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updated: 5/21/2013 11:03 AM

DuPage reconsidering Islamic prayer center plan

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  • A plan to convert a house near West Chicago into a mosque is back before DuPage County's zoning board of appeals after a federal judge told county officials to review the project again.

      A plan to convert a house near West Chicago into a mosque is back before DuPage County's zoning board of appeals after a federal judge told county officials to review the project again.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

DuPage County officials have been given another opportunity to consider a proposed Islamic prayer center near West Chicago. This time, how they vote could determine the outcome a federal lawsuit against the county.

Islamic Center of Western Suburbs in August filed the lawsuit claiming that DuPage discriminated against the group by rejecting its request to use a house at 28W774 Army Trail Road as a religious institution. The legal action was taken after DuPage County Board members on May 8, 2012, voted 15-3 to deny a conditional-use permit.

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Then in March, DuPage lost a similar lawsuit filed by another religious organization. That prompted a federal judge to give the county and Islamic Center of Western Suburbs a chance to resolve their dispute.

So representatives of Islamic Center of Western Suburbs on Monday night made a renewed pitch for the project to the county's zoning board of appeals. The public hearing, which was continued to May 30, comes four years after the group acquired the property.

"The decision to reject ICWS didn't comply with the law," said Mark Daniel, the attorney representing the center. "They (county officials) have a chance to fix it."

Daniel said rejection of his client's plan was "extraordinarily similar" to what happened to Irshad Learning Center, the group that successfully sued DuPage.

In the Irshad case, a federal judge overturned the county board's January 2010 decision to deny a conditional-use permit for a planned Islamic education facility near Naperville. Now the county is expected to issue the permit so the education center can open in what used to be a house at 25W030 75th St.

"There are all kinds of little things that come out of Irshad that played a role in our case," Daniel said. "And our case is actually stronger than Irshad's case."

Islamic Center of Western Suburbs' plan is no different from what it was last May, according to Daniel. It still calls for the group to comply with various conditions, including one to limit the facility to no more than 30 worshippers at one time and not more than 166 visitors per day.

Still, neighbors remain strongly opposed to the conditional-use request. About 50 of them attended Monday night's public hearing.

Several of the neighbors voiced concerns about the possibility of flooding, increased traffic and lower property values. They say the house should remain a single-family home.

"We have a right to enjoy our properties without the intrusion of a commercial property butting into our neighborhood," said Laura Wiley, who lives adjacent to the property. "It is changing the landscape of our neighborhood. It is going to inhibit our personal enjoyment of our property."

Traffic experts hired by Islamic Center of Western Suburbs have argued that Army Trail Road should be able to handle the traffic created by the facility's worshippers, who would arrive five times a day. A real estate appraiser hired by the center has said the proposed use shouldn't harm the neighborhood and wouldn't diminish the value of nearby land and buildings.

But resident Ronald Cwik said the county had its reasons for rejecting the plan. He and other neighbors expressed worries that those issues won't be considered because of the lawsuit.

Plan: Neighbors say they're worried about traffic, flooding and property values

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