WBEZ | DuPage County http://www.wbez.org/tags/dupage-county Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en DuPage County tries to keep drug users out of jail http://www.wbez.org/news/dupage-county-tries-keep-drug-users-out-jail-109407 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LEAD1.jpg" title="Legislators attend a summit on heroin, this time at Elmhurst College (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></div><p>Prescription painkillers are often a pathway to heroin. A <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/1308215815.aspx" target="_blank">recent federal report</a> found that four out of five new heroin users had previously used illicit pain pills.</p><p>That&#39;s how Nick Gore got hooked.</p><p>Gore said his childhood in suburban Bartlett -- 35 miles west of Chicago -- was normal. But in his early 20s, Gore developed a boulder-sized kidney stone that required multiple surgeries. And prescriptions to deal with the pain.</p><p>After a couple stints in detox -- and a couple in jail -- Gore took his first trip to rehab where he met a woman, a heroin addict.&nbsp; Soon, they started to date; he&nbsp;took her to a concert downtown and before he knew it, they were on the West Side of Chicago.<br /><br />&quot;We got off at Cicero and before I knew it, we not only bought our first bag of dope but we were snorting it,&rdquo; Gore recalled. &quot;It made me so sick, just throwing up. And I was itchy and disgusted but I got that warm feeling, like I was invincible...that euphoria that they talk about. And I wasn&#39;t addicted the first time I did heroin -- but I was hooked. It just hooked me.&rdquo;</p><p>Soon, the nice hockey star from Bartlett was a twice-convicted felon. Gore stole to feed his habit, to continue chasing that first high. But he said he didn&#39;t feel much of anything -- just sick, cycling in and out of withdrawal -- until his second trip to rehab.</p><p>For the first time in his life, Gore said he started to feel things.</p><p>&quot;I was being honest and it killed me, I was being honest about all the stupid shit I did and it killed me. Brought a lot more chaos into my life than into anyone else&#39;s because I took a butcher knife and decided to cut my Achilles tendon cause I just needed to feel something,&rdquo; Gore said.</p><p>Now two years into his recovery, Gore doesn&#39;t want to see anyone else get caught up in the heroin cycle. He said he&#39;d consider it a win if he can stop one person from trying heroin. So he shares his story at heroin summits in the western suburbs.&nbsp;</p><p>DuPage County Coroner <a href="http://www.dupageco.org/coroner/">Dr. Richard Jorgensen</a> said the fight to stop the spread of heroin use has been a losing battle for much of the community. Forty-three people have died so far this year as a result of heroin, and Jorgensen said there are at least three other suspected cases, pending toxicology reports.&nbsp;</p><p>Jorgensen analyzed the last two years of heroin-related deaths -- the period when the numbers jumped well above the annual average. In 2012, there were 38 deaths, a dozen more than the previous five years. Jorgensen looked for a pattern, an explanation, perhaps a hot spot.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;There&#39;s not one town or one city that predominates the statistics, we don&#39;t have one area or one socioeconomic group that predominates. It&#39;s not the poor kids from here or the rich kids from there it&#39;s really all over DuPage County,&rdquo; Jorgensen said.</div><p>Jorgensen said if heroin users don&#39;t end up in the morgue, they will probably end up across the street with DuPage County State&#39;s Attorney <a href="http://www.dupageco.org/statesattorney/">Bob Berlin</a>. That&#39;s why the two teamed up to spread awareness. They hold forums anywhere they&#39;re welcome: at schools, at local hospitals and community centers.</p><p>But Berlin said that getting people to show up and listen has been a struggle.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re dealing with the &lsquo;not my kid syndrome.&#39; Many parents unfortunately hear about heroin and they take the position &lsquo;Well geeze, it&#39;s not my kid, I don&#39;t have to worry about this.&#39; And we&#39;re trying to tell them it may not be your kid today but that doesn&#39;t mean it that it might not happen tomorrow,&rdquo; Berlin said.</p><p>Berlin said he isn&#39;t interested in sending addicts to jail.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ODawarenesst-shirt.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Hundreds of people turned out for this Overdose Awareness rally in August. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></div><p>&quot;Someone who&#39;s an addict, they&#39;re stealing money to support their habit, putting them in prison for a year or two years where they&#39;ll serve half the time and get out doesn&#39;t really solve the problem because they continue to do the same things if you don&#39;t treat the drug addiction,&rdquo; Berlin said.