DuPage nixes mosque plan near West Chicago
For the past four years, a plan to transform a house near West Chicago into a mosque has gone in and out of DuPage County's approval process.
On Tuesday -- the first time the proposal by the Islamic Center of Western Suburbs got a hearing before the full county board -- it was rejected 15-3.
The group's application for a permit to use the home at 28W774 Army Trail Road as a religious institution had been withdrawn previously in a final effort to win approval for the project.
Now that the county board's decision has been made, the attorney representing Islamic Center of Western Suburbs says there won't be another application.
"They've exhausted all their remedies," said Mark Daniel, adding that he's advised the group to file a lawsuit against the county. "They are in the position where they've got to make a decision on suing."
In the latest round of approvals, the zoning board of appeals voted 6-1 against the mosque, but last month, the county board's development committee voted 3-2 to endorse it.
The religious group would have had to comply with various restrictions, including one that would have limited the facility to no more than 30 worshippers at one time, and not more than 150 people in one day. Development committee Chairman Tony Michelassi -- one of three board members to vote in favor of the mosque -- also sought a last-minute rule that would have required the facility's well and septic system to be inspected at least once a year. But those amendments failed to gain majority support on the board.
Supporters of the project said the mosque would have been a convenient location to pray five times a day, per religious requirements. Gulam Samdani of Hanover Park, who sits on the board of the Islamic Center of Western Suburbs, said the nearest place to worship is seven miles from his house.
"It's been a blessing for me (to be) in this country," Samdani said. "I want this blessing to continue with a place to pray."
Board member Grant Eckhoff -- who voted in favor of the proposal along with Michelassi and Michael Ledonne -- said religious uses are allowed under the county's R2 residential zoning classification. He pointed to other religious institutions in the middle of neighborhoods.
"You go through Wheaton and what do you see in the middle of residential areas? Churches," Eckhoff said.
Those who opposed the project questioned whether the home's existing septic system could handle the number of daily worshippers. They also questioned whether the county would be able to enforce a daily limit on the number of worshippers.
Board member Jim Zay said the mosque operated out of the house for 2.5 years -- against county regulations -- and when members of the mosque sought to have the facility sanctioned by the zoning board of appeals, it was rejected four times. He said nearby residents expect the area to remain residential.
"This is not about religious institutions. This is about zoning," Zay said.
Attorney Daniel accused of the county board members who rejected the plan of ignoring the zoning code.
"They didn't follow their code today," Daniel said. "So it needs to be addressed in court."
Neighbors opposed to the plan voiced concerns about the possibility of flooding, lower property values and increased traffic. Some said they moved into the secluded neighborhood with the expectation it would remain that way.
Jacqueline Sitkiewicz, who has lived just west of the property since the late 1970s with her husband, said the worshippers "have not been good neighbors," and accused some of them of harassment for not being in support of their place of worship.
"Give us the peace we had there when we originally bought the property," she told county board members. "It has been wonderful and peaceful and it changed."