I’ve been keeping track of several proposals for mosques in DuPage County (including one near Lombard) that have been working their way through the approval process. One issue has been the height of the buildings. A group looking to build a mosque near Willowbrook is going to seek an exception to existing regulations:
The Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America is one of two Islamic groups to be denied a height variance request this year by DuPage.
County board members granted MECCA’s request for a conditional-use permit so it can build a roughly 47,000-square-foot mosque along 91st Street near Route 83. But in a separate action, they refused to give the group permission to exceed the height restriction of 36 feet so it could have a 69-foot dome and 79-foot minaret.
Mark Daniel, an Elmhurst-based attorney representing MECCA, said the group has reapplied for a shorter 50-foot dome and 60-foot minaret. A public hearing on the new height variance request is scheduled for November…
Board members who opposed the height variance said MECCA representatives failed to show the denial would result in a legal hardship.
While the lawyer for MECCA suggests that there are plenty of religious buildings nearby over 36 feet, the County says the new rules went into effect in 2005 and have been followed since.
I would guess that the 2005 regulations were put into place because of NIMBY concerns: residents didn’t want large structures dominating the sky near them. Since the steeple seems to be on the way out, perhaps having a tall building now indicates that the structure will be quite large, leading to the typical concerns of traffic and late night crowds. Looking at the Google Map satellite view of the intersection of 91st Street and Route 83, it appears there are a number of nearby residential neighborhoods.
If the County has applied these rules to all religious groups, perhaps MECCA could suggest that the entire regulation be examined. Thirty-six feet tall is roughly 3+ stories, somewhat sizable but not that tall. MECCA’s proposal is for about double that height. Indeed, another Chicago-area organization has suggested the height regulations are unfair:
In the meantime, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago this week issued a statement claiming that legal experts have questioned the method DuPage used to adopt its existing height limit. The council said the “potentially illegally adopted” restriction violates state law and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
It would be interesting to then hear from these legal experts.