</p><p>Non-violent defendants are still prosecuted for a felony but they&#39;re not incarcerated. They get counseling and regular drug tests. And if they complete the program, they&#39;re less likely to reappear in the criminal justice system. <a href="http://www.dupageco.org/courts/drug_court/2215/">DuPage County&#39;s drug court</a> is one of the most successful programs of its kind in the area. The typical rate of recidivism for felons is about 30 percent within three years. For drug court grads, it&#39;s eight percent.</p><p>But when it comes to drug dealers in DuPage County, the state&#39;s attorney takes a hardline approach. There is no drug court and no breaks.</p><p>&quot;We are aggressively prosecuting those people that peddle the poison in our community,&rdquo; Berlin said.</p><p>To Berlin, there is a clear, black-and-white difference between a user and a seller; but to Roosevelt University drug policy researcher <a href="http://www.roosevelt.edu/CAS/CentersAndInstitutes/IMA/Leadership.aspx">Kathie Kane-Willis</a> it&#39;s gray and problematic.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/KKW.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Kathie Kane-Willis speaks at an Overdose Awareness Rally in August at Roosevelt University's Schaumburg campus." /></div><p>Oftentimes, she said, both are heroin dependent and both will engage in acquisitive crimes that enable them to buy drugs. And to avoid withdrawal. Kane-Willis hasn&#39;t just researched this issue, she lived it as a former heroin user.</p><p>&quot;There were many times that I was delivering drugs because I was the one who had the time to cop drugs and so I would buy them and people would give me money, and I would give them the drugs; that&#39;s distribution, that&#39;s a sales offense. So was I a drug seller when I did that or was I a drug user or was I both? I was drug dependent,&quot; Kane-Willis said.</p><p>She said law enforcement is sending dependents mixed messages. On the one hand, they&#39;ll say it&#39;s not a problem that society can arrest its way out of. On the other hand, anyone caught selling drugs can expect a stiff penalty and some jail time.</p><p>The potential punishment can be especially harsh for anyone found to have supplied a fatal dose of heroin. In DuPage County, the charge is drug-induced homicide, a Class-X felony that carries up to 30 years in prison.</p><p>DuPage County has three-such cases pending. Nineteen-year-old Nolan McMahon was charged this past summer in the death of a 15-year-old Bartlett High School student. McMahon is accused of delivering the heroin that the other teen ingested before overdosing in his parents&#39; home.</p><p>Dealers bear responsibility in these deaths, according to Berlin.</p><p>&quot;The drug dealers know how dangerous these drugs are and how strong they are&hellip;and they need to be held accountable for what happens when people use these drugs and die, it&#39;s that simple. And that&#39;s the risk that they take,&quot; Berlin said.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pie%20heroin.PNG" style="height: 256px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="" /></p><p>But Kane-Willis said there&#39;s a greater and deadlier risk associated with the charge.</p><p>&quot;I think every drug-induced homicide charge that is made sends a ripple through the using community to not call 911 and might result in somebody else&#39;s death,&rdquo; Kane-Willis said.</p><p><a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=1701&amp;GAID=11&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97">Illinois&#39;s Good Samaritan Law</a> protects anyone from prosecution for possession if that person has fewer than three grams of heroin and, in good faith, calls 911 to save the life of someone who has overdosed.</p><p>If the overdose victim cannot be revived, the law does not provide protection from a drug-induced homicide charge.</p><p>Kane-Willis said the general perception of the relationship between a user and a seller is misunderstood.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not what people think; there&#39;s not someone lurking around the corner trying to sell you heroin...that&#39;s not what heroin use and purchasing looks like,&rdquo; she said. &quot;Generally, people are seeking it out, they&#39;re drug dependent; and to provide drugs to someone who is in withdrawal, I&#39;ll say this from my own personal point of view, is not an evil thing to do, it&#39;s an act of mercy. And so I think some of these cases, these are merciful people who are being charged with murder, and that&#39;s just wrong.&rdquo;</p><p>Kane-Willis said it&#39;s important to understand that the victim and the perpetrator are very much the same kind of people.