Mayfair group to discuss proposed mosque; public hearing set




by BRIAN NADIG

The Mayfair Civic Association at its Thursday, April 14, meeting plans to discuss a proposal to open a mosque on a triangular-shaped parcel that is bordered by alleys on all three sides.

The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Irish-American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave. In addition, the Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to hold a hearing on the project at its meeting at 2 p.m. Friday, April 15, in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.

Residents have expressed concern that the proposed mosque at 4846 N. Elston Ave. would add to the area’s traffic and parking congestion. The parcel, which includes a vacant industrial building, backs up to a block of bungalows in the 4800 block of North Kentucky Avenue, which runs northbound only.

“Residents know not to leave their house on Fridays from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Fridays because Elston is gridlock,” said Association Zoning and Development Committee chairman Chris Lambesis, who lives on Kentucky.

The project also would bring noise and increased foot traffic to the alley behind the houses on Kentucky, he said.

“A church, a playhouse, a roller rink. Anything that would bring 250 people to the site is not an appropriate use,” Lambesis said. “This is a zoning issue. I don’t know of any other property in the city that is accessible only from alleys.”

At a community meeting in 2014, project officials said that they would take measures to encourage those entering the mosque to use the alley facing Elston Avenue. The third alley runs behind commercial properties on Lawrence Avenue.

The Islamic Center of Chicagoland also is proposing to open a community center inside a former auto body shop at 4856 N. Elston Ave. The center would have a parking lot that would be accessible from Elston.

The association is hoping that the zoning board hearing on the proposal will be deferred, Lambesis said. The association has been unsuccessful in getting project officials to attend an association meeting or to meet with a group of Kentucky home owners, he said.

Alderman Margaret Laurino’s spokesman Manuel Galvan said that Laurino has been trying to meet with project officials to see how they are addressing the community’s concerns but that the project’s attorney “has stopped returning the alderman’s phone calls.”

In March, Laurino’s staff met with a group of residents living near the site, and a follow-up meeting with Laurino is scheduled for this week, Galvan said.

The Islamic Center is seeking special use permits to allow the establishment of a religious assembly facility and the establishment of a community center. In addition, a special use also is required for an off-site parking lot for the mosque, whose visitors would be allowed to park in the center’s 37-space lot.

Lambesis said that project officials should consider alternative locations for the mosque. He said that a 22,000-square-foot industrial parcel at 4506 W. Lawrence Ave. is for sale and includes a parking lot that is accessible from Lawrence.

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