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Article updated: 3/8/2013 1:56 PM

TLC Pregnancy Services sues Elgin over restrictions on mobile van

By Barbara Vitello

TLC Pregnancy Services, a faith-based organization that has offered free ultrasounds to women in Elgin through a mobile facility for two years, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the city, claiming new zoning restrictions prevent women from accessing its services.

According to the filing, TLC began providing ultrasounds and pregnancy tests in September 2010 in Elgin parking lots near Larkin High School with permission of the property owners, J.B.'s Pub and the Evangelical Church of Elgin.

Last August, the plaintiffs claim Elgin police ordered TLC to shut down the mobile facility under an amended city ordinance that classified the vehicle as a "temporary land use" limited to four uses per year at each location.

Before the amendment, TLC parked the mobile facility in the lots one day a week for a total of 52 days a year, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, TLC claims the city inappropriately labeled the mobile facility as "land use" when it "is not land nor a fixture to land, nor is it anything but incidental" to the lot where it is parked.

TLC representatives claim in the lawsuit that when they attempted to renew the annual permit which the city requires for the mobile facility to operate, they were told no more permits would be issued in 2012.

TLC representatives say city officials later told them they could no longer obtain a permit because the mobile facility had exceeded the approved number of uses.

"The zoning law is over broad to essentially allow Elgin to regulate anything on land," says attorney Noel Sterett, who represents the organization.

According to the website, the organization grew out of a group called Christians Right to Life of Northern Kane County which in 1996 established what was initially known as the Life Center, at 825 Dundee Avenue in Elgin.

The center offers free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence counseling, maternity and baby items and books and materials related to "pro-life issues, the family and Christian living."

Cherie Murphy, assistant to Elgin's city manager for community engagement, declined to comment on pending legislation.

Sterett says TLC might seek a court injunction allowing the group to maintain its mobile facility while the lawsuit is pending.

"Hopefully we will be able to resolve this soon," he said.

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