WBEZ | mosques http://www.wbez.org/tags/mosques Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Muslim group claims win on DuPage mosque dispute http://www.wbez.org/news/muslim-group-claims-win-dupage-mosque-dispute-106420 <p><p>A federal judge has ruled that DuPage County was &ldquo;arbitrary and capricious&rdquo; when it denied permission for an Iranian Muslim group to build a mosque on a 3-acre residential property near west-suburban Naperville. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer issued a 70-page summary judgment Friday that could force the county to reconsider the zoning petition of the Irshad Learning Center.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s significant not only for this one Muslim institution but all Muslim religious institutions who are facing problematic decisions by their local governments,&rdquo; said Kevin Vodak, an attorney with the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which represented the center. DuPage County has had a number of disputed zoning bids by mosques in recent years, but this is the only one that CAIR has stepped in to represent.</p><p>Judge Pallmeyer found the county did not discriminate against the Irshad Learning Center petition on the basis of religion but concluded &ldquo;the County imposed a substantial burden on ILC,&rdquo; violating state and federal laws that protect the freedom to exercise religion. The Irshad Learning Center case alleged that DuPage County violated certain religious protections afforded by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the U.S. Constitution, and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.</p><p>The zoning matter could now go back to the County Board. &rdquo;We&rsquo;re hopeful that the county fully complies with that decision,&rdquo; said Vodak, referring to the judge&rsquo;s ruling. &ldquo;If so then we will be seeking damages and attorneys fees based on our litigation in the case and Irshad&rsquo;s expenses having to maintain the property as it not being tax-exempt at this stage because they were denied the permit.&rdquo; Vodak said he has no estimate yet for total damages.</p><p>The petitioners purchased the property in 2008, hoping to turn it into a religious center that could accommodate roughly 25 families for Thursday evening services and weekend classes. But many neighbors and outside organizations objected to their petition for a conditional zoning use, calling into question figures that the Irshad Learning Center used in its bid. In particular, the objectors felt the petition did not accurately portray the intensity of use that the property would be subjected to.</p><p>A spokesman for DuPage County government said the county is reviewing the judgment and not presently commenting.</p><p><b id="internal-source-marker_0.11356477928347886" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at </span><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" style="text-decoration: initial;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">@oyousef</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.</span></b></p></p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 17:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/muslim-group-claims-win-dupage-mosque-dispute-106420 DuPage denies mosque’s request for tall minaret and dome http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-denies-mosque%E2%80%99s-request-tall-minaret-and-dome-97260 <p><p>DuPage County’s board has denied a request from a developer of an incoming mosque to add a dome and minaret that would exceed the county’s 36-foot height limit. The Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America (MECCA) won approval last year to build a center in unincorporated DuPage County, near the village of Willowbrook. After that, the county amended its zoning laws to lay out the conditions of its height restrictions more clearly.</p><p>The decision in this case could have broad implications for other groups that have assembled in buildings that were built before the new zoning rules.</p><p>"Our decision today will determine how those text amendments are interpreted," warned board member Anthony Michelassi, shortly before the vote. "We have the ability to determine how this law is applied, and I would rather it be so we grant deference to religious symbols of existing places of assembly."</p><p>MECCA’s lawyer, Mark Daniels, argued that the amendments to the zoning rules included language that allows special protections for existing places of assembly, in case they wanted to modify their buildings.</p><p>"If you include the VFW halls and the other meetings hall with churches, there are probably 70 uses that are contemplated that are having the carpet pulled out from under them in the way of protection," said Daniels. "If they need to put an air conditioner on the roof, if they want to go a little bit higher for a flagpole or some other skylight perhaps —&nbsp;it could be any improvement on that roof. They’re basically yanking the rug out from under them by saying if you want to have that, you have to have open, landscaped areas."</p><p>Residents who live near the MECCA lot objected to the developer’s request, saying that the planned building is already too large for the site and that the additional structures would further encroach upon the views from their homes. They urged county board members to apply the new height requirements on the building. “This project does not conform to requirements and is not eligible for this relief,” said Willowbrook resident Pete Spencer.</p><p>Dr. Abdulgany Hamadeh, MECCA’s president, says he believes the board's decision on the minaret and dome is unfair, but he still intends to break ground by June. "The problem is changing the rules in the middle of the game all the time," said Hamadeh. "Had we known before that we had a height limit, had we known that we have setbacks, maybe we would have designed the building differently."</p><p>Hamadeh said there’s no way to build a minaret in compliance with the county’s 36-foot limit, but that it may be possible to build a dome on the inside of the structure under that rule.