Harwood Heights residents worry about community center traffic
Community center site
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:42AM
HARWOOD HEIGHTS — Concerns about a planned Muslim community center moving into the former Eisenhower Public Library building dominated public comments at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Harwood Heights Committee of the Whole meeting.
Residents criticized the Village Board for not becoming involved in the Library Board’s decision to sell the property at 4652 N. Olcott Ave. to the Mercy Islamic Community Center.
The Village Board and the Library Board are separate taxing bodies.
Village trustees have yet to vote on the Plan Commission’s recommendation in favor of a change in zoning to allow the center to operate. The building had been zoned for industrial use.
The big issue with some residents is that traffic from the center will add to the congestion once Mariano’s Fresh Foods opens a half-block away, taking away from the neighborhood feel of the community just south of Lawrence Avenue.
No formal traffic survey was made.
“We’re going to take a hit,” said Jeanette Mazur. “Even the trucks now tie up traffic.
“I don’t think we can afford any more traffic on Olcott.”
John Pikarski, a zoning attorney representing the center, said the building on Olcott has been on the market for five years.
Mercy Islamic Community Center is expecting to invest about $500,000 in the building, for which it paid $525,000, he added.
He also said he did not believe traffic from the center would be a problem.
“You just substitute ‘religious community center’ for ‘library center,’” he suggested, referring to the amount of traffic at the old library building. “Growth won’t exceed parking.”
Roy Schmidt said he wants the village to give the issue more thought.
Joan White said she would like to see the property go back on the property tax rolls.
John Skorupa, who lives a few doors down from the center and the store, suggested the village wait to see how much traffic Mariano’s will generate before voting to accept the Plan Commission’s recommendation.
“We’re an open and welcoming community,” he said, “but that area is too small to handle a lot of traffic.”
Skorupa added that his hope was that Mariano’s revitalizes the area.