HomeNewsOp-ed: Neighbors: Parish House a Lawndale treasure

Op-ed: Neighbors: Parish House a Lawndale treasure

“We object to the church characterizing its proposed development as the only option… that it is Royal Farms or a chain-link fence.”

By Heather L. Miller and Mona Cohen

This is a rebuttal response to last week’s op-ed by Trinity Church Oxford Rector’s Warden Lorie Henry.

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We, the neighbors who live in the community, including those adjacent to the Parish House at Longshore and Rising Sun avenues, consider it a neighborhood treasure. We object to the church characterizing its proposed development as the only option and we believe that their threats to fence it off promote a false equivalency — that it is Royal Farms or a chain-link fence. Although not our responsibility, we have been looking at options for a very long time and would welcome the opportunity to be invited into the church and have a meeting to present options.

In her letter, Warden Lorie cites outreach to the neighbors as to options for land use should the proposed Royal Farms come to fruition.

The options listed are not feasible.

Who would be willing to substitute a beautiful bucolic building and adjacent ball field for some flowers, shrubs, a neon sign, 24-hour gas station/convenience store with outdoor tables that operates 24/7?

What parent or dog owner would risk having their child or pet spend any amount of time so close to an environmental disaster that Royal Farms has presented in their other locations? We are citing underground leakage where they were forced to settle with their next-door neighbors for gas leakage into the neighbor’s property.

We do not need the outgassing and the potential for the underground gas to leak and mix with the Delaware watershed and Tookany Creek, which would affect the entire city’s water supply, especially the close-by neighbors. There is also the issue of outgassing, caused by gas fumes. Ozone pollution is caused by a mixture of volatile organic compounds, some of which are found in gasoline vapors, and others like carbon monoxide, that come from car exhaust. Royal Farms has a poor safety track record.

Can we risk harmful chemicals like benzene being released into the air?

Higher ozone levels can lead to respiratory problems and asthma, while benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical.

Underground hazards from petroleum products leaking into the underground gasoline storage tanks can also be a problem. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are 660,000 of them from coast to coast. Many lawsuits have been filed by people whose soil and underground water were fouled by gas stations’ leaking underground storage tanks. Also, pipes leading to tanks can be accidentally ruptured. Repeated high exposure to gasoline, whether in liquid or vapor form, can cause lung ,brain and kidney damage, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The church members, by and large, do not live in the neighborhood. Hence, they exhibit a callous disregard for the neighbors’ very real concerns about the deleterious impact Royal Farms would have on their property values and quality-of-life living standards. That is why we have been able to attain over 2,500 signatures from people who do live in the neighborhood opposed to the church’s interest, which appears to be solely monetary.

We refute the notion that the choices are Royal Farms or a chain-link fence as threatened by the church. Indeed, Gov. Wolf’s administration showed interest in renting the property for state offices when former Rep. Mark Cohen broached the subject, but he received an email from the church that it declined this offer.

The building and green recreational space in question are in danger of a wrecking ball. The building was nominated for historical designation. The neighbors were prepared to present their case for why the building should be saved. The Committee on Historic Preservation felt that the Parish House was worthy of this, hence it advanced the nomination to the entire commission. However, the church has retained a very high-powered attorney from a well-respected law firm who asked for a continuance.

The commission granted this continuance based on the proviso that the church would negotiate with the neighbors. This has not happened — not once, not in five years. We say to the church members — you know where we are, let’s talk. ••

This opinion piece is in response to, “Op-ed: Help keep Trinity Church Oxford open to the community,” printed in the Oct. 18 edition of the Northeast Times. The original op-ed can be read here.

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