Group opposes mosque based on zoning issues




by BRIAN NADIG

The Mayfair Civic Association at its April 14 meeting voted unanimously to oppose a proposal to open a mosque at 4846 N. Elston Ave. and discussed the possibility of a park being built on an 11,000-square-foot parcel at 4542-48 N. Kedvale Ave.

Association Zoning and Development Committee chairman Chris Lambesis said that the opposition to the mosque is specific to the proposed location due to concerns about traffic, parking and pedestrian safety.

At issue is the fact that the mosque would be located in an industrial building on a triangular parcel which is bordered on all three sides by an alley. One of the alleys runs behind a row of bungalows in the 4800 block of North Kentucky Avenue.

"This building does not run along any street or sidewalk," Lambesis said. "It degrades pedestrian safety. It makes people walk through an alley."

Until a few years ago cars were serviced in the building, and the two or three workers would leave by about 3:30 p.m., Lambesis said.

In addition to the mosque, the Islamic Center of Chicagoland also has proposed opening a community center in a former auto body shop at 4856 N. Elston Ave., with a 37-space parking lot next to the center that would be accessible from Elston.

The association is willing to work with the Islamic Center to find a more suitable location in the area for the mosque, but representatives of the center have not accepted an invitation to attend an association meeting, Lambesis said. "We want to work with this group," he said.

Several residents at the meeting expressed concern that their opposition to the mosque would be misconstrued and they would be seen as racists and that due to similar concerns city officials would be afraid to deny the center a special use permit allowing religious assembly in a commercial corridor.

Lambesis said that people move to Mayfair because they like its cultural and religious diversity and that the residents’ concerns are based solely on zoning issues.

At the request of the center’s attorney, on April 15 the Zoning Board of Appeals deferred a hearing on the proposal until its meeting at 2 p.m. Friday, June 17. The board is being asked to issue special use permits for the mosque, the community center and the parking lot.

The attorney reportedly told the board that he is working with Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) and the city Department of Transportation to address the issues that have been raised.

It also was reported at the meeting that residents have made inquires about the city, the Chicago Park District or a nonprofit entity acquiring four lots which are for sale in the 4500 block of North Kedvale Avenue, where a house and a garage are located. Several residents said that they have discussed the idea of building a park there with Laurino and the Friends of the Parks.

The asking price for the lots is $895,000, and a real estate listing describes the 114-year-old house as a "tear down." The triangular parcel is bordered by Kedvale Avenue, Kasson Avenue and Wilson Avenue.

Association president Ronald Duplack said that given the shape of the property and the asking price, it appears unlikely that the site would be redeveloped for residential use any time soon. The parcel is zoned RS-3, which is intended for single-family homes and two-flats.

One woman said that nearest park, Spikings Farm Playlot, 4706 N. Pulaski Road, is small and more than a 10-minute walk away and that children have to cross an arterial street to reach other parks.

Several residents also expressed concerns about a construction site at 4251 W. Lawrence Ave., where a new convenience store is being built for an existing gas station. Residents said that the project is taking too long and that construction crews at times have not cleaned up properly in the alley.

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