Palatine church cuts down trees, upsets residents

September 15, 2011 (PALATINE, Ill.)

Officials at St. Theresa Catholic Church, located at 455 North Benton in Palatine, say the trees must come down for safety and security reasons. But residents claim the trees provided a barrier between their homes and near-by shopping center.

The last of the trees -- dozens of trees, some of which have stood for decades behind St Theresa church and school -- were fed into the chipper Thursday.

At the corner of Robertson and Oak, longtime neighbors are stunned and sad.

"I came home from work and was totally shocked and went into the house and cried. Then I called Vicki, and we both cried," said Brigette Stewart.

Stewart has lived in the neighborhood for 37 years; Linda Schmidt for 33 and Vickie French for 23. The trees are not theirs, but the trees been part of their lives, an integral part of the landscape, and so when the chain saws first fired up, they raced to the church and pleaded, "please stop, let's talk about this." The church said no, removal of the trees was necessary for the safety and security of the school children as well as parishioners and staffers - some of whom have been approached at night by people who hang out in a wooded grove behind the church. To that the neighbors say, those people aren't hanging out in the trees, clear the undergrowth, you've done it before

"They have occasionally done that before and that would take care of the people there, but they said, no it's our property, we'll do what we want, and that's what they're doing," said Schmidt.

Church officials declined ABC7's request for an on-camera interview, but the business manager said the project has been long planned, was necessary for safety, and that a new perimeter fence required the trees be taken down.

Now views are different, noise is different, and perhaps, residents fear, property values too.

Vickie French says she wrote a certified to the church five years ago asking that neighbors at least have a voice in any landscape decisions, but never got a reply.

"Communication - more than ever a church if they have Christian values they'd want to communicate with the neighborhood and have our input," said French.

The St. Theresa business manager says he empathizes wit6h the neighbors, but the church has made the neighborhood its home since the 1950s, and the removal of the trees and arrival of a tall fence was necessary for parishioners.

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