While small, Elburn has always been a community with its own distinct identity, filled with people that supported each other. The village supported the residents and businesses, the residents and businesses supported the village, and the churches, clubs and societies supported them all. However, the proud Elburn downtown needs support, particularly the north side.
For decades, the Community Congregational Church of Elburn (CCCE) has been a strong supporter of Elburn and its residents. As a small but important part of this commitment to the community, the CCCE had allowed public parking in a 40-space lot on the southeast corner of Shannon and Main streets. This courtesy granted to the community provided meaningful and important access to the hundreds of residents who frequent the north side businesses on Main Street every week. Unfortunately, beginning this past spring, the CCCE closed the lot in an effort to sell the property. While few would begrudge the CCCE their right to attempt to sell the property, by keeping the lot closed while for sale, church leaders are doing tremendous harm to the small-business owners and patrons who rely on the lot every day, in essence turning their back on the community they have pledged to serve and support.
The difficult part for the Elburn business community and its patrons to understand is the CCCE’s unwillingness to allow access to the lot while it’s up for sale. Local business owners have offered to rent the property, but the CCCE has refused. And in doing so, church leaders have placed an unnecessary burden on the small businesses in our community during a time of tremendous economic uncertainty. After four years of a deep recession, such a cost could lead to further vacated properties in our historic downtown, which, if left unchecked, could hollow out the heart of this community for many years to come. Moreover, while it is true that there are other parking options within four blocks of the north side of the downtown area, the significant decline in revenues observed in many downtown businesses suggests these alternative lots are not considered a good alternative for local customers. In particular, Elburn’s population contains a significant number of elderly and handicapped individuals who no longer have access to these downtown businesses. These individuals are now left with no good option, given that Elburn is too small to support a public transportation system.
Moving forward, something needs to be done. For its part, the CCCE did offer to sell the lot to the village, but during these financially challenging times, the price of $250,000, which is well above the market value of the property, is unaffordable for the village. That said. the local business owners demonstrated their willingness to rent the lot, which suggests that they would also likely support paying a similar-sized tax to the village to cover the cost of purchasing the property. Such a solution would provide access to the downtown for the elderly and disabled, as well as provide much-needed relief to the struggling businesses of Main Street. I am hopeful that the village will be able to step in and help bring a quick and positive resolution to this problem before it is too late.
Lastly, I hope the leaders of the Community Congregational Church of Elburn will once again prioritize their mission to support the people of Elburn. I recognize that the CCCE needs to make hard choices as well, but unnecessarily placing a tremendous burden on local businesses and community residents (including many elderly and disabled) seems to be the opposite of everything the CCCE represents and stands for. I ask the leaders of Community Congregational Church of Elburn to please reconsider their position, and to work with the local business community and the village to open your parking lot.
James D. Cotti