DuPage County reverses decision on mosque

Opponents claim board members were bullied.

June 26, 2013

(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)
The Islamic Center of Western Suburbs has sought to use a house on Army Trail Road near west suburban Bartlett as a mosque. Neighbors claim it will cause flooding, septic overload and congested traffic.

DuPage County has reversed an earlier decision on a zoning petition by a Muslim group, and will now allow the Islamic Center of Western Suburbs to conduct worship services in a single-family residence near west suburban Bartlett. The reconsideration of the group’s petition came per order of federal magistrate judge Sheila Finnegan, as part of a negotiated settlement between the two parties.

“‘They didn’t vote right,’ that’s what the judge said, ‘You got to do it over, do it right,’” fumed Jacqueline Sitkiewicz, after the 10-7 vote in favor of the petitioner was tallied. “Why have a county board, then? Just abolish it and when you have an issue, go right to the judge.”

Sitkiewitz and her husband, whose home sits directly next to the ICWS property, were among many neighbors who voiced opposition during the public comment portion of the county board meeting. Many said that the proposed use, which would allow up to 166 people to visit each day, would overwhelm its septic capacity. They also said that plans to pave over portions of the property for a parking lot would result in stormwater flooding, and that traffic on the already-busy Army Trail Road would become more dangerous.

But this time around, commissioners had additional information about each of those points from the county’s own agencies, which assessed the septic, stormwater flow and traffic conditions at the site.

The ICWS sued DuPage County in federal court last year claiming discrimination after it failed to win its conditional use bid. But the county recently lost a similar federal case with another Islamic group, the Irshad Learning Center. That prompted the ICWS and DuPage County to pursue a settlement in their case.

ICWS still seeks damages and attorneys fees in their case, an issue that was not discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting. “I don’t think the case is mooted because of the zoning approval today,” said Mark Daniel, attorney for ICWS. “It’s one major step in the direction of getting this resolved. The biggest step, actually, but it’s not the full route that we have to take.”

Odette Yousef is WBEZ’s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her @oyousef and @WBEZoutloud.