DuPage County Board members are expected to vote next week on a proposed set of zoning law changes geared toward reducing the impact of new religious facilities on unincorporated residential neighborhoods.
The county board's development committee on Tuesday recommended approval of the suggestions, which would address infrastructure, traffic and building size issues related to churches, mosques and other places of assembly in residential areas. A final vote by the full board is scheduled for Oct. 11.
If adopted, none of the new guidelines would apply to projects already being considered by the county, including several proposed mosques.
"I think that this is needed in this county," said county board member Dirk Enger, who also serves on the development panel. "It makes it more clear where (places of assembly) can locate."
DuPage officials say the zoning changes are needed because unincorporated residential areas don't have the infrastructure needed to support new places of assembly. Existing roads, sewers, and septic and well systems weren't designed for the uses, they argue.
However, DuPage officials dropped a controversial idea to prohibit new places of assembly in residential neighborhoods. The existing proposal allows new places of assembly in residential areas as long as certain requirements are met.
County board member Grant Eckhoff said the goal is to balance the rights of property owners and their neighbors. The proposed regulations give groups the opportunity to seek construction projects while protecting "the essential character" neighborhoods, he said.
Eckhoff pointed to the fact that the county already has adopted tighter parking restrictions. As a result, a future religious facility must provide one parking space for every two seats in its main worship area.
The new rules also place greater restrictions on the size of religious buildings. Another suggestion is to prohibit organizations from converting an existing single-family house into a place of worship.
In addition, groups would need their structures to be connected to public sewer and water service. And to address concerns about traffic, places of assembly in residential areas might be allowed only along major roads.
Despite the development committee's positive recommendation, some say the proposed zoning amendments need to be less restrictive and more welcoming of religious institutions to build in the county.
Mark Daniel, an attorney who represents several religious groups with zoning requests, Tuesday asked county board members to reconsider several of the amendments, including the major road requirement and the water and public sewer requirement.
"I am not saying don't adopt the change," Daniel said to the development committee. "It just needs some adjustment so that you are being less restrictive."