Religious Land Sparks Controversy

One local religious group’s proposal has been stirring up some controversy. Members of the Islamic Center of Naperville are petitioning to annex more than 14 acres of unincorporated land near 95th and 248th streets.
For the last 11 years, the Planning and Zoning Commission designated that area of land – which consists of a 4-bedroom house and garage – for religious use only.
Now the Islamic Center of Naperville is looking to purchase the land from its current owners, Hope United Church of Christ.

But before buying, the group wants to annex the land into Naperville so that the city will provide services such as sewage and plumbing.

“When it comes to Naperville, it then has to qualify, has to comply to every aspect of our city code: parking requirements, lighting, signage, elevations, building heights,” said Tim Messer, Commissioner for the Planning and Zoning Commission. ”So there’s a considerable number of requirements to consider prior to being annexed.”

At the latest plan commission meeting, the Islamic Center’s attorney Leonard Monson said if annexed, the Muslim group plans to use the existing building for administrative offices and future growth but no plans are set now.
“What my client wants is the exact same rights that the church that owns that property now has,” said Monson.”

Many nearby homeowners spoke out against the plan.

“I’m absolutely opposed to asking the residents to subject themselves to something that might happen 5 to 10 years from now,” said Beth Golliver, Naperville resident. “It’s just totally wrong.”

“If it’s a mosque, a catholic church – I don’t want a 2 story garage, a 2-story building in my backyard,” said Naperville resident Larry Thomas. “First off, because of the property value – it’s already gone down because of the recession.”
Hope United Church of Christ’s pastor Timothy Sylvia argued in favor of the Muslim group.

“I’ve always been a friend of the Islamic Center since I’ve lived in Naperville and they’ve always been a great neighbor and a great servant,” said Sylvia. “I support this annexation and I urge you to do the same.”

In the end, Monson hinted at a bigger underlying issue, the fact that it’s a Muslim group wanting to annex the land.
“The overwhelming demand was keep this as a religious property. That’s what we wanted and those are the facts!” said Monson. “So I have to ask myself one question: ‘What’s Changed?’”

The planning and zoning commission will revisit the proposal at their November 2nd meeting. Once the Planning and Zoning Commission makes a decision, they’ll take the proposal to the city council who will have the final say.

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