Hayes Barton Baptist Faces Backlash Over Planned Parking Lot
Battle over demolishing historic homes has potential to ruin church's reputation with the community
By Brent Woodcox
On Sunday night, Hayes Barton Baptist Church unveiled a plan to demolish six historic homes that sit on its property along White Oak Road. The homes are currently being rented out by a management company that works for the church.
From the News & Observer...
Now let me say here at the outset that that the church can do whatever it likes with the property it owns. But that is quite a different question from whether it should go forward with this plan.
The opposition from Five Points residents has been swift and fierce.
By Tuesday morning, there was a raging conversation on Nextdoor. The initial post reporting the church's plan to demolish the homes is up to 76 replies as of this writing.
Olde Raleigh even got in on the action.
With all the backlash the church is facing you just have to wonder. Is it worth it?
The houses could be sold for $2 million. Would that not help cover the costs of building a parking structure on campus? Is a remote lot with a shuttle service feasible? It seems like the only time the church faces a real parking shortage is during their 11AM Sunday morning service. Could they not just ask people who are capable to park in the surrounding neighborhood streets and walk further so those facing mobility issues and those with young children can park closer to the building?
I live two blocks away from the church and folks are welcome to park in front of my house on Sunday mornings. Heck, y'all can use my driveway. I'll be at another church during that time anyway.
Now there will probably be some folks reading this post thinking, "Hey! I thought this guy was supposed to be a YIMBY. It seems like he's fighting development he doesn't like just like the NIMBYs do."
First, if the church's plan was to use these rentals to provide affordable housing or provide places to live for the homeless, you'd be seeing a lot of NIMBY backlash to that plan. But you wouldn't hear a peep of criticism from me.
Second, YIMBYism doesn't stand for dumb development or growth that is unplanned. YIMBYs support density, urbanism, and smart policies that lead to more housing being built. We also support walkable, transit-friendly development. We don't support building surface parking lots to replace housing. That's not smart development.
Hayes Barton Baptist, while it is a church, is also in this instance acting as a developer. And they are teaching a master class on how to be a bad developer.
Surprise the neighbors with your plans? Check. Seek out zero input from neighbors and the surrounding community? Check. Have no plan in place to respond the inevitable push back from the changes involved in your plans? Check!
FWIW, they're not doing a really great job on the PR front, either.
I mean, your line is that God is calling you to build a second parking lot? I know that God called Kevin Costner to build a baseball field once. But I had no idea that God was in need of so many parking spaces.
Also, you think that being a good steward of what God has given you means knocking down six houses that have stood in the neighborhood since 1920? The houses were there before the church was. How could displacing people to build a parking lot be best for the community, for your church's neighborhood?
Again, certainly the plan to build this parking lot appears to me to be in line with man's law. But does it conform to God's law?
As Myrick Howard, president of Preservation North Carolina, said in the News & Observer story quoted above, “It sort of makes you think about the Golden Rule. I would ask the minister if he wants a parking lot across the street from his home, and we know what the answer to that is.” And as Jesus Christ said in Matthew 22:39, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
So returning to my point above, I am forced to wonder whether this is all worth it? Even if the church has been in this planning process for a year, is within its rights as a property owner, and is in desperate need of additional parking, is it worth the cost? Is it worth damaging the relationship that the church has had with the surrounding neighborhood and literally tearing down part of the community for the sake of convenience?
And I really don't mean this to be a "bash Hayes Barton" post because, for the most part, I do believe the church has been a good neighbor and a valuable part of our community. Not only do they provide a place where people can worship God on Sunday mornings but they also host community events inviting families far beyond their congregation to participate. They run a kitchen out of their building that provides meals to those in need. I really believe that the congregation and the pastors at Hayes Barton Baptist are trying to do good in our neighborhood and in the city at large.
Does a second parking lot really add to God's kingdom here on Earth? Is the best way to be good stewards of what God has provided the church tearing down historic homes? Is it really worth damaging the name of Hayes Barton, Christians in general and God Himself to make sure more cars can be parked closer to the church building?
These are questions I hope the leadership and congregants of Hayes Barton will consider before moving forward with this plan.