Dozens of community members voiced their support this week for a new mosque, school and multipurpose facility proposed by the Islamic Center of Naperville to serve the city's southwest side.
But the Tall Grass Homeowners Association and residents from other adjacent subdivisions are fighting the project, saying the development is too large and the scope too broad for the 13-acre parcel along 248th Avenue.
"We are not opposing a place of worship, which we agree is a supporting use for a residential neighborhood," Tall Grass resident Tara McDonald said. "We are opposed to the size of the proposed multiuse ... development."
Plans to construct the facility in five phases over the next 40 years have received what city staff members are calling an "unprecedented" volume of public interest. Roughly 500 people signed up to offer testimony during Wednesday's planning and zoning commission hearing, which was continued to March 3 after making it through less than one-tenth of the list of speakers. Thousands have also sent in written comments or submitted their position through an online form.
"I know this is a long process ... (and) we still have a long way to go," commission Chairman Bruce Hanson said at the end of the roughly four-hour meeting. "We're here to hear you, each and every one."
Islamic Center plans call for constructing a two-story, 26,219-square-foot mosque in the first phase starting this year. The second phase, proposed to begin in 2030, would include an educational center offering full-time schooling and religious classes, project leaders said.
A multipurpose hall would be added in 2040, a gymnasium would be built in 2050 and an expansion of the mosque is planned for 2060.
The development at 3540 248th Ave. would be the Islamic Center's fourth worship and gathering space since it was founded in 1991. Its existing buildings on West Ogden Avenue, Olesen Drive and 75th Street are expected to be retained.
"Each new location facilitates growth, prevents overcrowding at any one facility and allows for orderly traffic flow," President Kashif Fakruddin said. "(The 248th Avenue building) will accommodate our growing needs in southwest Naperville."
But a group of 12 people, who said they represent more than 2,000 neighboring residents, raised several concerns related to traffic, safety, building size and land use.
While a religious facility would be appropriate for the site, resident Jeremy Sentman said, more than 80% of its footprint would be designated for other uses once the project is complete. He urged the commission to deny the Islamic Center's request for a conditional use, saying the development would be "detrimental" to the public health, safety and general welfare.
The group's presentation was cut short due to a lack of time and is expected to continue during the next meeting.
Several Islamic Center members and other Naperville-area faith leaders praised the proposed project, saying it would foster diversity and intercultural understanding in the community.
"Institutions like these enrich their surroundings," resident Brian Covert said. "They do not detract from them."