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Plainfield trustees allow attorney to draft ordinance to allow mosque in neighborhood

Residents complained of traffic, parking issues

Over 100 residents and nonresidents of Plainfield fill the village boardroom Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, during a city council meeting at Plainfield Village Hall in Plainfield, Ill.
Over 100 residents and nonresidents of Plainfield fill the village boardroom Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, during a city council meeting at Plainfield Village Hall in Plainfield, Ill.

PLAINFIELD – It was standing room only Monday night at Plainfield Village Hall as trustees reconsidered whether to allow a mosque to open up in a residential neighborhood.

More than 50 people were standing and many more were watching the meeting, which included more than 90 minutes of public comment, on a live feed in the next room over.

In the end, the Village Board voted, 4-3, to authorize the village attorney to draft an ordinance to permit religious assembly at 23616 W. Main St. The board still will have to approve the draft of the ordinance for it to become official.

Joan McQuinn, who lives in the neighborhood, said Plainfield does not discriminate.

“We never said don’t let them have a mosque,” McQuinn said. “We said ‘Would you consider these three things.’ ”

Neighborhood residents wanted consideration of the effect on traffic, parking and for the cross from the Christian church to be delivered to a relative who made it. The Islamic Foundation of the Southwest Suburbs agreed to do so, as soon as possible.

McQuinn and others from the neighborhood expressed frustration that it became a matter of religion, when they never mentioned it in their public comments about the proposal. Those comments were about traffic off Route 126 and restricting parking on residential streets near the building.

Zaki Basalath, who was the lead applicant on behalf of the IFSWS, agreed to place fencing and landscaping at the edges of the property to prevent car headlights from beaming into homes.

The IFSWS also agreed to building capacity limits far lower than required for the building, and vowed to come before the village again to apply for an expansion of the 37-car parking lot if parking capacity becomes a problem.

The group expects no more than seven or eight individuals at the building at any given time, except for at 1:30 p.m. Fridays. That time and day, for Muslim worship, is similar to Sunday morning church services.

The IFSWS bought the building for more than $500,000 but feared it would not be able to use it as intended.

Trudy Olivo, speaking on behalf of the neighborhood, said that if people don’t live in the neighborhood, they don’t know that traffic and parking are serious problems in the area. Olivo said it’s sad the situation has become a division between two sides when it didn’t need to be that way.

Olivo said the building was used as a church when Plainfield was much smaller and only met officially once a week, on Sundays. She said she has Muslim family members but doesn’t want a religious facility or a business to locate there because of her concerns about traffic and parking.

Mary Snydersmith of Plainfield United Methodist Church said hate has no home in Plainfield. She added that her own kids attended the Montessori school that previously was in the
building and detailed how much parking and traffic the former school had. She believed it would be a very similar impact with a mosque there.

Kelly Newton, who wrote to three trustees who voted against the proposal when it was considered on Aug. 21 and one who abstained, said only Trustee Cally Larson took the time to respond.

“I can’t help but think the silence or not bothering to cast a vote spoke volumes,” Newton said.

In the end, it was Larson who motioned to reconsider the matter.

Larson, along with Trustees Ed O’Rourke and Bill Lamb, voted in favor of drafting an ordinance. Trustees Larry Newton, Brian Wojowski and Margie Bonuchi voted against the motion.

Mayor Mike Collins cast the tie-breaking “yes” vote. Newton wanted the project to be approved without any stipulations.

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