DuPage: No extension for mosque construction
Updated: July 15, 2012 3:03PM
DuPage County officials were divided this week on a request to allow 30 more days for construction to begin on a mosque near Willowbrook. In the end, the nays had it.
The County Board voted 9-7 Tuesday to deny the extra time for Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America, which cited delays in permits from the county and Downers Grove Township among the primary factors in the holdup. MECCA has been addressing drainage complications at the 5-acre site on 91st Street west of Route 83, and has submitted final plans for a turning lane to the township.
“We’re chomping at the bit, waiting for the county to grant the permit so that we can begin this process,” said Jimmy Garcia, vice president of operations for construction contractor G2 Builders in Hanover Park.
County zoning coordinator Paul Hoss said crews have been driving stakes into the property in preparation for the project to start, but it’s uncertain they will be able to officially begin construction by building the wood forms used as molds for the poured concrete footings before June 22.
That deadline was established in February, when MECCA secured an extra three months beyond the year of preconstruction planning that was a stipulation of the conditional use permit granted in March 2011. Attorney Mark Daniel, who represents the Islamic group, asked for a 12-month extension but was told the county rarely grants that much extra time to begin projects.
Hoss said representatives for the project met with neighbors of the property last weekend to go over what they should expect once work on the $7.2 million project begins. MECCA has been concentrating on engineering issues that have arisen since the project was initially proposed, he said, and spent about six months revising the building’s design after the County Board declined to allow the worship building to include a dome and minaret higher than permitted by ordinance.
“MECCA’s been working diligently in the ... interval between February and today,” Hoss said.
Some officials said the interval was all they would allow.
“I’m disappointed that this is back,” said John Curran, who was among five board members voting against the conditional use permit last year. “Fifteen months is more than enough time.”
One of three representatives of the parcel’s neighborhood in District 3, Curran said the mosque’s planners “wasted a lot of time on the front end of this,” despite their focus in recent weeks.
“Our rules have to mean something, and I just think we have to send a very strong message,” he said.
Addison board member Don Puchalski, another opponent of the original permit, also argued against the extra month, noting that “constituents in that area were vocal against it.”
One of them, frequent project objector Jerry Manikowski, implored the board to refuse the extension.
“It seems someone else is always to blame for MECCA’s problems,” said Manikowski, who has lived for 26 years on Jamie Lane, directly west of the mosque site.
Board members — several of whom were sued when they refused a mosque permit just east of Naperville in January 2010, and might be targeted for similar legal action after turning down a similar proposal in West Chicago last month — were reassured by another neighbor.
“You don’t have to be afraid to vote ‘no,’” Pete Spencer said. “You have followed the law.”
Daniel surmised that construction could conceivably begin “in the next eight or nine days, if everything goes perfectly,” but said MECCA deliberately held off on razing an abandoned home on the property and launching other preliminary aspects of the development even though that work could have begun by now.
“It makes no sense to demolish the house if you’re not certain you’re going to get the permit,” Daniel said.
He wasn’t giving up hope after the vote that the extension denial could prove moot.
“They may be able to still get it built out, despite the County Board’s view of things,” he said.