DuPage County Board votes 16-0 for new regulations for proposed religious congregations

Amidst a number of proposed mosques in DuPage County (see the latest example just south of Naperville), the DuPage County Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to institute new regulations for religious congregations:

The measure, approved 16-0, came in the wake of five recent applications for new Islamic centers or mosques in residential areas in the county over the last two years. Three of those applications were approved by the board, one near Naperville was rejected, and one near West Chicago is pending. The new regulations would not affect those applications or other existing facilities.

Under the changes, a new place of assembly will be prohibited in a single-family house without a variance granted by the County Board. Variances also will be needed for any facility, regardless of its size, that does not have primary access on an arterial street or is not hooked up to public sewer and water service.

The county originally had considered barring all new places of assembly from unincorporated residential neighborhoods, but the board scaled back on that plan during the committee process. Along with religious houses of worship, the measure applies to other gathering spots, such as lodges for veterans groups.

Several quick thoughts:

1. I’m glad they scaled back their plans. No new religious buildings in unincorporated residential neighborhoods?

2. I wish these articles say how much land this applies to in DuPage County. These regulations cover unincorporated areas in the county, not land that is part of a municipality. Individual municipalities can develop their own zoning regulations.

3. Here is the reasoning behind these new regulations:

Board member Jim Zay, R-Carol Stream, said the measure is necessary to control disruptive changes to neighborhoods.

“What we’re worried about is people’s property rights,” Zay said. “In our district, we have a lot of single-family homes being bought, and the next thing you know, there are 25 cars in the driveway, and (neighbors) are up in arms.”

Translation: “disruptive changes” are bad for property values. In other words, having religious assemblies in houses or veteran’s groups meet in houses would bring down the whole neighborhood.

4. What exactly would the Board say precipitated this move? Why don’t reporters ask the Board members?

Mosque proposed for unincorporated site in DuPage County

The Chicago area has experienced several proposals in recent years for mosques to be built in the suburbs. Several proposals have been in DuPage County where communities or the County have rejected plans. There is a new proposal being brought forward now for an unincorporated site near Lombard, meaning it will be under review by DuPage County:

Proclaim Truth Charitable Trust is seeking a conditional-use permit that would allow it to demolish a 65-year-old single-family house along Highland Avenue and construct a new 5,200-square-foot mosque.

Sabet Siddiqui, the group’s representative, stressed to members of DuPage County’s zoning board of appeals Thursday night that the proposed mosque would be used by about 100 families who live in the area and currently attend services in Villa Park.

“Unlike other mosques and synagogues and churches that you folks have heard in the past, this is a different scale and different scope,” Siddiqui told the board. “It’s a small neighborhood mosque.”…

Siddiqui said he believes the mosque would be “a perfect fit” for a neighborhood that already has two churches and a synagogue. He said the brick and masonry structure is designed to “match the surrounding residences as much as possible.”

Almost all the residents who attended Thursday night’s public hearing voiced support for the plan, including a representative from neighboring Congregation Etz Chaim.

In comparison to some of the other cases, it sounds like this particular proposal is experiencing a stronger welcome from residents in the neighborhood.

It would be interesting to do a study of these cases that have popped up in recent years. Do Christian churches experience the same kind of process and complaints that mosques do? How exactly do nearby residents voice concerns – it is typical NIMBY material like traffic, parking, and noise or are there broader issues brought up in the cases of the mosques? Is the support or concerns about the proposed mosques tied more to the size of the mosque or is it more about the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood?