Chicago Tribune: Small mosque easily wins approval from DuPage
By Bob Goldsborough
Plan for site near Lombard stand in contrast to larger, controversial mosque proposals
The plans for the house of worship seem unremarkable: a one-story, 5,200-square-foot building, nestled on more than an acre in unincorporated Lombard.
But what was notable about the Proclaim Truth Charitable Trust’s proposal was that the building would be a mosque — a worship home for 150 or so Muslims.
Other recent zoning applications for mosques in DuPage County — including ones in unincorporated Willowbrook and elsewhere near Lombard — have run into significant opposition from neighbors. In those cases, few, if any, neighbors have cited the worshippers’ religion as the reason for their opposition. Instead, they have cited issues like traffic, stormwater, the effect on property values and generally oversize buildings compared with their surroundings.
In the wake of such receptions, Proclaim Truth’s plans sailed through the DuPage County Board last week with hardly a ripple of controversy. Without comment, the board voted 13-4 to approve the project, and not a single neighbor gave public comment on the plans.
Muslims hailed approval of the project, which would replace a house on the property at 1620 S. Highland Ave., and they cited several reasons for its easy passage.
“It’s basically the ideal zoning application for DuPage County, with absolutely no controversy surrounding it,” said Amina Sharif, communications coordinator with the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations. “The whole area where it’s located is already commercially zoned, already next to a synagogue, and there is more than adequate parking there. If the DuPage County Board had rejected this, then we’d really have an obvious problem. This is a very easy thing to approve.”
Sharif noted the project’s small size compared with plans for a 47,000-square-foot mosque near Willowbrook, which board members approved several months ago, and plans for a 43,000-square-foot mosque near the southeast corner of Roosevelt Road and Interstate Highway 355, which are pending. Also, the board in January 2010 rejected a proposed Islamic prayer center on three acres near Naperville.
Janet Widmaier, president of the nearby synagogue Congregation Etz Chaim, noted that a church, a mosque and a synagogue would be virtually in a row.
“I think that’s actually lovely,” Widmaier said. “We’re delighted that the mosque’s plans went through smoothly and we welcome them as neighbors.”
To be sure, the Proclaim Truth project has detractors. County Board member Patrick O’Shea, R-Lombard, who represents the district where the mosque will be, said he visited the site after some neighbors complained about the traffic it would generate. But the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals did not review any traffic studies.
“There are no traffic studies, I don’t have the answers, and I’m supposed to vote for it? I don’t think so,” O’Shea said, noting he voted for the mosque in Willowbrook.
Sabet Siddiqui, who represents Proclaim Truth, did not return phone calls for comment.
copyright 2011 Chicago Tribune