Anne Marie Pruznak and Elaine Walicky are next-door neighbors who reside directly across from on Academy Street, where a proposal for the church's controversial monolithic dome and youth center could finally obtain approval from the township's zoning board meeting tonight.
Although Pruznak and Walicky have resigned themselves to this reality – this will be the fourth time the church presents its proposal in as many months – it does not mean the long time residents of the small, one-way street are accepting.
“I know it's going to pass. Very rarely is a church ever turn down for any expansion,” said Pruznak, the niece of late former Third Ward Councilman Paul “PJ” MacDonald and one of six generations in her family who have lived in her current home. “I already thought ahead to the next steps, trying to get permit parking for the streets and see if I could get that passed.
“But my concerns are the Belleville police, I know they're on a tight budget – how is that go to work on a high holy day as far as traffic and policing? All of that is concerning. Is all of that go to be taken seriously?”
While Walicky believes “everyone is entitled to their prayer” she is similarly worried.
“I have absolutely no problem with the church being across the street,” the 30-year resident of Belleville said. “They're putting up something … St. Mary's church and St. Peter's church are on a full block. They're going to build something that big on half of a block. … I think on a small, one-way street, it's just a disaster.”
Not all neighbors find fault with St. Mary & St. Mercurius' plan for expansion. From her perspective, Belleville Public Library and Information Center Director Joan Taub called the church “very good neighbors.”
“I have no complaints whatsoever,” Taub said. “I know it's not the same as being a resident, but they've been good to the library.
“It looks like there's a possibility that if it goes through for the church, we could use their parking lot,” Taub continued. “I don't think there could be anything better than having parking for our patrons.”
Although the seemingly inevitable passage of this proposal could potentially benefit the library, both Pruznak and Walicky cited security worries based upon fear of a terroristic attack in January 2011 that forced both of their children to show their driver's licenses before being allowed to proceed home.
However, both residents say their primary issues with the church's project are centered solely around logistics. Although the monolithic dome would be historic for the township, congestion remains a concern despite the St. Mary & St. Mercurius proposal providing 126 parking spaces on three floors of the new domed building – two of which would reside underground.
“This is tantamount to a cathedral being built on an itty, bitty residential street,” Pruznak said.
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