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Church rental at Huntley retirement community spurs opposition

Opposition over the rental of Meadow View Lodge at Sun City Huntley to the Community Christian Church has grown over the last few weeks. (Lawerence Synett/TribLocal photo)

Opposition over the rental of Meadow View Lodge at Sun City Huntley to the Community Christian Church has grown over the last few weeks. (Lawerence Synett/TribLocal photo)

A recent decision by the Sun City Huntley board of directors allowing a nondenominational church to rent space for Sunday services has some residents at the adult community second-guessing their elected leaders.

The opposition comes as the Community Christian Church is in the midst of a three-month trial period that has the faith-based organization using Meadow View Lodge each Sunday for a few hours to hold services.

Residents opposing the rental say it’s not about the church itself, but rather the board’s decision to move forward with the agreement despite their concerns.

“I think the board acted on their own without any input from the residents,” said Paul Welch, who has lived in Sun City for eight years. “All the facilities belong to the owners and taxpayers within Sun City, and I feel that our facilities should not be rented to a tattoo parlor, palm reader, politician, church, or any other outside organization.”

Perry Martin, a Sun City resident and campus pastor for the church, first approached the board about a long-term rental agreement in January to “have a space to hold a service for people that couldn’t get outside the community,” he said.

The Sun City Community Association of Huntley investigated its governing documents, rules and regulations, and room reservation guidelines, and found renting to religious organizations was not against policy.

After research showed very little rental activity at the lodge during the requested time slot, the board approved a three-month agreement in February that included a review after the first two months. The contract included a $500 deposit, and $135 for each Sunday to hold services. The church only serves Sun City residents.

The revenue generated by the rental goes into the room rental revenue category of the budget.

Martin said he didn’t know of any opposition at the time the agreement was approved.

“I didn’t go into this naive thinking everyone would be happy with this, but I wasn’t aware of any opposition when we applied,” he said. “We are here to serve the community, and we would like to do that as long as we can.”

Association Executive Director Bill Pennock agreed.

“When you start talking religion, it’s a polarizing decision, but I didn’t anticipate the emotion this thing generated,” he said.

That emotion boiled over during an association meeting last week, when hundreds of residents voiced their opposition to the agreement. The meeting included a resident reading a resignation letter from longtime board member and vice president, Jerry Kirschner, whose reasons for stepping down included “the manner in which some members of the board are disregarding the tenor of the community on a very emotional issue,” the letter states.

Other than the verbal opposition, surveys were also sent out to see how people felt about the rental agreement, and more than 80 percent came back against it — not due to the religious implications, but rather because it would take services away from residents who pay to live there, Kirschner said.

“It’s rented out, which means if it happens on a long-term basis, the people that pay to live her, pay to upkeep the facilities, won’t even be able to use it because it is being used by somebody else,” he said. “This decision showed arrogance on the part of the board and the executive director.”

Pennock said not all decisions made by the board are popular ones.

“Looking back on it, the last thing the board would want to do is cause such a rift in the community,” he said. “That wasn’t the intention.”

Services thus far have averaged around 50 residents, Martin said. The church plans to attempt a long-term deal once the agreement has expired, which would have to be approved by the board.

“We have no plans on leaving,” he said. “There are a lot of good people and friends here, and we want to stay and be a part of serving the community any way that we can.”

The association is a private, nonprofit corporation governed by the board of directors. All rentals can be approved or denied on a case-by-case basis.

The board is set the review the issue in June, Pennock said, at which time a special meeting or open forum could be held.

“We have not decided how to move forward,” he said. “The board made their decision and will re-evaluate it in June.”

Kirschner believes the residents have said loud and clear that they don’t want this type of rental agreement at Sun City.

“I have never ever, in my eight year of living here, seen so many people riled up,” he said. “There is so much venom being spit out by the people that live here that is addressed or pointing to the board.”

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