Daily Herald: DuPage County Board to vote to end legal dispute with Islamic group

More than two months after a federal judge overturned their rejection of a planned Islamic education facility near Naperville, DuPage County Board members are slated to vote Tuesday to issue a conditional-use permit for the project.

The board also is expected to decide whether to pay an unspecified amount of money to administrators from the Irshad Learning Center.

“We’re hopeful that everything will proceed smoothly,” said Kevin Vodak, litigation director with the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which represented Irshad Learning Center in the federal lawsuit.

“Counsel for the board and Irshad itself is in agreement as to the terms of the permit and resolving this matter,” Vodak said Monday. “We hope the (county) board will finally approve everything.”

Tuesday’s vote, which is scheduled to come after a closed session, is the result of U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer reversing a January 2010 decision by the board.

Pallmeyer found in her March 29 ruling that the county board made an “arbitrary and capricious” decision by denying a conditional-use permit for the Irshad Learning Center, which bought a property at 25W030 75th St. near Naperville.

If the board approves the conditional use on Tuesday, the education center will be able to open in what used to be a house.

“They (Irshad’s administrators) have to work on restoring the property,” Vodak said. “There are some repairs that will need to be done … and to get the appropriate permits as far as doing the parking lot and finalizing all the plans.”

As for the issue of compensation, the group is seeking money from DuPage to pay for its legal fees and expenses related to the property dating to at least 2010.

Those costs include the property taxes that had to be paid since the permit was denied. The group also has been paying to rent space in a Woodridge church.

Vodak didn’t disclose the amount of money the group wants DuPage to pay.

“We haven’t worked out the written settlement agreement,” he said, “so I don’t know if that will be confidential or not.”

Representatives for the county board and state’s attorney’s office weren’t immediately available for comment Monday morning.

When county board members denied the conditional-use permit in 2010, most of them said they were concerned about the facility operating in a residential neighborhood.

Judge Pallmeyer, however, found no evidence the center would impact public safety or traffic congestion, while its potential impact on property values would be “merely speculative,” she said.

The center’s primary activities will happen on Thursday evenings and during the day on Saturdays. Most of the residents who will use the facility live in Naperville and surrounding towns.

On Monday, Vodak said his clients are “definitely relieved” with the outcome of the court case. “We finally reached the result they were seeking for a number of years now,” he said.

In the meantime, Vodak said, CAIR-Chicago officials are hoping the county will be “a lot more sensitive to the needs of religious community members” in the future.

The result of the Irshad case has prompted a federal judge to give DuPage the opportunity to resolve a different lawsuit brought by another Islamic group.

Islamic Center of Western Suburbs filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against DuPage after the county board rejected its request to use a house near West Chicago as a prayer center. Now the case is on hold until after county officials finish another review of the plan.