DuPage County Rejects Plans For Islamic Center
By Samantha Abernethy in News on May 9, 2012 3:20PM
The DuPage County Board voted Tuesday to reject a proposal that would allow an Islamic group to turn a vacant house it owns into a prayer center. Citing zoning issues, the board voted 15-3 to reject the group's proposal for the second attempt since 2010.
The Islamic Center of Western Suburbs needed a conditional zoning use permit to use the house near West Chicago as a 30-person capacity gathering place, adding a parking lot. It has owned the house since 2008, and its first attempt in 2010 was squashed 6-1 by the county zoning board. Their petition was retracted and altered before the group tried again.
“It’s been a long haul — 3 years, 9 months, and two days, but who’s counting? — that we have fought against this petition,” a neighbor told WBEZ.
The zoning board again rejected their proposal 6-1, but the county's development committee approved it 3-2. More than 50 people spoke at the DuPage County Board meeting on Tuesday. Supporters outnumbered opponents, saying the group met the county's guidelines. Opponents argued the facility would "violate their right to enjoyment of their neighborhood."
“This is not about religious institutions,” said [County Board member Jim] Zay, who was joined by fellow District 6 board members Dirk Enger and Bob Larsen in opposing the request. “This is about property rights. It’s about zoning.”
South Elgin resident Constance Gavras, who implored the board to turn down the Irshad permit and has asserted that American Muslims are determined to implement shariah law throughout the U.S., said the ICWS facility would “become another religious compound” but insisted that property rights, and not religion, is her concern.
A lawyer for the Islamic Center of the Western Suburbs says the group should move forward with a lawsuit against the county board "based on the assertion that the rejection violated provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000."