The Illinois megachurch campus of Willow Creek Community Church is one step closer to opening at an approximately 193,000 square foot site for its growing congregation.
Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday in favor of allowing Willow Creek Community Church to open a new campus at a former Oak Industries site.
Marcus Bieschke, lead pastor for the Crystal Lake campus, told The Christian Post that he and his congregation were "grateful" for the result of the vote.
"We're extremely grateful to the members of Crystal Lake's Zoning & Planning Commission for their unanimous affirmation that our church's future plans align with our shared dreams for our great city and surrounding communities," said Bieschke.
"This is one more very important step in the process to ensure that our church's dreams are not just compatible but also complementary with our City's needs and future."
Founded in 1975 by Bill Hybels, Willow Creek has gone from holding worship services in a movie theatre to a multisite church with approximately 20,000 regular worship attendees.
Recently the Crystal Lake campus outgrew its present 56,000 square foot worship space and opted to move to a larger facility.
In January, the church presented its plans before the Crystal Lake City Council before submitting an official proposal for their plans with the former Oak Industries location.
Don Greetham, stewardship pastor at Willow Creek Crystal Lake, told CP in an earlier interview that they plan to perform "significant renovation" and "construction of some new portions of the building."
"That will include a 2,000-seat adult auditorium as well as a student auditorium of 400 seats. And several other multipurpose buildings and rooms within the building," said Greetham.
"City Council meeting went very well. Got some great feedback from them and they all seem very accepting of what our plans are for the site."
Bieschke explained to CP that if all goes according to plan, "we hope to hold our first worship service in the Fall of 2017."
"The next step in the process is to appear before Crystal Lake's City Council and, based on the strong recommendation of the Zoning & Planning Commission, seek the Council's provision of our necessary approvals so that we can enjoy our fullest impact in and through our new, permanent location," continued Bieschke.
Elizabeth Maxwell, a city planner for Crystal Lake, told CP that the Planning and Zoning Commission voted in support of Willow Creek's plans because they met "a specific set of standards as determined by the State Statutes and our Unified Development Ordinance."
"For the Willow Creek request they needed to meet the general Special Use Permit standards and the Religious Organization standards," said Maxwell.
"The Planning and Zoning Commission noted in their recommendation that they felt the Findings of Fact had been met and so made a positive motion."
Maxwell also told CP that "Willow Creek will be improving a underused manufacturing building that has been on the market for nearly 30 years."
"They will have space within their building that is open to the general public such as a café, meeting areas, and other programs. They also illustrate significant exterior improvements to make a large gathering and community space," continued Maxwell.
"Also, with the church services an additional 1600 people will be coming to this spot and they have a great opportunity to patronize the Downtown businesses. We have more and more businesses open on Sunday and there are several restaurants open where they can eat after service. We hope that this will generate a spike in customers Downtown."