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updated: 5/4/2011 5:46 AM

DuPage committee says no to Islamic Center

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  • A DuPage County Board committee is recommending the full board deny an Islamic group's request to use a house near West Chicago as a prayer center.

      A DuPage County Board committee is recommending the full board deny an Islamic group's request to use a house near West Chicago as a prayer center.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

An Islamic group has a major hurdle to overcome in its effort to continue using a house near West Chicago as a prayer center.

The DuPage County Board's development committee on Tuesday recommended the full board deny Islamic Center of Western Suburbs' petition to have the house at 28W774 Army Trail Road declared a religious institution. County board members are expected to take a deciding vote next week.

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Tuesday's 3-2 committee vote came after more than two-and-a-half hours of discussion on the recently revised plans.

"I feel this establishment does not belong in this neighborhood," said Dirk Enger, who joined fellow board members Brian Krajewski and Rita Gonzalez in rejecting the conditional-use permit request. "It does not fit into the neighborhood."

Tony Michelassi and Grant Eckhoff were the only committee members who supported issuing the permit.

The house has been operating out-of-code as a worship center, despite citations from the county. Shortly after buying the home in 2008, Islamic Center of Western Suburbs started making landscaping changes to create parking for worshippers, who arrive five times a day.

To help win county support, the group no longer is seeking an exception to front- and side-yard setback rules as part of its request. It also has agreed to comply with a list of requirements suggested by the county, including one that limits the facility to no more than 30 worshippers a day.

Still, Enger said he's concerned about plans to remove a driveway on the west side of the house. He said limiting the property to one entrance could cause traffic safety issues.

And while the county health department issued a letter indicating the home's septic system is capable of supporting a religious use with 30 daily worshippers, Enger said it was written before the plan was changed.

"There's too many gray areas not answered," said Enger, whose district includes the site.

Officials representing Islamic Center of Western Suburbs said the revised plan shouldn't change the capacity of the septic system. A traffic expert said the center won't increase congestion on surrounding roads, including Army Trail.

Kevin Gallaher, the center's attorney, said the proposal complies with all the requirements for a conditional-use permit.

"I believe religious uses are a good thing for the people of this county," Gallaher said. "By allowing religious uses, we actually promote better and moral people. It definitely improves the quality of life."

Dozens of residents opposed to the project say they have no problem with the group wanting someplace to worship. However, they said the house was built to be home for a family -- not a religious institution.

"It's a residence," neighbor William Crawford said. "And that's what it should be."

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