Church keeps fighting City parking requirement
November 2, 2017

A judge has ruled that Immanuel Baptist Church must have 19 parking places for its congregation of about 60, but opened the door for the church to file an amended complaint. Church leaders therefore continue to fight the City ordinance requiring the church to provide the parking spots.

“The case is continuing, with the court to decide whether the parking regulations as applied discriminate against the church,” attorney John Mauck said. Mauck represents Immanuel Baptist.

The church has used as a chapel a rented storefront at 1443 W. Roosevelt Rd. since 2011. Church members want to buy the building and an adjacent three-flat to the west, but have not been able to obtain City permission, because City officials are demanding that the church provide the 19 parking spaces.

Church leaders argue they should not be held to that standard, and that on-street parking in the area is more than adequate.

In Chicago, theaters under 150 seats have no parking restrictions, Mauck said.  “Yet, religious assemblies seating under 150 such as Immanuel Baptist Church, and indeed religious assemblies of all sizes, have a parking requirement of one space for every eight seats everywhere in the city.”

The church pays $2,700 a month in rent and has agreed to buy the properties for $750,000. It sued in U.S. District Court, claiming discrimination.

“What we are seeking essentially is a declaration that the parking ordinance violates religious land use law and equal protection of the 14th Amendment,” another church attorney, Sorin Leahu, said.

The church originally asked for a waiver of the ordinance, but was turned down after the City argued a church could not be compared with a theater. Then the church sued. On Sept. 22, Judge John J. Tharpe denied the church’s motion but said it could file an amended complaint.

“This is not just for us,” Rev. Nathan Carter said. “This is for the Kingdom.”

“This is a problem of many religious communities,” Baker said. “This is a pioneer lawsuit.”

Another property on Roosevelt also has a conflict. Jim and Barb DiMuccio want to sell five vacant lots to Roosevelt Square developers, having been told for years that developers would buy the land that formerly housed their Circle Cleaners at 1417 to 1431 W. Roosevelt Rd. While the City demolished the dry cleaning building in 2013, the land sits empty and the DiMuccios want the money for their retirement.

They anxiously await a sale. “We have not heard ‘boo,’” Barb DiMuccio said. “I don’t know what to do to prompt them.”

The Chicago Housing Authority offered the DiMuccios $375,000 for the property in 1998 and they accepted, but the City never completed the sale.

—Susan S. Stevens