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z5OJBBaoBP4k.kUgUKWvKtdDs" name="dupagechart" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202013-12-19%20at%205.51.58%20AM.png" style="height: 327px; width: 620px;" title="Map of 2013 heroin deaths by community in DuPage County. Click to view larger map." /></a></div><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2012.PNG" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2013%20dupage.PNG" title="" /></div></div><p><em>Katie O&#39;Brien is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 11:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/dupage-county-tries-keep-drug-users-out-jail-109407 DuPage County reverses decision on mosque http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/dupage-county-reverses-decision-mosque-107850 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DuPage Mosque (1)_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>DuPage County has reversed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/dupage-board-denies-petition-turn-house-mosque-98954" target="_blank">an earlier decision on a zoning petition by a Muslim group</a>, 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&rsquo;s petition came per order of federal magistrate judge Sheila Finnegan, as part of a negotiated settlement between the two parties.</p><p>&ldquo;&lsquo;They didn&rsquo;t vote right,&rsquo; that&rsquo;s what the judge said, &lsquo;You got to do it over, do it right,&rsquo;&rdquo; fumed Jacqueline Sitkiewicz, after the 10-7 vote in favor of the petitioner was tallied. &ldquo;Why have a county board, then? Just abolish it and when you have an issue, go right to the judge.&rdquo;</p><p>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.</p><p>But this time around, commissioners had additional information about each of those points from the county&rsquo;s own agencies, which assessed the septic, stormwater flow and traffic conditions at the site.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/muslim-group-sues-dupage-county-over-zoning-denial-101471" target="_blank">The ICWS sued DuPage County in federal court last year</a> claiming discrimination after it failed to win its conditional use bid. But the county recently <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/muslim-group-claims-win-dupage-mosque-dispute-106420" target="_blank">lost a similar federal case</a> with another Islamic group, the Irshad Learning Center. That prompted the ICWS and DuPage County to pursue a settlement in their case.</p><p>ICWS still seeks damages and attorneys fees in their case, an issue that was not discussed at Tuesday&rsquo;s board meeting. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think the case is mooted because of the zoning approval today,&rdquo; said Mark Daniel, attorney for ICWS. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s one major step in the direction of getting this resolved. The biggest step, actually, but it&rsquo;s not the full route that we have to take.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a> and <a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Jun 2013 08:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/dupage-county-reverses-decision-mosque-107850 Despite federal order, DuPage delays decision on mosque http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/despite-federal-order-dupage-delays-decision-mosque-107649 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DuPage Mosque.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In an unexpected move, the DuPage County Board put off a vote Tuesday morning to comply with a federal order that would allow a mosque to be built near Naperville. The Irshad Learning Center <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/muslim-group-claims-win-dupage-mosque-dispute-106420">recently won several major points in a lawsuit</a> it filed after the board denied permission in 2009 to use a residential lot for worship and gathering purposes.</p><p>&ldquo;We embrace the order, we respect the order, we will carry out the order,&rdquo; said County Board Chairman Dan Cronin. &ldquo;However, we would like to convey to the judge a concern about our process and what we feel is our duty.&rdquo;</p><p>In particular, Cronin said Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer&rsquo;s decision not only to reverse the board&rsquo;s past action, but also to instruct the board to revisit the issue, caused concern.</p><p>&ldquo;Whether the judge can direct the county or direct the agency, direct the building department,... or direct a county board member to vote differently from what his conscience would dictate... may not seem like a big difference for a lot of people,&rdquo; Cronin said, &ldquo;but for this body that takes their job very seriously, we&rsquo;d at least like to have a discussion with the judge about that.