It is a handsome stone church, tucked into the neighborhood at Cuyler and Ontario. Now it is a handsome stone church with a playground in its front yard. It is a Fisher Price-like playground on medium steroids and made of colors that leave you thinking of the Google logo – red and yellow and green. The playground equipment isn’t big, not like the fabulous and gargantuan creations that PTOs have been funding with Sally Foster wrapping paper and plopping in school yards across the village over the past decade.

But this playground, designed for the small kids in Cornerstone Church’s nursery school, is now the center of a medium flap – something less than high school lights but bigger than the stir caused in a tight neighborhood when someone paints their house an inexplicable shade of blue.

We wrote a news story about this dust-up in last week’s paper after getting a tip from someone who knew someone who had heard vague rumblings. I read the forwarded e-mail and opened the attached pictures expecting to see some monstrous, sprawling plastic behemoth of a sort one would associate with a Wisconsin Dells water park. Instead there is this low-riding, somewhat garish play set that one could picture in a large backyard owned by a striving couple from that era when conspicuous consumption was something we sought after.

This church is kitty corner from Beye School, and I’ve got two Beye School alums, so I know some of the people on the block who have had what seems an oversized reaction by comparison with the kiddie slides in question. Didn’t think I knew anyone from the church or the preschool until I started to read comments posted on our Web site. And I immediately recognized a couple of the more strident voices in the larger village, people inclined to see grand conspiracies when there are really only overly cranky neighbors.

So here we are again, Oak Park, with a teaching moment.

There’s a preschool. We all like preschools since we are all properly progressive when it comes to “early learning.” That early learning is just the best. We’ve got a church. Don’t know what a Cornerstone Church is exactly, but I suppose they teach some manner of love thy neighbor. We have a construction project that required not a single variance or judgment call from village hall bureaucrats, which is an absolute miracle. We have perceptions of architectural integrity that come with the laying of large stone masonry many decades in the past. And we have some sense of violation in that Google colors and modest climbing apparatuses are most often tucked away back by the church hall rather than installed streetside – distinguished wrought iron fence notwithstanding.

Our options are as follows: Sit down around a table in the church basement and figure out what really tall ornamental grasses could accomplish. Get used to it and be grateful the church didn’t request a building permit to double the height of the steeple to hide a really lucrative cell tower. Wait impatiently, with much snorting and hurt feelings, until some better, and really I mean more preposterous example of NIMBYism accosts our fair sensibilities. Some dolt is bound to come along and propose building a new emergency room, a skate park in a park, or selling liquor within 500 feet of thirsty Fenwick students.

Then we can all forget about the little church playground, letting the sun fade the yellow and green pigment in the plastic and the landscaping take hold.

We’ll be all right, neighbors. You just wait and see.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...