By Bob Uphues
The pastor of a Methodist congregation that aims to hold worship services inside a new Eight Corners-area art gallery has pulled an application seeking permission to do so. However, he told the Landmark he plans on resubmitting the permit soon.
The Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission on Jan. 25 had planned on resuming a public hearing on a proposed special use permit to allow religious assembly inside The Compassion Factory, an art gallery owned and operated by the Rev. Karl Sokol and his wife, Ann.
However, the hearing was canceled after Sokol withdrew his application for a special use permit. In a recent phone interview, Sokol said he hoped to get a new application on the Planning and Zoning Commission's meeting agenda for Feb. 22.
Sokol is the pastor of Compassion United Methodist Church, which owns the converted dry cleaning business at 9210 Broadway Ave. The art gallery supports the mission of the congregation, which has been looking for a permanent home since it was established as a "seed" congregation by the Methodist Church in 2011.
Sokol said he pulled the application in order to address issues, such as traffic and parking, brought up by other property owners and village planning staff.
Justin Atwood, who operates a guitar repair and design shop next door to the art gallery, said at the Dec. 28 hearing that church-goers looking to park on Broadway Avenue "potentially would affect me," since his store is open Sunday mornings.
Sokol told planning commissioners that there's very little traffic in the area on Sunday mornings, a claim Atwood called a "gross understatement."
In response, Sokol said he's completed a traffic survey to confirm his claims, which will be included in his resubmitted application for a special use permit.
The new application will also address an issue village planning staff raised regarding parking, said Sokol.
In its analysis of the special use request back in December, Village Planner Emily Egan said The Compassion Factory property did not comply with the village's parking code for churches.
Based on the capacity of the main gallery/lecture area inside The Compassion Factory, said Egan, 20 parking spaces needed to be included in the plan. Sokol indicated additional parking for the church would be provided across Washington Avenue on land owned by his mother, Linda Sokol Francis.
Staff noted in its analysis of Sokol's initial special use permit application that he hadn't "provided any written evidence" that he had permission to use the land from his mother, whose goal it has been for the better part of a decade to see a new Methodist church built at Eight Corners.
Sokol said the new application will include that written evidence of permission from his mother to use the paved portion of her property at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Washington Avenue for parking.
"We're anxious to worship in our space," Sokol said.
Even if Sokol convinces planning commissioners that there's enough parking and that traffic resulting from religious assembly at The Compassion Factory isn't a problem, he still faces the problem of convincing commissioners and, ultimately, the village board that religious assembly is appropriate at the space.
In December, planning commissioners appeared skeptical of the prospect, and the village board already turned aside a 2011 bid by Linda Sokol Francis to build a church/community center at Eight Corners, which is identified in the village's new comprehensive plan as a pedestrian-oriented commercial/residential district.