An old house sits near 91st Street in unincorporated DuPage County, just west of Highway 83 and about twenty miles southwest of downtown Chicago.
After nine months of long, tedious, and at times contentious debate, the County Board voted Monday night to approve the site of that house for a Muslim community center.
Board member Rita Gonzalez said the Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America, or MECCA, had gone above and beyond county regulations in its proposal, according to WBEZ. "MECCA is going to be putting in an estimated $600,000 to deal with certain issues that are actually going to benefit the neighborhood as opposed to had some developer come in and put in other buildings or homes on that land," she said.
Approval for the project was very nearly delayed yet again, as a a vote on whether to send it back to the Zoning Committee for further consideration came down to a tie; recently elected Board Chairman Dan Cronin cast the tie-breaking vote against remand.
But as the Chicago Tribune reports, MECCA had to make some major concessions to get the plan passed. The signature minaret and dome, pictured at left in architectural designs, were eliminated from the structure's design. Its height was reduced from 36 feet to 29 feet, and 10,000 square feet of area were trimmed.
Due to flooding concerns in the area, the organization also had to add runoff storage tanks for excess stormwater, an addition that endeared it to some in the area. “MECCA has offered to spend $600,000 or more to fix their neighbors’ flooding problems," said Karol Sole of Downers Grove township, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The 13-5 vote in favor of the project marks a rare victory for Chicago-area Islamic groups in building new places of worship and cultural centers. As the Chicago News Cooperative reported last week, DuPage rejected a separate mosque plan from the Irshad Learning Center; southwest suburban Bridgeview heard some opposition to the expansion of the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation; and the city of Chicago nixed a planned mosque in Rogers Park just last year.
While some argue that the reluctance to allow mosque development reflects a wider anti-Muslim sentiment, opponents of the MECCA project couched their opposition in terms of development. “This is a rural neighborhood and that’s an urban development," said resident William Gerow in the same CNC piece. "We have a clash of lifestyles here."