MATTOON — A church has removed its permit request for a parking lot from the agenda of the Tuesday, Nov. 21, Mattoon City Council meeting after the city’s planning commission recommended denying this request.
Other proposals still on the agenda for the meeting at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 208 N. 19th St. include plans for new sidewalks, boulevards and decorative streetlights along Broadway Avenue from 14th to 16th streets, which will be the final phase of a multi-year downtown streetscaping project.
Regarding the parking lot proposal, Truth & Grace Fellowship Rev. Jeremy Morton said this church has decided to not move forward with its special use permit request for a lot that it has acquired at 1309 S. 17th St. on the east side of its campus. A house currently sits on this lot.
Morton said Truth & Grace said they will now go “back to the drawing board” as it considers options for adding more parking spaces to serve its campus, 1304 Lake Land Boulevard. The church has been expanding into and renovating former warehouse space in this block since 2019.
Mattoon Community Development and Planning Director Alex Benishek said the city’s planning commission voted 6-0 last week to recommend that the council deny the permit request. He said the city staff stands ready to assist Truth & Grace or any other petitioners needing to go through the city’s permitting process.
Individual commission members voiced concerns at the meeting about the proposal to create a parking lot in a single-family residential neighborhood. Several neighbors attended this meeting after posting “Save Our Neighborhood” signs in their lawns.
“This is our neighborhood. This is a residential neighborhood. We don’t want a hole in the middle of our block,” said 17th Street resident Debra Schumacher on Monday, adding that she is worried any parking lot there would be expanded over time. Her husband, Paul, added that they and many of their neighbors have lived in this block for more than 20 years.
The Schumachers and 17th Street resident Denice Ross also voiced concerns about a parking lot increasing the storm water drainage problems in their neighborhood, where flooded basements are common.
“We are concerned about traffic. We are concerned about drainage,” Ross said. “Everyone in this block has had storm sewers back up.”
Regarding Broadway, Public Works Dean Barber said in his council decision request that the proposed plan is for the final phase of the streetscaping work on this downtown roadway from 21st to 14th streets.
Barber said the proposed work will include Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks, brick pavers, ornamental street lighting, concrete Pavement, storm sewer, and new water services. The bid opening is scheduled for Dec. 13. The completion date requirement is Oct. 31.
“The work is being paid in part by a $525,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Rebuild Illinois, Main Streets & Downtown Grant Program,” Barber said. He added that the remaining costs will be paid from the city’s downtown tax increment financing district fund.
Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud