Thursday, August 15, 2002

Neighbors fight church addition

By Allen Howard,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WYOMING — A group of residents is protesting the $4.5 million expansion of the Wyoming Presbyterian Church and circulating referendum petitions to get City Council to repeal an ordinance it passed approving the building plans.

        The petitioners said they do not like the design of the additions to the church and will ask City Council to bring the issue before Wyoming residents for a vote.

        Patti Horne, a member of a neighborhood group opposing the design, said the addition is too big and too tall.

        “It does not fit into the symmetry of this neighborhood,” she said. “We want them to redesign the building plans and reduce the size. We know there are different designs that can be used that will harmonize with the other neighborhood buildings.”

        If 500 signatures are gathered and are valid, council would be required to pursue a public hearing.

        “Council can repeal its ordinance passed July 15, or it must put the issue on the ballot either in a regular or special election within four months,” said Gary Powell , a lawyer for the Manley, Burke and Lipton Law firm downtown retained by the neighborhood group.

        If the petitioners get council to repeal its ordinance, it will delay work on the addition. Church planners had hoped to start construction next month.

        A fund drive generated $3.732 million in six weeks for the addition. Don Hoffman, chairman of the fund drive, said all of the contributions came from individuals.

        He said the rest of the money would come from the church endowment fund. Mr. Hoffman said the next step is to get a building permit.

        The proposed addition had cleared the planning commission and City Council. It would include space for youth activities, choirs, social rooms, a computer room, a telecommunications area, teen cafe and nursery school.

        “We have had as many as 10 public hearings on the plans,” said Chip Brown, who co-chaired the fund drive. “We have made changes to comply with what the group wants, but they are still not satisfied.”

        The group hired urban designer and city planner Menelaos Triantafillou, who teaches planning at the University of Cincinnati, to give his opinion of the plans.

        He said there could be some readjustment in the scale of the addition that would make it fit into the traditional neighborhood character of homes in Wyoming.

        “One addition will be 233 feet long on Burns Avenue, which takes up almost all of the block,” Mr. Triantafillou said. “While churches do not necessarily have to be designed as houses, a building that long in a residential area is pushing the envelope a little bit. That kind of scale puts it out of harmony with the other houses. The residents are not against the church expansion, but they are sensitive about anything that may affect property values.”

        The 130-year-old church is at Wyoming and Burns avenues in a residential area. It was designed by 19th-century architect Samuel Hannaford and is on the National Register of Historic Places.


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