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Local News

Request to open Muslim community center in Plainfield neighborhood fails

Residents spoke out about traffic, parking concerns

Several rows of seats were filled with residents at the Plainfield Village Board meeting on Monday to hear the review of proposals for the Plainfield Community Center and the Plainfield Recreation Center.
Several rows of seats were filled with residents at the Plainfield Village Board meeting on Monday to hear the review of proposals for the Plainfield Community Center and the Plainfield Recreation Center.

PLAINFIELD – Leaders of a successful Muslim community center in Bolingbrook want to open a similar facility in Plainfield.

But in order to make that a reality, the center needs a special use permit from the village board that would allow a religious center to operate in a residential-zoned district at 23616 W. Main St.

The group has run into a few roadblocks as residents surrounding the desired location – a former church and Montessori school along Route 126, northeast of downtown – have spoken out with traffic and parking concerns.

The Plainfield Village Board reviewed the matter Monday night for the second time this month. Village staff and the applicants worked the last two weeks on a revised proposal based on feedback and discussion from the Aug. 7 meeting, in which a motion to table the discussion was voted down.

The revised proposal included: dense landscaping to prevent headlights from shining into nearby homes; no parking on Ash Street along the property’s frontage; “resident only” parking on Maple Court; and an occupancy limit of 114 people based on the existing capacity of 38 parking spaces in the parking lot.

Village staff believed the property usage rates would be comparable to its previous use.

Trustee Cally Larson said she cannot support a project along Route 126 that would add significant traffic. She said she sat recently in traffic for 27 minutes on Route 126, and 18 minutes and 13 minutes on two other occasions.

“I cannot fully support any type of additional traffic that is going to harm our residents and cause additional headaches for businesses,” she said.

Larson said though the Muslim center voluntarily proposed to limit its building occupancy in an effort to keep attendees from parking on Ash and Maple, the village shouldn’t tell any place of business it has to limit the amount of people that can enter the building.

But she was also concerned the applicants have said they do not want to work with the Illinois Department of Transportation for a traffic light near the property. She added the applicants, not the village, should pay for the proposed “no parking” signs.

Trustee Larry Newton countered that the village has been through the review process and the applicant has bent over backwards to satisfy neighbor concerns. He said there is not one bit of evidence that the project would be counter to any existing village regulation or law.

“For us to say otherwise would be irresponsible,” Newton said.

Larson advised the applicant to look at other areas of the village where there are many properties for lease or sale.

Trustee Bill Lamb pointed out the building has been there and been used as a religious facility, and though it’s zoned residential, nobody has tried to make a home there.

“I don’t know anybody who wants to buy this property for anything else,” Lamb said. “Nobody’s gonna put a house on that piece of property.”

Lamb said an IDOT traffic official has said they wouldn’t approve a light at the nearby intersection because it doesn’t meet the criteria.

“The traffic study said there would be minimal impact, and I think that’s an appropriate answer,” Lamb said. “The Plan Commission wanted the study done, the study was done. I think we should approve this because I think it’s the best use for that particular property. It takes an existing building that would go to ruin eventually and fits their size, and we’ve addressed the parking and traffic issues.”

So the board voted on the project.

Trustee Ed O’Rourke, who had a problem with the motion to table failing two weeks ago, yet the village board reviewing it again Monday, voted “present.”

This forced Mayor Mike Collins to cast a vote.

Larson and Trustees Margie Bonuchi and Brian Wojowski voted no.

Newton, Lamb and Collins voted yes.

The 3-3 tie essentially amounts to a cumulative vote against the proposal, according to the village’s attorney, because there was no definitive majority in favor of the project.

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