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updated: 12/2/2010 11:21 PM

Zoning board rejects Muslim prayer center

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  • A zoning panel has recommended that DuPage County deny Islamic Center of Western Suburbs' request to use a house near West Chicago as a prayer center.

      A zoning panel has recommended that DuPage County deny Islamic Center of Western Suburbs' request to use a house near West Chicago as a prayer center.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Islamic Center of Western Suburbs has suffered a setback in its effort to legally use a house near West Chicago as a prayer center.

On Thursday night, DuPage County's zoning board of appeals advised county officials to deny the Muslim group's request to have the single-family home at 28W774 Army Trail Road declared a religious institution.

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"It's up to the petitioner to provide evidence that this type of use will not have a negative impact on the values of the surrounding property," zoning board member Thomas Laz said. "I don't think the petitioners met the burden."

The 6-1 vote means the center must overcome the negative recommendation when it appeals to county board members for a conditional-use permit.

Kevin Gallaher, the center's attorney, reacted to Thursday's vote by saying he's focusing on the next step in the process, which could happen later this month.

A county board development committee must review the plan before it goes to the full county board for a final decision.

In the meantime, the house is operating out-of-code as a worship center, despite citations from the county.

Shortly after buying the house in 2008, Islamic Center of Western Suburbs started making landscaping changes to the property to create parking for the worshippers, who arrive five times a day. Supporters have said they need the proposed worship space because no other site exists nearby.

Michael Loftus, the only zoning board member who opposed Thursday's recommendation, said he believes the prayer center has no impact on traffic, flooding or property values.

"It looks like a house with a property surrounded by shrubbery as a normal house would be," Loftus said. "As to what its use is, it would not be clearly evident to people driving by looking at it."

Still, other board members said they have concerns about the plan, including one neighbor's claim that worshippers routinely blocked her driveway.

Laz said he was worried about the possibility of having roughly 30 people regularly using a septic system designed for one family. He also said the center needs to develop a plan to address neighbors' concerns about flooding.

Neighbors opposed to the plan praised the recommendation.

"I think we made a big enough presence to where they didn't want to ignore us," resident Kevin Wiley said.

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