Plainfield mosque gets last stamp of approval

Center agrees to name change, parking committee

Photo by Marney Simon | Enterprise Staff
The site at 23616 W. Street will officially be converted to a mosque, after the final approvals this month by the village board. The site will operate as the Islamic Foundation of the Southwest Suburbs.

By Marney Simon | Enterprise Staff

After weeks of media attention brought a packed house to the village hall, the final approval for a local mosque still had one more hurdle to jump.

On Oct. 2, the Islamic Foundation of the Southwest Suburbs (IFSWS) was granted final approvals for a special use permit for religious assembly at the building at 23616 W. Main Street.

The organization, which had previously filed under the name “Plainfield Community Center,” agreed to change its name as part of the final plans approved by the village.

But before the final vote, one trustee wanted to vocalize why he’d had issues with the project, which was seen by some as borderline religious discrimination when the village first rejected the application back in August.

Trustee Brian Wojowski voted no on the project, both on August and again in September when it special use permit came back to the board for reconsideration. Hundreds of people attended that meeting, with dozens of those visitors taking up more than two hours of public comment time, the majority speaking in favor of the proposed mosque.

Wojowski said he thought the village was playing with fire by placing stipulations on the mosque before granting an occupancy permit.

“My problem with this whole thing was the procedure, the process,” Wojowski said. “I again have the same concerns. I can ask the more experienced trustees on the board if they’re aware, at any time, if there has been a restriction on a name or a name change being asked of any organization or business in town. I’m not aware of one.”

Zaki Basalath, representing the IFSWS, submitted a letter to the village, noting that the mosque agrees to the name change, as well as to form a committee to manage and oversee parking during events. Wojowski said the village may be overstepping by asking for such conditions.

“In the staff report, it says the applicant has agreed to the other conditions that are not related to the ordinances,” Wojowski said. “I prefer to disagree with that because it is directly related to the ordinances, in my opinion, Trustee [Cally] Larson would not have changed her vote to allow this to come back today unless the criteria were met.”

Wojowski said he was worried the village was treating a religious organization differently than it would other applicants for special use permits.

“Under the equal terms it says no government should impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a non-religious assembly or institution,” Wojowski said. “The equal terms I’m referring to are the name change… I do believe that this organization may be being treated differently because of this stipulation, and I cannot support that. I think it’s a landmine that the village is going to step on, and I would encourage us to go back through the process, and come clean with no limitations on it.”

Trustee Larson, however, said the conditions enhance the site and the application. Larson said the name change would prevent confusion between the mosque, and Plainfield Township Community Center, and any future public community center established in the village.

“If the village of Plainfield were to wish to have a community center in the future, the name would be conflicting,” Larson said. “So, in order to provide some type of separation, that was part of the request.”

Larson also noted that the group has been operating as the Islamic Foundation of the Southwest Suburbs already, and continuing with that name would help with continuity. Larson said she met with the members of the group prior to suggesting the name change to make sure they were okay with it.

Wojowski noted that he thought the conditions were too restrictive, and perhaps an overreach of government power.

The final approvals passed the board by a vote of 4-2. Trustees Wojowski and Margie Bonuchi were the two no votes.

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