Board approves special use extensions for planned mosque
by BRIAN NADIG
The Zoning Board of Appeals at its Sept. 15 meeting approved special use extensions for a planned mosque near Elston and Lawrence avenues and delayed a hearing on yard variation requests for a 48-unit apartment complex at Argyle Street and Long Avenue.
Mayfair Civic Association member Lisa Stringer testified that Islamic Center of Chicagoland officials have failed to address the community’s concerns, including that the site is being used for the storage of commercial trucks.
"They need to talk to the community. There’s been an epic failure," she said at the meeting.
Project attorney Nicholas Ftikas said that no recent concerns from the community had been brought to his attention and that a few months ago project officials met with Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) to give her an update on the development, including that revised plans call for it to be built in two phases.
Stringer said that residents next to the site should have been invited to the meeting and that the community’s overall concerns about the project still exist.
Plans call for a community center to be built inside a former car rental agency at 4856 N. Elston Ave. and for the mosque to be located inside an industrial building on a triangular lot at 4846 N. Elston Ave.
The industrial building, which has no direct access to a street, is located across an alley from the site of the planned community center.
"That rear building is completely surrounded by alleys. They haven’t reached out to (the residents behind it)," she said.
Several association members have expressed concern that the alleys around the planned mosque would experience an increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic as a result of the project. The previous occupant of the industrial building, which has been vacant for several years, was an autobody shop that had a handful of employees and did not cause disruptions to the neighborhood, according to residents.
Last year the zoning board issued a series of special use permits that allow for the establishment of a religious facility and a community center in a commercial area. However, the Islamic Center needs an extension because completed construction permit applications for all phases of the project have not been submitted to the city within the one-year deadline.
Ftikas said that a construction permit has been issued for the community center but that there have been delays with the mosque portion of the project due to financing issues and structural concerns with the existing building.
Meanwhile, the zoning board postponed a hearing on yard variation requests for a planned four-story apartment complex at 5352 W. Argyle St.
The delay was required due to an error in notification letters sent out by the city to area property owners, according to a project representative. The hearing has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.