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Trustees break tie vote in favor of Mosque

Madhu Mayer | 9/21/2017, 6 a.m. | Updated on 10/6/2017, 2:13 p.m.
Denouncing that religious discrimination ever came into play, the Plainfield Village Board by a vote of 4-3 approved a mosque ...
A mosque will open on the site of a former church and school in Plainfield after rigorous opposition from neighbors and some village board members. Photo by Brock A. Stein

Denouncing that religious discrimination ever came into play, the Plainfield Village Board by a vote of 4-3 approved a mosque in Plainfield.

Last month, a vote resulting in a tie meant the request to approve a special use request for religious assembly for the Plainfield Community Center at 23616 W. Main St. (Route 126) was denied.

Her approvals came with stipulations stating there will be no parking on Ash Street from Route 126 to Maple Court; parking on Maple is restricted to residents and their guests; and a 6-foot vinyl or wood fence must be installed between the mosque and nearby homes for privacy.

Joining Larson in voting for the request were trustees Bill Lamb, Ed O'Rourke and Mayor Michael Collins. Trustees Margie Bonuchi, Larry Newton and Brian Wojowski voted against the mosque proposal.

Bonuchi said her vote had nothing to do with the intended use of the building.

"The village is not willing to deny anyone the right to worship," she said. "The Muslim community has been worshipping here for several years." In fact, the Muslim center had been operating since 2009 out of a small retail storefront at 16122 S. Route 59, Suite 108. But officials say the space no longer serves the needs of the Muslim community in Plainfield and the surrounding areas.

Wojowski also reiterated that his vote was not about religion, but with the property in question. Newton, who previously voted for the request last month, said he voted "no" because the approvals came with stipulations he felt were unwarranted.

Organizers will covert the vacant building that once housed a Montessori school to a Muslim community center, primarily intended for religious assembly, organized prayer and worship services and community development. The primary purpose of the property is for organized prayer, with services scheduled daily. The first prayer is 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, who has lived in Plainfield for more than two decades and manages two Bolingbrook hotels, said he believes the board denied his request last month based on fear of the Muslim group.

Basalath anticipates peak hours at the building projected to be on Friday at 1 p.m. with 60 attendees, which include 50 people for worship and 10 volunteers. During the religious holiday Ramadan, Basalath said this figure will increase by 20 percent to about 72 people. For the vast majority of the week, he said the building will 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 group bought the property for $580,000 in May.

Since the proposal has been under discussion, village trustees have been hearing apprehensions of nearby residents, like Trudi Olivo of the 23600 block of Ash Street, who worries about the center's impact on traffic in the residential area. Also, she questions how such a use could be considered in an area that is zoned residential.