Neighbors oppose church renovation; City approves

Scott Gordon

Troy and Kristin Henikoff might soon have the city’s permission to turn the historic church they own into a home, but their neighbors are angry.

Evanston’s Planning and Development Committee voted 8-1 Monday to allow the couple to build a garage and other extensions that will bring the building, 1044 Elmwood Ave., formerly the Sherman Methodist Church, closer to the property line than zoning law allows. The Evanston City Council — whose members make up the planning and development committee — is scheduled to take a final vote on the exemption at its next meeting on July 25.

Most aldermen said the Henikoffs’ plan is the best way to preserve the church and put the property back on the city’s tax rolls. Most of the church’s neighbors who showed up to Monday’s meeting said the renovations would isolate neighbors from each other and block off easily visible open space that keeps the neighborhood safe.

“I have spent 10 years convincing neighbors to lower fences and put in picket fences…it is a more neighborly neighborhood precisely because of that,” said Albert Hunter, who lives one house north of the church.

Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th), chairman of the committee, said the renovations would not harm the neighborhood. “The height of the church is already precluding (the) sight line,” he said, and the planned additions would be the same height as the church.

“No one, unfortunately, has a right to a view,” he said.

The Henikoffs told their neighbors they would make the additions — a garage and bedrooms for the couple and their two children — blend as much as possible with the original building, which is more than 90 years old. “Our architectural goal was to make it look like it was always there” by using reclaimed brick from the structure, Troy Henikoff said. “The alternative would be to chop up the interior” into bedrooms, but the couple wants to preserve the church’s sanctuary.

During the City Council meeting later Monday evening, Mayor Lorraine H. Morton announced that she will be holding a public hearing to review city liquor laws with all of Evanston’s liquor-license holders at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 25 at the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Morton, who also is Evanston’s liquor commissioner, would not tell The Summer Northwestern specifically why she was holding the meeting, but she did say that Evanston has “too many liquor licenses.”

She also said the hearing was not prompted by last month’s shooting at The Keg of Evanston, 810 Grove St.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) proposed at the meeting that the city pass a law forbidding minors to be in any liquor-selling establishment after 11 p.m.

Reach Scott Gordon at [email protected].