Muslim Community center a no go in Plainfield

Madhu Mayer | 8/23/2017, 4:35 p.m.
Unsatisfied with the changes made to parking capacity, the Plainfield Village Board will not allow a group to convert a ...
The Plainfield Village Board meets during a regularly scheduled meeting in 2014. Times Weekly file photo

Unsatisfied with the changes made to parking capacity, the Plainfield Village Board will not allow a group to convert a site that once was home to a Montessori school to a Muslim community center.

A vote that resulted in a tie during Monday's Plainfield Village Board meeting means the request to approve a special use request for religious assembly for the Plainfield Community Center at 23616 W. Main St. (Route 126) has been denied.

Voting for the request were trustees Bill Lamb, Larry Newton and Mayor Michael Collins. Voting against it were trustees Margie Bonuchi, Cally Larson and Brian Wojowski. Trustee Ed O'Rourke voted "present," which forced Collins to tender his vote. The attorney for the Village of Plainfield explained that when there is a tie, it basically means the motion is defeated.

Organizers wanted the building to serve as a Muslim community center, primarily intended for religious assembly, organized prayer and worship services and community development. The primary purpose of the property was for organized prayer, with services scheduled daily. The first prayer was scheduled 30 minutes prior to sunrise; second at 1:30 p.m.; third two hours prior to sunset; fourth at sunset; and the last service at 8:30 p.m.

Zaki Basalath of the Islamic Foundation of the Southwest Suburbs anticipated peak hours at the building projected to be on Friday at 1 p.m. with 60 attendees, which included 50 people for worship and 10 volunteers. During the religious holiday Ramadan, Basalath said this figure would have increased by 20 percent to about 72 people. For the vast majority of the week, he said the building would mostly be vacant with the projected attendance within the range of 10 to 12 people and up to 20 for a few hours on weekends when classes were in session.

The Muslim center had been operating since 2009 out of a small retail storefront at 16122 S. Route 59, Suite 108, a space, according to Basalath, that no longer serves the needs of the Muslim community in Plainfield and the surrounding areas.

Prior to Monday's meeting, village trustees heard apprehensions of nearby residents, like Trudi Olivo of the 23600 block of Ash Street, who worrief about the proposed community center's impact on traffic in the residential area.

Representing the Concerned Residents of the Ash Street Neighborhood Committee, Olivo said the community center is unlike the Montessori school, which was primarily open during weekdays and not late into the night.

Based on plans she had seen, Olivo added the Plainfield Community Center also plans to host religious retreats, adult Arabic classes, youth activities and weekend school, which, she fears, would only worsen traffic in the residential area.

"The facility will be in constant use adding an extra level of concern to the neighbors of this community due to higher traffic levels, disrepair of the streets, a lack of sidewalks and quite honestly, the people that speed down Ash as if they are on the freeway," she said.

But Basalath was willing to create additional 12 parking spaces to provide a total of 50 spaces in the lot for the maximum of 150 attendees inside the building. He also agreed to limit the attendance to only that can be accommodated by available parking, according to information provided at Monday's board meeting. Basalath anticipated needing one parking space for every three people.

Still, Larson had concerns with the special use request.

"This additional traffic will harm our residents and businesses," she said. "I have to look at it from a business standpoint," further urging the applicant lto ook at an alternate space in the community that would have the least impact on area roadways.

But Lamb said that is not possible.

"This building has been used for upwards of 20 years," said Lamb about the property on Route 126. "The only way to control traffic is not have progress.