The truest sense of a neighborhood park
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The members of the St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sycamore know all too well the importance of making sure that a fire is completely extinguished. On February 8, last year, a small fire caused by a malfunction in the church's pipe organ was believed to have been put out. Perhaps one small burning ember went unnoticed and the next day the historic churched was destroyed despite the efforts of 11 various fire departments to control a blaze that injured two of Sycamore's finest.
The historic structure was forever gone. The foundation of the church, its membership, rose to the occasion and the congregation is well on its way to rebuilding at a new location at the northwest corner of Brickville and Motel roads.
The land where the 67 year old church once stood is now vacant. Its South Main Street location is in the heart of Sycamore's Historic District. The land reverted to its 1930s zoning after the church's destruction. That zoning could allow single-family or duplex homes on the lots. The starting price, $190,000, lends to the likelihood that duplexes would be built on the land.
Neighbors of the property, including some members of the church, would prefer a neighborhood park to duplexes in an area dominated by large single family homes. Rather than wait to react to whatever private development plans might unfold they have proactively formed a citizen association, Friends of St. John's Park.
The group is seeking private donations and creative financing solutions to purchase the land and donate it to the Sycamore Park District to be developed as a sorely needed neighborhood park in the city's central district.
Their efforts have received at least moral support from Mayor John Swedberg and Park District Director David Peek. St. John's Church delayed accepting of bids for the land for two months and has indicated willingness to further hold off to give the organization a better chance to succeed at raising the money.
Members of Friends of St. John's Park have met with private developers with projects in Sycamore to see if a plan that involves having the developer purchase and donate the land as a swap for required park land donations under the city's land-cash ordinance could work. They have received a positive response from at least one interested developer.
The use of park impact fees is well worth consideration as a revenue source for St. Johnís Park. Some would argue that the fees collected so far must be spent in a way that is uniquely attributable to the new subdivision that the impact fees were collected from. All residents of Sycamore, regardless of the age of their home or subdivision, would benefit from St. Johnís Park. It would be no more of a stretch to use impact fees to acquire and develop this park than it is for the park district to pay the $4,576 per month they do for leasing space in the manufacturing plant at 357 North California, for use as a recreation center, with impact fees collected primarily from the Landahl North and Townsend Woods subdivisions. Acquiring and developing a permanent park must be a better use than ongoing lease costs.
Friends of St. Johnís Park represent a refreshing effort that reflects the best in citizen involvement. Neighbors joined together working cooperatively with the entire community to proactively seek solutions. It just doesn't get any better.
For far too long now there has been a burning ember in Sycamore and throughout DeKalb County. The flames of the growth controversy need doused. The best fire extinguisher available of this blaze is found within the spirit of goodwill and cooperation displayed by the Friends of St. Johnís Park.
Taking a few issues with this park idea. First of all, is Southeast School not only a few blocks away? It has play ground equipment, basketball courts, a big field, what is the need for this park? Secondly, a park in this location does not benefit everyone in Sycamore. It benefits only the people nearby, their are plenty of school in Sycamore that ALL have a playground/park for the use of all of Sycamore's citizens.
But hey, if the Friends of St. Paul want a park their let them flip the bill, build it and maintain it, pay the property taxes. After all the park is for the children, how can they put a price on their childrens happiness.