&rdquo;</p><p>Cronin said the board&rsquo;s attorney&rsquo;s will reach out to Judge Pallmeyer to ask if they might implement the order without taking another vote on the matter.</p><p>&ldquo;The issue here is that you have some legislators on the board that have a problem with being ordered by a court to vote a certain way on a certain proposal,&rdquo; said County Board Member Tony Michaelassi. Michaelassi supported the Irshad Learning Center&rsquo;s bid for conditional zoning use when the board voted on it previously.</p><p>&ldquo;So if we can get the decision enacted in some way that doesn&rsquo;t require a vote by the board, but instead we could comply with the order without the board taking a legally binding vote, that&rsquo;s what we&rsquo;re looking for,&rdquo; he added.</p><p>A lawyer from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which represents the Irshad Center, said he hopes the board receives an answer soon.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef </a>and <a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 11 Jun 2013 17:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/despite-federal-order-dupage-delays-decision-mosque-107649 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 Cameras allowed inside DuPage County courtroom for high-profile arraignment http://www.wbez.org/news/cameras-allowed-inside-dupage-county-courtroom-high-profile-arraignment-103968 <p><p>Photographers were allowed inside a DuPage county courtroom Wednesday for the arraignment of Elzbieta Plackowska, who was accused of killing her son and another child in her Naperville home.</p><p>It was the highest-profile event yet for a pilot program that allows cameras in some Illinois trial courtrooms.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it advances our efforts to make sure that the public - and not just children - are more familiar with civics,&rdquo; said John Thies, President of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).</p><p>The ISBA supported Illinois&rsquo; pilot program that allows counties to apply to allow cameras inside courtrooms. Thies said media attention increases transparency and public engagement with the court system.</p><p>&ldquo;Most people never are there,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;but our courts play such an important role in society, and in our system of checks and balances.</p><p>When the Supreme Court of Illinois announced the program in January 2012, they pointed out that Illinois is one of only 14 states that generally prohibits cameras in trials courts.</p><p>DuPage County is the closest county to Chicago to give the program a try since it began in January. The program gives judges discretion over how much and what sorts of media will be allowed at courtroom events.</p><p>Judge Robert Kleeman only permitted one video camera and one still camera, and asked them to shoot from a distance. That means the <a href="http://www.wgnradio.com/news/top/wgntv-cameras-in-courtroom-for-arraignment-of-naperville-woman-20121121,0,1747945.story">three-minute video</a> mostly shows the defendant and lawyers from behind.</p><p>Plackowska pled not guilty to ten counts of first-degree murder.</p></p> Wed, 21 Nov 2012 12:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cameras-allowed-inside-dupage-county-courtroom-high-profile-arraignment-103968 DuPage Board to vote on mosque near Bartlett http://www.wbez.org/culture/religion/dupage-board-vote-mosque-near-bartlett-98918 <p><p>DuPage County’s Board of Commissioners Tuesday will consider whether a house near west suburban Bartlett can be used as a mosque.</p><p>The petition to get land use approvals to allow the Islamic Center of Western Suburbs onto the single-family property has stoked controversy in that neighborhood for several years. Many neighbors and county officials have been concerned about whether the property can accommodate up to 30 people gathering at once, several times a day.</p><p>ICWS is just one of several mosques that the Board has had to consider recently, but attorney Mark Daniel, who represents the petitioners, says this proposal has taken longer to win approval than the others. “It’s been in the zoning pipeline in one form or another for about four years,” said Daniel.</p><p>County officials have been particularly concerned about whether the property’s septic tank and stormwater drain systems will be able to accommodate the more intensive use. There was also a delay in the zoning process because members of the congregation were using the house for worship gatherings before the space was legally zoned for that use. Daniel says that’s no longer the case.</p></p> Tue, 08 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/culture/religion/dupage-board-vote-mosque-near-bartlett-98918 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