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updated: 11/8/2010 10:59 PM

Neighbors question prayer center traffic study

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  • Neighbors say that a traffic study underestimates the number of vehicles that would enter and leave the Islamic Center of Western Suburbs' proposed prayer center along Army Trail Road near West Chicago.

      Neighbors say that a traffic study underestimates the number of vehicles that would enter and leave the Islamic Center of Western Suburbs' proposed prayer center along Army Trail Road near West Chicago.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

A consultant has determined that "very little" traffic would be created by Islamic Center of Western Suburbs' plan to use a house near West Chicago as a prayer center.

But neighbors opposed to the idea say the consultant's conclusion is not valid because the traffic study is "vague" and "incomplete."

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"In large part, he (the consultant) interviewed the client to determine what exactly they felt was going on, and then his study miraculously found the same data," said Kevin Wiley, one of the residents who say center leaders shouldn't get permission from DuPage County to use the house at 28W774 Army Trail Road as a religious institution.

More than 110 people attended a public hearing Monday night held by DuPage County's Zoning Board of Appeals. The zoning panel is expected to make a recommendation next month that will help the county board make the final decision on whether a conditional-use permit should be granted.

The focus of Monday's hearing was on the traffic study, a report the center's attorney said "speaks for itself."

The house has been operating out-of-code as a worship center, despite citations from the county. So the consultant made several surprise visits to see how many vehicles were there; he never saw more than seven vehicles there at one time.

However, neighbors claim the traffic study doesn't accurately reflect the number of vehicles entering and exiting the property for five daily prayer services.

"They underestimated what they really are doing," said Laura Wiley, who lives adjacent to the property. "We've got pictures of 12 to 15 cars consistently every day."

The study also doesn't take into account future growth, the neighbors argued.

Kevin Gallaher, the center's attorney, responded by saying there are "no plans" for expansion.

"We're using the facility as it currently sits," he said. "We are not interested in building more parking than we need, but under certain current ordinances, that's the amount that we're required to provide."

County code calls for the center to have 30 parking spaces.

Neighbors also said the report doesn't highlight the speeding that happens along that stretch of Army Trail, which averages about 16,000 cars and trucks a day. The study only says the posted speed limit is 45 mph.

"The average speed at that point in the road is frequently in excess of 50 mph," said Kevin Wiley, adding that more traffic will make the dangerous situation worse.

During a public hearing in July, supporters said the planned worship space is needed because no other site exists nearby.

Still, neighbors argue the house should only be used as a residence until the county decides whether to allow a different use.

"This is a single-family residential home," Laura Wiley said. "It shouldn't be used for anything else. It's got to fit into the neighborhood."

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