A family home in unincorporated West Chicago now used as a religious centerwas the center of a sometimes contentious debate over zoning on Monday night.
Since 2008, an Islamic group has been using the single-family home on Army Trail Road as a place of gathering and worship. The group is seeking a "conditional use" permit that will allow them to operate the property as a prayer center and food pantry and a variance that will allow them to build as many as 30 parking spaces on the site.
"I have been waiting for 30 years to have some kind of facility that is near my home that I can go five times a day," said Aziz Sattar.
But others, fearing a decrease in property values from plopping a commercial property in the middle of a residential area, stand strongly opposed.
It's a battle that's been waged with claims and counter-claims for nearly two years. And on Monday, more than 100 people attended a meeting at the DuPage County government center to plead before the that county's Board of Appeals.
"They defied this board. They defied the county board. They defied following instructions by the economic and planning, they've openly suggested that they're going to continue to do pretty much whatever they want to do," said neighbor Kevin Wiley.
Among those in opposition to the zoning change is Jackie Sitkiewicz, who shares the driveway with the home in question. She told the board last month that she's been unable to enter or leave her property because cars of people worshipping at the house were blocking the drive.
"This is not a question of religion or race or the history of the United States of America," she said Monday night. "This is a question of zoning. This is a residential property."
The center's leaders were cited by the county earlier this year for parking and other permit violations, and the state's attorney's office is seeking more than $25,000 in fines it claims the center has accrued since the beginning of the year for failing to comply with the county's orders, the Daily Herald reported.
Islamic officials conceded that they've been using the house for prayer and as a food pantry without permission but vowed to be good neighbors who will follow the rules.
"There is no other facility to pray, to my knowledge, within 15 or 20 minutes of this," said Mohsin Bhally, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
The DuPage County Board will make a final decision in September.