St. Nikola Church, Brookfield (Bob Uphues/Editor)

A Brookfield church congregation that sought to build a larger house of worship before withdrawing the plan just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March will be back in front of the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission later in April.

Officials from St. Nikola Serbian Orthodox Church, 4301 Prairie Ave., were on the commission’s March agenda last week, seeking a recommendation to allow the parish to consolidate 11 lots it owns into one.

Presently, the property comprises three tax parcels, one that includes the church, one that includes the rear parking lot and greenspace and one that includes the church rectory at 4309 Prairie Ave.

By consolidating the lots, the church will eliminate the need for it to seek a zoning variance for reducing the required minimum green space in order to build the new church on the southeast portion of the lot.

However, on March 25, Brookfield Community Development Director Michael Schwarz requested that the Planning and Zoning Commission table discussion of the plat of consolidation for a month while staff try to figure out whether the village ever granted a special use permit for the present church to be built in what is a residential district.

The mid-century modern house of worship was built around the mid-1960s, possibly earlier, to house the Brookfield Church of the Nazarene. At the time, much of Brookfield’s south end remained undeveloped.

The church appears to have been standing by at least 1965, when a Chicago Tribune article announced a missionary’s appearance at the church in February of that year. Records on file with the Cook County Clerk indicate that in 1992, the church had paid off a mortgage it entered into in April 1967.

Schwarz said he could find no record of the church receiving a special use permit prior to construction, adding that he was recommending the church apply for a special use permit, seeking to expand a non-conforming structure.

Both the special use issue and the plat consolidation, along with updated church plans, would be on the Planning and Zoning Commission’s agenda for their meeting April 22 at 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.

Apart from the special use permit, it does not appear that the new church will need any further zoning permissions, which indicate officials have scaled back their plans somewhat. 

When presented last year, church officials sought variances for height and lot coverage. Planning and zoning commissioners said last year they believed a new church could be built on the site without needing zoning variances.

Since last March the parish has purchased the single-family home at 4322 Forest Ave. That acquisition is in addition to the home the church owns at 4312 Forest Ave., which is next door to the north. 

It is unclear whether those homes will remain standing or whether one or both will be demolished to create more greenspace. They do not appear to be part of the plat consolidation that was to have been considered on March 25.

Church officials did not respond to requests from the Landmark for an updated site plan or renderings, but Schwarz indicated the parish intends to keep the existing church building as a parish hall/Sunday school facility.