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updated: 1/8/2013 5:09 PM

Des Plaines rejects religious community center

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  • A Northfield pediatrician's dream of building a community center in the former Grazie Ristorante & Banquet building in Des Plaines was rejected Monday.

       A Northfield pediatrician's dream of building a community center in the former Grazie Ristorante & Banquet building in Des Plaines was rejected Monday.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 

A Northfield pediatrician's dream of building a community center in the former Grazie Ristorante & Banquet building in Des Plaines was rejected Monday.

Chandra Khurana's plan for the Hanuman Spiritual and Community Center at 1050 E. Oakton St. required a special use permit that was denied by the city council. The site should have multifamily and commercial uses, according to a 2009 study for the Oakton-Elmhurst corridor.

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While all the documents said the special use was for a place of worship, most of the activities would not be religious, Sapan Shah, a volunteer attorney, said after the meeting.

He also said most of the plans for the center would be permitted under current regulations. One use mentioned during the meeting was yoga classes. Shah said Khurana and her supporters are Hindu.

About a half dozen residents spoke against the center, with Dolores and Avo Vels mentioning the loss of property taxes if a nonprofit used the space.

"Without our tax dollars, we can't give to our children," said Dolores Vels, mentioning that schools need the property taxes.

Khurana said she wants to use money she has earned as a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases to help children, who always seem to get shorted because "they don't bring any income."

She said that her center would help immigrant families -- Indian, Chinese, Polish and Korean -- who do not speak English.

"They will be spiritually enhanced and receive a free meal," she said. The programs would help keep people healthy, she said, helping offset the need for mental health services.

Shah told the council purchasing and fixing the property would cost $2 million to $2.5 million, saying it would be difficult in this climate to find a business willing to spend that much money. The restaurant closed in the fall of 2011. At the time, officials hoped it would quickly find a new owner.

Both aldermen and residents praised Khurana's plans, but said this was not a good location for the project.

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