By Dom Nozzi
A growing problem that city planners face in contemporary times is the emergence of the “Big Box Church.” There are now a number of articles appearing in planning periodicals about churches growing enormously in size.
To be healthy (ie, have a large number of parishioners), these churches strive to serve a huge region. That, of course, means huge parking lots are imperative.
Combined with the recent US Supreme Court rulings and congressional action which severely restricts local governments from regulating churches (due to alleged “freedom of religion” intrusions), most communities are terrified of imposing even the most trivial regulations on churches.
There is now no chance we can do anything to protect neighborhoods from “Big Box” churches by restricting how much parking a church can have, or imposing noise limits on them, or even imposing special landscaping or building location or zoning rules. Homes near these new mega-churches now have little or no protection against loud churches or parishioners speeding through the neighborhoods or parking in people’s front yards.
It is increasingly common to learn that a downtown church is having problems and thinking about re-locating to a remote suburban location. Why?
Not enough parking for the parishioners.
In the past (decades ago?), churches and hospitals and small schools were healthy and walkable for neighborhoods. In fact, like public grade schools, I’d argue that human-scaled, walkable, neighborhood-based colleges, hospitals and churches are essential ingredients in a healthy neighborhood. But the fact that we now must assume that everyone will drive everywhere means that such places must level buildings in order to install more and more surface parking.
Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.
Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com
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