County deals setback for Willow Creek Wheaton to build megachurch near Cantigny Park
Willow Creek Wheaton has been dealt a setback in its plans to construct a new megachurch in unincorporated DuPage County.
In a 9-to-8 vote Nov. 24, the DuPage County Board denied the church's request to build its own private well and septic system known as a "membrane bioreactor." A 2011 county code requires that places of assembly operate using public water and sewer connections.
The church's proposed location would have been along the west side of Winfield Road near the entrance of Cantigny Park, and would have accommodated up to 1,200 parishioners. The church currently meets at Wheaton Academy.
Scott Reed, the campus pastor of Willow Creek Wheaton, declined to comment beyond saying the church does not know what its next steps are for a permanent home at this time.
The DuPage County Zoning Board of Appeals voted 5-to-2 on Oct. 1 to recommend approval of Willow Creek Wheaton's proposed well water and septic system, but the county board's development committee was split 3-to-3 on the matter in a Nov. 17 vote.
"It has a system that has been vetted by the health department," said development committee chairman Sam Tornatore of Roselle, who stressed that other places of worship in the county have greater numbers of people and operate with well and septic systems.
But board member Mary Fitzgerald Ozog of Glen Ellyn was skeptical of Willow Creek Wheaton's "hardship and practical difficulties" in its request for a county code variance.
Ozog cited discussions with Winfield Village President Erik Spande, who has been critical of Wheaton Willow Creek for breaking off infrastructure discussions in 2018. She said Spande also pointed to a Bucky's convenience store that is under construction with public sewer and water at the southwest corner of Winfield and Roosevelt roads.
"Winfield water is not that far away," Ozog said. "Do we allow this large structure with an assembly purpose to go against our own code?"
Board member James Zay of Carol Stream echoed Ozog's concerns, and cited how West Chicago-based Wheaton Bible Church came to an agreement to get its public water and sewer from Carol Stream.
Zay also hinted that Willow Creek Wheaton might want to re-enter negotiations with Winfield since Spande is not running for reelection in 2021.