Updated, March 5
The Bolingbrook village board voted unanimously Feb. 26 to allow Ultimate Faith to move to the Janes Avenue location.
The village of Bolingbrook Plan Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a special use permit for Ultimate Faith Christian Center in Bolingbrook to move into a former Walgreens on the border of Woodridge and Bolingbrook.
Sign up for our free, daily e-newsletter.
The vote followed nearly two hours of testimony during a public hearing. The special use permit still needs to be approved by the Bolingbrook village board before Ultimate Faith can take control of the space.
Plans for the new Ultimate Faith Christian Center include a worship space with 241 seats, office space for administrative purposes and room left for future expansion.
Those who spoke during Wednesday's public hearing fell into two main groups:
- Residents who live near the proposed site concerned with increased traffic and what sort of people the church might bring to the neighborhood
- Ultimate Faith Christian Center members, assuring their counterparts they presented no threat to the community and sharing stories of how Ultimate Faith changed their lives.
Ultimate Faith Christian Center currently operates in a Bolingbrook storefront along W. Boughton Road. Looking for a bigger space to accommodate a growing congregation, Ultimate Faith plans to move to a vacant building at the corner of 83rd Street and Janes Avenue.
The site is across the street from the Woodridge Park District's Cypress Cove Family Aquatic Park and two sets of strip malls. The Woodridge Park District hopes to build an athletic recreation center in that corridor next year.
Several residents who live behind or near the former Walgreens voiced their concerns about heavy traffic along Janes Avenue. The addition of Cypress Cove, the Promenade Bolingbrook and IKEA in recent years have greatly increased traffic down the two-lane roadway, they said. They feared adding a church would exacerbate the situation.
What if the church ran out of parking, they asked? Who would prevent churchgoers from parking on their streets?
Others commented that adding anything in that space would increase traffic. Some residents adamantly said between Walgreens traffic and church traffic, Walgreens traffic was the lesser evil.
Matt Eastman, who works in the village's Community Development Department, told the plan commission traffic was not perceived to be an issue. Ultimate Faith would need to add five more parking spaces to meet with village code. Those spaces will be added in the building's former drive-up pharmacy lane.
"We're not a threat to anyone"
Much concern was voiced before the hearing about an Ultimate Faith mission statement to "minister to those that have been given up on, the homeless, ex-offenders, and those with addictions to teach them the word of God." One Woodridge Patch blogger gives his take here.
Some readers feared the church would bring "ex-cons and drug addicts" into the neighorhood and saw that mission as a perceived threat to their safety. "Not in my backyard," they said.
George Guilford, pastor and founder of Ultimate Faith, said that mission statement was crafted 10 years ago. Guilford said he has been homeless and was in prison. "But that's the old me," Guilford said. After he became a Christian, "the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I felt that God had saved me and delivered me from all my demons, and my misery had become my mission."
His congregation consists of "upstanding citizens," he said. Most have children. They're business owners or white-collar workers.
While his church will serve any person who enters the church who has struggled with these issues and minister to him or her, the church does not "load up a bus-load of criminals."
The church by law is not allowed to operate a soup kitchen or a shelter for the homeless unless it receives a special use permit for those purposes. Ultimate Faith has traveled to homeless shelters and the south and west sides of Chicago to distribute Bibles and minister to people.
Some members who spoke Wednesday said that they had battled drug addiction or suffered homelessness. Now they have jobs and own homes because of the empowerment they received from Ultimate Faith, they said.