New mosque approved in Naperville, after compromise on future phases

  • The Islamic Center of Naperville has proposed constructing a 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 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

  • The Islamic Center of Naperville's plans to build a 121,000-square-foot facility on a 13-acre plot of land on 248th Avenue was approved unanimously Tuesday by the city council.

    The Islamic Center of Naperville's plans to build a 121,000-square-foot facility on a 13-acre plot of land on 248th Avenue was approved unanimously Tuesday by the city council. Robert Sanchez | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/17/2021 10:43 AM

Ending months of debate and negotiation, the Islamic Center of Naperville's plan to build a mosque, multipurpose center, school and gymnasium on the city's south side sailed through the city council with unanimous approval.

Tuesday's 9-0 vote ended what Mayor Steve Chirico called a "painful" process. The approval allows the center to develop 13 acres of open land it's owned for about 10 years at 3540 248th Ave. in a five-phase, 40-year project encompassing 121,000 square feet of construction that will begin with the building of a mosque.

 

The final step pushing the proposal over the finishing line was a concession by the Islamic Center to provide public notice to neighbors and post a sign on the property when it's ready to proceed with the third and fourth phases to ensure the surrounding neighborhoods have an opportunity to voice potential concerns before a building permit is issued. The city will review each of the final three phases.

A group named the "Naperville Residents for Sustainable Development," representing the nearby subdivisions of Ashwood Pointe, Pencross Knoll and Tall Grass, agreed to accept the proposal with those conditions.

A large crowd in the city council chamber erupted in applause when the vote was completed. Each council member and Chirico expressed gratitude for the work put in by all parties throughout the process that played out over nine months in the city's planning and zoning commission with 500 speakers in 15 meetings.

"We all know it was painful," Chirico said. "There were times where I was entertained. There were times where I was angry. There were times where I was throwing my shoe at the TV. Every emotion it seemed like it went through."

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Twelve community members spoke on Tuesday in support and opposition of the facility after Islamic Center attorney Len Monson presented the plan to the city council.

"What makes Naperville unique is its openness to diversity, but the construction of a mosque has pitted neighbor against neighbor," resident Fatima Ala said. "This is a result that no one should want. We are one Naperville."

Surrounding subdivisions formed a group called "Neighbors in Favor of a Neighborhood Mosque" that supported the building of a mosque on the site but opposed the size, scope and other aspects of the additional phases they believe will add significant traffic congestion to the area.

Among the concessions agreed to by the Islamic Center at the Oct. 6 planning and zoning commission meeting were accepting responsibility for traffic management during the facility's busiest times, no construction after the second phase of the project until 248th Avenue is expanded, a school pickup plan for the second phase, splitting the cost with the city for a traffic signal at 248th Avenue and Honey Locust Drive, and no outdoor amplification of sound.

The planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the plan by a 6-1 vote, setting up Tuesday's city council decision.

"So many people worked so hard over the past few weeks to bridge these final gaps," Councilman Patrick Kelly said.

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