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updated: 6/24/2013 3:33 PM

DuPage board to reconsider prayer center decision

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  • DuPage County Board members are scheduled to decide whether to issue a conditional-use permit that would allow a house near West Chicago to be converted into an Islamic prayer center.

      DuPage County Board members are scheduled to decide whether to issue a conditional-use permit that would allow a house near West Chicago to be converted into an Islamic prayer center.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Facing a federal lawsuit for rejecting plans for an Islamic prayer center near West Chicago, DuPage County Board members Tuesday are slated to take another vote on the project.

If the board approves Islamic Center of Western Suburbs' request to use a house at 28W774 Army Trail Road as a religious institution, the legal case could be resolved.

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But Mark Daniel, the attorney representing the center, on Monday refused to predict what might happen.

"I am not sure if we are going to be able to get it (the ligation) behind us or not," Daniel said. "It all depends on whether the use is acceptable to the county."

In its lawsuit, Islamic Center of Western Suburbs claims it was discriminated against in May 2012, when county board members voted 15-3 to deny the group's request for a conditional-use permit.

In March, the county lost a similar lawsuit filed by another religious group. That prompted a federal judge to give DuPage and the center a chance to resolve their dispute.

After hosting a public hearing over several meetings, DuPage's zoning board of appeals last week voted 5-2 to recommend issuing the conditional-use permit.

During one of the public hearings, Daniel said the county board's previous rejection of the center's request 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.

This time, the county board has the chance to reverse itself before a judge weighs in.

A special call of the board's development committee has been scheduled for Tuesday to review the project before the regular board meeting. That makes its possible for the committee's recommendation and the full board's vote to happen on the same day.

"Once the zoning is approved, it's possible the entire case will be settled," said Daniel, adding that extending the case would cost his client and the county money.

Still, some opposed to the project are voicing frustration about how quickly the county board is moving on the issue.

Neighbor Kevin Wiley said he doesn't believe there would be two meetings on the same day if county board members "are truly giving consideration to the matter."

"I and my neighbors have a right to due process under the law and equal protection," Wiley said in an email, "not a charade or simple appearance of it."

The neighbors have long argued the project could cause flooding, increase traffic and lower property values in the area. They say the house should remain a residence.

As part of its recommendation, the zoning board of appeals says Islamic Center of Western Suburbs should comply with a list of conditions, including one to limit the facility to no more than 30 worshippers at one time and not more than 166 visitors per day.

The zoning panel is recommending the conditional-use permit expire in five years. That would require the center to apply for another permit at that time.

Another condition calls for the group to convert the structure back into a single-family home if it sells it or stops using it as a religious institution.

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