A Compromise Between Hayes Barton and #SaveSix?

By Brent Woodcox

A few weeks ago I covered the controversy involving Hayes Barton Baptist Church and the proposal that was floated to demolish six historic homes on White Oak Road to build additional parking for church parishioners. 

I continue to believe as I said then, "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."

There are alternatives to be explored that don't involve knocking down all six of those houses.

Anna Johnson at the News & Observer recently updated her story on where efforts to reach a compromise currently stand.

Churches and places of worship in Raleigh’s urban neighborhoods and growing downtown have tried a variety of ways to meet their congregation parking needs.

Hayes Barton Baptist Church, in historic Five Points, felt the fury of its neighbors when church leaders announced their intentions to tear down six homes they owned to add parking spaces and a new access point to the church. It sparked the creation of Save Six, a neighborhood group dedicated to preserving the homes, all within the Bloomsbury Historic District.

Church leaders have continued to meet with community members and neighbors, but a resolution that satisfies both groups hasn’t been reached yet, said Hayes Barton pastor David Hailey.

”We feel positive about the conversations we have been having and hopeful they will continue until some sort of common agreement can be reached with our neighborhood,” he said. ...
— Anna Johnson - N&O

As the church and its neighbors continue to meet, there is one idea that has intrigued me more than others.

From what I can tell, this idea was first discussed back the Five Points CAC meeting held to discuss the church's plans just after they were originally announced.

Gregg Stebben, who lives right across the street from the church, offered a sketch of a compromise proposal. Click here to listen to his comments beginning at 1:23:00 of the video embedded below.

His idea in short was not to take down all six houses but only clear room for what was necessary to meet the church's needs when it came to accomplishing their core goals of making room for their congregation to grow, providing covered parking for seniors and families who have a tough time walking long distances into the building after parking their cars before church and to retain the land for the future use of the church.

Another idea that I have heard discussed is taking the houses that would be preserved by cutting down the size of the proposed parking lot and dedicating those houses to affordable and/or workforce housing that could help serve the needs of a community and neighborhood that is in need of more units that are accessible to people who make a working class salary.

I have already endorsed this proposal in my original post.

"...[I]f the church's plan was to use these rentals to provide affordable housing ... you wouldn't hear a peep of criticism from me."

This type of plan would be a huge win for the city of Raleigh and the neighborhood of Five Points by opening up housing to more people than the market is currently providing for on its own. If this type of housing could be made available to teachers, police officers and fire fighters or other people who serve our city through their professions but may not make six figure incomes, it would be a benefit to our neighborhood.

I also think this type of move would actually enhance the reputation of Hayes Barton Baptist Church in our neighborhood and throughout our city. As a willing partner with city leaders and neighbors, Hayes Barton could come along side those of us who are trying to fight for more affordable housing in our city and use the church's own resources to make that a reality in their backyard. I know quite a few YIMBYs who would willingly welcome more faith communities, non-profits and private sector actors into our fold. The solution to the affordable housing crisis does not lie in government intervention alone.

As the neighbors representing the #SaveSix campaign and church leaders continue to talk, my hope remains that a compromise can be reached that will make Raleigh a better place to live and improve the relationship between Five Points neighbors and the church.

Brent Woodcox