 parking spaces and create an entry that would make it easier for families dropping off and picking up young children at the church preschool. Less-mobile church members also could use the new entry to shorten the distance they have to cover to reach the sanctuary.

After an informal presentation to the Hayes Barton Baptist congregation on March 4, two members of the planning committee went around the neighborhood last week distributing a color brochure to let residents know about the changes. The congregation has not yet formally approved the plan, which also would require a fundraising campaign. Construction is not expected to begin until next year.

Some in the neighborhood hope the part of the plan that includes the razing of the houses never gets done. Opponents have launched a petition on change.org asking to talk with the church about the proposed demolitions and suggesting some alternative uses for the homes, which the church has operated as rental properties.

“Don’t destroy half a block of houses in the name of ‘more parking’ that will be used a couple of hours a week,” says the petition, which had gathered 600 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. “One of the main attractions to our neighborhood is the appeal of older homes, with all their quirks but mostly their charm.”

The petition suggests that the church could use the homes in ways that support church missions, including housing the poor or housing a group home for developmentally disabled residents, or selling them to homeowners who would live in them. The petition was created by Catherine Mears, who did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.

Hailey said that at this point, the church expects to remove the houses, but would be open to allowing them to be moved off the property rather than be destroyed. If not, he said, the church would allow materials from the homes to be salvaged.

Hailey said he was in the process of coordinating meeting times with neighbors and city officials. The church has not presented any plan to the city yet, but is entitled to remove the homes if it chooses to do so.

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