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Suit: Church Denied Right To Operate In Suburb

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BOLINGBROOK, Ill. (STMW) – A federal lawsuit filed last month accuses the village of Bolingbrook of not allowing a church to open in a shopping center because of zoning issues, even though another church currently operates in the complex.

Liberty Temple Full Gospel Church claims it entered into a 27-month lease to rent space at378 Bolingbrook Commons beginning April 1, according to a suit filed March 30 in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The site was desirable because it was in a zone that permitted churches, according to the suit. It was also equipped with bathrooms, parking, handicapped access and fire prevention equipment to accommodate its 160 worshipers. Village officials had said that was a problem with a site the church previously considered, according to the suit.

But village officials informed Liberty Temple on Feb. 10 that it would need a special use permit and there was not enough parking available to accommodate the church, according to the suit.

In a meeting Feb. 18, Building Department employees also told church leaders the property was not zoned for a church, “churches do not produce tax revenue” and the church would not be approved for that location. They refused to accept the church’s application for a building permit and architectural drawings, the suit claims.

When Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar met with church officials Feb. 23, he said the village already had enough churches, and he had denied six or seven others that asked about leasing in the village, the suit claims. The leasing company should not have executed a lease without his permission, and if the church assured him it “would be out of there in two years he would consider” allowing them to operate, according to the suit.

At the end of the meeting, Claar also told church officials to look around for another location, according to the suit.

However, there is another church operating at Bolingbrook Commons, according to the suit, which seeks an emergency temporary restraining order, and preliminary and permanent injunction allowing Liberty Temple to occupy the property free of zoning restrictions.

The suit also seeks damages, court costs and attorney fees.

Liberty Temple is scheduled to present its emergency motion before a federal judge on April 12, according to a release from Tom Ciesielka, representative for the church. The village in the meantime has placed “no occupancy” signs on the space the church has rented, according to the release.

A spokesperson for Bolingbrook was not immediately available for comment.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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