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CHICAGO-The Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Hyde Park, which has hoped it could use proceeds from the sale of its property in the 5400 S. Hyde Park Blvd. to build a new temple in the southwest suburbs, fears it may have to scrap those plans. The city council’s committee on zoning Tuesday endorsed a move by 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston to downzone the property, cutting any potential redevelopment plans by more than half.

The 1,000-member Hindu society has a deal to sell its temple and monastery at 5407, 5419 and 5423 S. Hyde Park Blvd., where it has been since 1967, to developer Fernando Leal, who hopes to build a multifamily building on a site that would total about 17,000 sf. The property’s current RM6 zoning would allow for a building about 75,000 sf. The size of any redevelopment would be limited to less than 35,000 sf under a rezoning to RM5. Society officials fear Hairston’s rezoning, which she says is a response to requests from residents, will have a “disastrous effect” on the value of the Hyde Park property, which is surrounded by mid- and high-rise multifamily buildings, as well as parcels zoned R6.

The Vivekananda Vedanta Society already has acquired 15 acres at Lemont Road and 147th Street in Homer Glen, where it hopes to build a 500-seat chapel, shrine, dining hall, library, bookstore, offices and guest rooms. A groundbreaking is scheduled for next month, a project manager has been hired, and a 2007 move was planned. Leal’s contract with the society calls for a March 2007 closing, says broker James Susarrey of TPG Realty.

“Our concern is there has not been a community meeting as of yet,” Susarrey says. “[Leal] has indicated every intention to work with the community. We, as a society, don’t want to ram anything through.”

Chairman William Banks, alderman of the 36th ward, says his committee was the only hearing required, adding Leal could build a six-story building with 60 units under RM5 rules. Also, Hairston says Leal has cancelled meetings to discuss his plans.

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