Kendall pastor: Proposed roundabout a threat to historic chapel

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 17, 2013 

KENDALL - A crossroads church on the same site for more than a century could be torn down to make room for a traffic roundabout. If that happens, Pastor Vern Yadon said, he will have slim hope of rebuilding.

Officials from the state Department of Transportation said it's too early to tell the fate of Kendall Chapel, an independent, nondenominational church inside the triangle where Mount Baker Highway and Highway 547/Kendall Road to Sumas meet.

Yadon, 66, has built a congregation of about 40 parishioners over the past six years. Now he wonders if his church is on the verge of extinction. He hands out fliers explaining his church's predicament with years listed on the front: "1901-201?"

"If the property should be targeted" by transportation officials, Yadon said, "they have let me know they cannot make me whole."

Two scenarios of at least six proposed by the department would put pavement where the chapel and an adjoining building now stand. Other draft designs place a roundabout on one corner or another of the triangular intersection, leaving the church property mostly intact.

The draft Yadon said works best for the church is a "tri-about," in which the corners of the triangle are rounded off so they function like a standard roundabout.

"We're just putting a lot of ideas on paper," said Chris Damitio, the project engineer. "Some do affect the church and some don't. Right now we have no idea where this is going to go."

Nobody questions the need for improvements at the intersection. Drivers entering Highway 547 from the east often speed in front of the fire station and Kendall Elementary School, Damitio said. Traffic turning into or out of the triangular intersection provides multiple opportunities for crashes.

The intersection had 23 reported collisions from 2003 to 2012, including 13 with injuries, according to department data.

Yadon and others in Kendall wrote letters of support for the project to their congressional delegates, to help get a federal grant for the project. The department was awarded $2.4 million, more than 80 percent of the total cost, through the Federal Highway Administration.

"I did that knowing that we would suffer some inconvenience but not knowing that we could potentially become extinct," Yadon said.

If the chapel is torn down, the department will pay the church fair market value for the land. That won't give the church enough money to rebuild, Yadon said. He's been scouting other properties, and under favorable circumstances relocation could cost $500,000, Yadon said.

The pastor said he doesn't have the appraised value of the chapel property, but in conversation he used $200,000 for the church's value.

"No bank is going to loan us money, and we don't want to go into debt," he said.

The department will not just find the most expedient solution to the traffic problem, Damitio said. Community input will be crucial.

"It's not just an equation about the number of cars and the number of accidents," he said. "It's the big picture ... so we've got a solution that everybody can be happy with."

The department will host a community meeting on the road project at Kendall Elementary School on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Yadon said he obtained permission from the principal to put up a historical display about the chapel.

"It's been here as a landmark in this community since 1901," he said, "and there's been some sentiment for it to continue."

ATTEND THE MEETING

What: Open house on proposed intersection improvements at Mount Baker Highway and Highway 547 in Kendall.

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20. No presentation; people can arrive any time.

Where: Kendall Elementary School, 7547 Kendall Road.

More info: Go to wsdot.wa.gov and type "SR 547 intersection improvement" in the search box.

MAP OF KENDALL CHAPEL LOCATION


View Kendall Chapel in a larger map

Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2298.

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