</p></p> Tue, 13 Mar 2012 21:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-denies-mosque%E2%80%99s-request-tall-minaret-and-dome-97260 DuPage faith groups watch minaret decision http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-faith-groups-watch-minaret-decision-97223 <p><p>The DuPage County Board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether an incoming mosque may add a minaret and dome to its building plan. MECCA, the Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America, has applied for a conditional use permit to construct a 50-foot high dome and a 60-foot high minaret. The decision is being closely watched by other faith groups in the county, who are keen to see how the board will respond to requests for modifications to projects that were grandfathered in after the county changed its zoning rules. The new rules, passed in October, limit structures to 36 feet.</p><p>Last week DuPage County’s Development Committee voted neither to approve nor deny the request of MECCA’s developers, splitting evenly on the matter. Complicating the situation is the fact that MECCA is considered an “existing use” because its zoning permit was approved last year before the zoning amendments. Ground has not yet been broken on the project. County Board member Anthony Michelassi said that means MECCA’s application has to be evaluated under zoning rules that existed when it was granted its original permit.</p><p>“If we were to say to any existing religious institution, you can’t put, say, a steeple on top of your building because then you’d have to start lopping off parts of your building elsewhere,” said Michelassi. “That would go completely against the spirit of the text amendments to begin with.”</p><p>Several residents of a housing development next to the MECCA property in unincorporated Willowbrook spoke at the committee meeting to express their opposition to the minaret and dome. Diana Cornett, who lives in the property closest to the site, said she and her neighbors have compromised on their ideals to come to peace with the idea of a large assembly space going up next to their relatively quiet and secluded homes. She said that adding the tall structures would be an even greater imposition on her suburban surroundings.</p><p>“It’s just seeing that much more of a building that we really don’t want to see anymore of,” said Cornett. “And it would be the same if Wal-Mart wanted to build a building and they wanted to add another whole story to it.”</p></p> Tue, 13 Mar 2012 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-faith-groups-watch-minaret-decision-97223 DuPage amends rules on places of assembly http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-amends-rules-places-assembly-93066 <p><p>DuPage County has new rules on where places of assembly, including places of worship, can set up. The county board Tuesday voted unanimously to allow those institutions into all zoning districts by right. That means they won’t have to go through a lengthy and costly process of seeking permission from the county to set up on land they purchase. Currently, churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship are not allowed by right in any zoning districts in DuPage County.</p><p>The new requirements include a greater minimum lot size and, for groups trying to set up in residential neighborhoods, access to an arterial road and public water and sewer lines. The amendment also prohibits groups from purchasing houses to use as worship spaces.</p><p>The measures come after more than a year of intense discussions with community and religious groups. Last year the county considered a blanket ban on allowing religious and other assembly uses into unincorporated residential neighborhoods. The sweeping approach prompted an outcry from community groups such as DuPage United, and concerns that it might violate federal and state laws that provide special protections for religious land uses.</p><p>County officials, community organizers and religious leaders agree that they were able to come together in a positive way, and do so with a positive approach.</p><p>“I think that it is going to open up a whole new avenue for places of assembly into DuPage County,” said DuPage County board member Tony Michelassi, “and I think that it reflects how DuPage is changing.”</p><p>But Amy Lawless of DuPage United still has reservations about the new rules. “We still recognize that it will prevent many, many congregations from even considering to build,” she said, “because it will be so costly in order to meet all of these restrictions.”</p><p>Lawless points out that Muslim congregations in particular may be effectively kept out of unincorporated residential districts because the groups often start out small, and coming up with the money required to meet the technical requirements may be impossible. The Muslim community is among the fastest growing population in west suburban DuPage County.</p></p> Tue, 11 Oct 2011 22:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-amends-rules-places-assembly-93066 DuPage considers new rules on assembly spaces http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-considers-new-rules-assembly-spaces-92962 <p><p>This week the DuPage County Board is expected to vote on new rules about where places of worship can locate.&nbsp;The changes would allow houses of worship into all zoning districts by right, unlike before. However, they would have to follow new requirements for larger lot sizes, access to major arterial roads, use of public water and sewer lines and they would be limited as to how much of the land could be covered by building.&nbsp;They also would no longer be allowed to purchase and use single-family homes as worship spaces.</p><p>These rules are milder than what the county considered last year: an outright ban on places of assembly in unincorporated residential neighborhoods.&nbsp;But Amy Lawless of DuPage United said it's still not perfect. &nbsp;"It will prevent many, many congregations from even considering to build," said Lawless, "because it will be so costly in order to meet all of these restrictions."</p><p>Lawless says the new rules would particularly hurt DuPage County's fast-growing Muslim population, which has lately submitted more applications for new worship spaces than any other faith group.</p><p>The County Board is expected to consider the changes on Tuesday.</p></p> Mon, 10 Oct 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-considers-new-rules-assembly-spaces-92962