Islamic Center of Naperville tweaks mosque plan as city adjusts to flood of public input

  • The Islamic Center of Naperville has proposed constructing a more than 26,000-square-foot mosque in the first phase of its 40-year plan for a new religious, educational and community center.

    The Islamic Center of Naperville has proposed constructing a more than 26,000-square-foot mosque in the first phase of its 40-year plan for a new religious, educational and community center. Courtesy of the Islamic Center of Naperville

 
 
Updated 4/30/2021 4:32 PM

The parking layout has been tweaked and a crossing guard was added to the Islamic Center of Naperville's plans for a new religious facility on the southwest side of town.

The adjustments aim to address a few of the concerns raised by residents -- in a flood of messages -- who live near the site of the proposed mosque and multipurpose center, which is expected to be built out in five phases over the next 40 years along 248th Avenue, attorney Len Monson said.

 

By relocating 53 parking spaces, project leaders have proposed increasing the distance between the Islamic Center's parcel and the south property line to 28 feet from 10 feet, with no parking available within 54 feet of the residences to the south. In addition to adding green space, the change orients cars away from those adjacent houses, mitigating the potential impact of headlights, Monson said during a public hearing last week.

In response to safety concerns, the Islamic Center also pledged to add a guard at the bike path crossing just north of the property during its Friday afternoon service, updated plans show. This is in addition to the traffic control personnel already planned at peak times.

At the request of city staff members, project leaders submitted more detailed floor plans for the mosque and multipurpose building, as well as a site plan and parking needs for each phase of the build-out.

The first stage of construction would consist of a 26,219-square-foot mosque with a capacity of 451 worshippers. Monson said the Islamic Center is proposing 348 parking spaces for that phase -- 99 more than what's required.

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"We're aiming to have no instances of our (worshippers) using parking on the side streets located in the area around us," he said.

The second phase, proposed to start in 2030, would include an educational center offering full-time schooling for kindergarten through fifth-grade students, as well as religious classes on the weekends, Islamic Center officials said.

Depending on funding availability, plans call for building a multipurpose hall in 2040, adding a gymnasium in 2050 and expanding the mosque in 2060.

While the proposal has received an abundance of support from the community, others have voiced strong opposition, citing concerns over traffic, crowds and the potential impact on nearby subdivisions.

The proposal has garnered what city staff members have called an "unprecedented" volume of public interest, with roughly 500 people signed up to speak during an ongoing public hearing that has now spanned five planning and zoning commission meetings. Thousands have also sent in written comments or submitted their position through an online form.

Before the April 21 meeting, 71 speakers had been heard -- a rate that would require at least 18 more public hearings to complete testimony on the case, according to a staff memo. Commissioners, in turn, instituted a six-minute time limit for individuals and 20 minutes for group presentations in hopes of moving the process along.

Though dozens of speakers were heard on April 21, "we still have a long way to go," Chairman Bruce Hanson said. The public hearing continues during a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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