Officials at St. Mary Parish in Riverside will concentrate on finalizing plans for a new office addition on the east side of the church, 126 Herrick Road, after obtaining a zoning variation from the Riverside Village Board on Jan. 18.

Village trustees voted unanimously to allow the parish to furnish fewer parking spaces than are required under the zoning code, since parking requirements are based more on commercial needs than those of a parish, whose facilities are not all in use at the same time.

 “The parking requirements for the church are unrealistic,” said Village President Ben Sells.

Even without the office addition, the St. Mary parking lot doesn’t meet the zoning code’s required 136 spaces – it has 134. The proposed 2,700-square-foot office addition would have triggered a requirement for an additional 11 spaces for a total of 145.

On an average school day, much of the parking lot is free of vehicles. On Sundays, when church services are held, the offices aren’t in heavy use.

Additional parking is located across the street next to the rectory, which has housed the parish offices since 1997. One of the goals of the plan is to re-convert the rectory to a residential use only.

St. Mary’s officials, however, have revised their plan somewhat in response to concerns aired by members of the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission. In December, that commission recommended approving the parking variation, but imposed conditions on a second variation sought by the parish.

Initial plans submitted by the parish showed that construction related to the office addition would add about 1,200 square feet of impervious surface, something the Planning and Zoning Commission frowned upon.

The commission made its recommendation of the impervious surface variance conditioned on efforts by the parish to reduce that propose increase in impervious surface by at least 50 percent.

In the end, the parish’s plan will now actually decrease the overall amount of impervious surface at the church/school campus by about 100 square feet.

That will be accomplished by removing a section of sidewalk connecting the church and school near the south side of the school, narrowing the width of the walkway connecting the sidewalk along Herrick Road and the old school main entrance, and converting a planned asphalt island in the parking lot to a landscaped island.

As a result, the church no longer needed a variation related to impervious surfaces.

Rev. Thomas May, pastor of St. Mary Parish, told the Landmark after the village board’s vote that he hopes the project can break ground in June. Parish officials are still working with the Archdiocese of Chicago on the plans, seeing if there may be ways to reduce some costs.

In 2015, St. Mary Parish embarked on a $2.93 million capital campaign to fund the construction of the office addition as well as other improvements, including renovating the first floor of the original school and improving heating and air-conditioning systems.

The fundraising campaign just topped the $2 million in pledges, May said.