'Hugging saint' ashram near La Fox wants to add houses, apartments

The M.A. Center Chicago, a religious retreat near Elburn and La Fox, wants to add 72 houses and 192 apartments.

The houses would be for followers of Mata Amritanandamayi, an Indian woman known as "the hugging saint."

The center is seeking permission from Kane County to add the housing, plus an administration building, a garden stand, and a Montessori school, according to an application it filed with the Kane County Development Department.

It would need a special-use permit from the county board.

The proposal requests permission to build the single-family attached homes in groups of two to six. The apartments would be in three buildings.

Officials from the center could not be reached for comment Friday.

The center, at 41W751 Keslinger Road, used to belong to Broadview Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school. That school closed in 2007, and the M.A. Center bought it in 2012. A Kane County forest preserve is next to it on the south, east and west.

Members of the center would live in the houses, according to the application.

The organization opened its first United States ashram in 1989 in San Ramon, California.

The local center offers an evening devotional; a weekly spiritual study; a weekly service; and including yoga, meditation and gardening.

The 63-year-old Amritanandamayi, a Hindu, has made consoling people, and encouraging compassion for the less fortunate, her life's work. She is known for hugging thousands of people, including on trips she makes to M.A. Centers worldwide, including the six in the United States.

The Elburn village board will discuss the proposal at a committee meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. The county is seeking the board's comments, because the center lies within 1½ miles of the village's borders. If the village officially disapproved of the proposal, it would need a "yes" vote from three-quarters of the county board to be approved, instead of a simple majority.

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  The M.A. Center on Keslinger Road in La Fox proposes to add houses and apartments. The center is run by followers of Indian Hindu spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as "the hugging saint." Brian Hill/, 2008
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