Some Windsor Heights Residents Upset with City Over Church Expansion

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WINDSOR HEIGHTS, Iowa - To be clear, residents along Carpenter Avenue like Layna Shield aren't upset the Windsor Heights Lutheran Church next-door is expanding.

"It'll do a lot of good, we don't begrudge that," said Shield.

But the $4.5 million dollar expansion project - approved by the city - includes a new driveway off Carpenter Avenue. That violates the city's zoning code, according to resident Mickey Neily, who says the code requires a 10-foot "buffer yard" between the commercial and residential properties.

"It should be free of access-way(s) and paved area," she said. "It says very clearly."

Residents Neily and Shield represent a group along the avenue who want to see the city correct what they believe is a mistake. A buffer yard would require landscaping, serving as a "barrier" between the church facility and the avenue. They say it would prevent devaluation of their property, remove the "eye-sore" they currently see from their front doors, and make the residential street safer.

"We already had increased traffic on Wednesdays and Sundays," said Shield. "And now, for us,  it's just going to increase tremendously because it's a 300-person event facility."

Shield says it's not just going to create more traffic from those who frequent the new church parking lot; the driveway now connects Carpenter Avenue with a shopping center on the other side of the church. These residents say they're concerned their street will become a "short-cut" of sorts to get to that shopping area.

"We'll have increased non-residential traffic in a small, residential street," said Neily.

And for Shield, who has three small children - all who enjoy riding their bikes up and down the street - she just wants a buffer yard to replace the driveway.

"It's a safety concern for us, basically," she said.

The city originally defended the driveway as crucial for the new facility to meet fire code; it allows 360-degree access to the building. But the concerned neighbors countered that argument with the fact that other new buildings in Windsor Heights, like Hy-Vee and Re/Max, don't have that 360-degree access, and they are considered within fire code.

"I appreciate the ability to get all the way around the building, but I don't appreciate that it would have met fire code without putting this driveway in," said Shield.

Neily, Shield, and a few others from the neighborhood brought their concerns to a city council meeting last Monday. Before then, they said they kept getting the run-around from city officials on the dispute. After presenting their case, they asked the council what the next move would be. Neily says City Administrator, Jeff Fiegenschuh, told her group he would speak with the city attorney and get back to them the following day. According to Neily, she hasn't received a call since.

"I'm disappointed," she said. "And I just feel that now they are hiding behind the city attorney."

We reached out to both the church and the city for comment. Neither wanted to speak with us on-camera, but the church assured us everything they've done was pre-approved by the city. City Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh said the city feels it's a neighborhood issue.

But Neily and Shield say it's not a neighborhood issue - it's a city issue, and they want it corrected.

"I'm not here to point fingers," Neily said. "There was an error made, and I would just like them to implement the buffer yard requirement."

Neily and Shield say they'd like to work with the church and the city to find a solution, but at the very last resort, they would consider hiring an attorney.


  • Des Moines Weather (@WeatherAardvark)

    I am not of their faith, however considering the overall mess we are always in, in this town, having a little more space for people to go and try to change their attitudes on a few nights a week is a benefit rather than an problem as portrayed here. When I think of Windsor Heights, I think Bake Shop and speed traps. Wouldn’t it be nice to also think of a Burb that prays as well?

    • SamM

      The expanision is nothing to do with worship and everything to do with making a profit as the expansion will be rented out for events. The building itself is ugly, the potential for increased traffic in a quiet residential area is appalling and frankly the church acted above the law here and did not work with the community at all. No one was consulted or notified. They have greatly upset many local residents who see their behaviour as high-handed and arrogant. This reflects very badly on the church.

  • William Denison

    There is something wrong when a non-profit “non-tax payer” needs outweigh those who are forced to pay taxes. The city of Windsor Freights is full of hypocrisy. I fill dirty even thinking about that place.

  • William Denison

    Jeff Fiegenschuh has worked for at least 5 other cities not including Windsor Heights in the last 10 years. Princeton Ill, Shorewood Ill, Goodyear Ill, Sac City IA, David City Neb. There’s something wrong with that.

  • Don

    I remember in the speed ticket camera debate, all the anti’s had to say was ‘Windsor Heights wants them’ to win people over to ban them. Many who were on the fence thought ‘If Windsor Heights is the first to use them, they must be for predatory speed traps

  • ojenson

    For those who complain about speed traps and cameras here is an idea dont speed. If everyone followed the speed limit there wouldn’t be speed cameras. I see people everyday in Windsor Heights going over 40mph. One day someone is going to get hurt.

  • plynitsafe

    The 10 foot buffer does not apply around most places I have seen. On the Corner of 3rd and Euclid, I used to live right behind the bank there and there parking lot came up to the lot line. There is no buffer there. I Don’t think that rule applies any more. And Let the Church Expand !!

  • SamM

    I live in Windsor Heights and what many people seem not to realize is that there are no sidewalks in this neighbourhood and so we have to walk in the street and our children ride their bikes and scooters in the street. The zero tolerance towards speeding is appreciated by those of us that live here. The addition of this building with the potential to add greatly to the traffic is most unwelcome, especially as Carpenter is a very narrow road. Lets be clear, the church itself is not expanding; this is a structure they have imposed on the community in order to make money. It is in effect a commercial building and an excessively ugly one at that. Generally when a new buisiness wants to move into Windsor Heights, the residents are notified and opinions asked for. Not in this case. No one knew what was going on. One minute there was a pretty little white house with an adjacent green park and now we have a monstrosity and a massive car park and driveway. In my opinion the church has behaved above the law here with no consideration for the local community that it should be serving.

  • do ur job

    If it is truly an event center, strictly to make money, it would no longer be tax exempt. Then WH could buy up some cameras. I hear Clive may have a few.

  • Maribeth Savage

    This church is a cult. I’ve been there, actually was lured there, and I was disgusted and creeped out. They had a speaker and he was saying very EVIL things about Muslims, gays, and non-Christians.

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