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Federal Judge Rules Against Village in Zoning Dispute With Church

Decision means Liberty Temple can relocate to Bolingbrook Commons shopping center.

CHICAGO—U.S. Judge Harry Leinenweber said it was “pretty clear” Bolingbrook’s zoning map was misleading at best and ruled against the village in a zoning dispute Tuesday in a U.S. District Court.

Leinenweber said a reasonable person looking at the village’s zoning map would have concluded that the property Liberty Temple Full Gospel Church of Bolingbrook is trying to move into would be zoned as B-4 commercial property.

The decision means the Bolingbrook church, which had been operating out of the  in the village, can move forward in its attempt to relocate to the Bolingbrook Commons shopping center. It could be up and running by Easter if it passes building inspection.

The decision stems from a , which alleged Bolingbrook officials discriminated against church officials' efforts to relocate to a long-vacant space inside the shopping center near Interstate 55 and Route 53.

The case was essentially a matter of one’s interpretation of the village’s zoning map.

Church officials said the space was classified as B-4 commercial urban development, which would allow a church to exist in the shopping center. Village officials contended the property was classified as B-2 community retail, which prohibits churches and places of worship without a special use permit.

The confusion, basically, resulted from the color-coding scheme of the village’s map—B-1 through B-4 classified zones are all shaded orange and only bold lines outlining certain zones signified a change in zoning.

“If I looked at this, I would just assume it’s B-4,” Leinenweber said. “It’s pretty clear there is no black line.”

Village representatives, trying to further their position, said several historical maps labeled the Bolingbrook Commons area as B-2 zoned. However, when the village transferred its map from black and white to color, the lawyers said, Bolingbrook’s information technology staff forgot or neglected to carry over the label.

Lawyers representing the village even used a draft of the current map as evidence. But when they showed the map to Leinenweber, he dismissed it, saying the B-2 label was handwritten.

The village is updating its zoning maps, said Nicole Knapp, a planning and zoning administrator for the village.

Zoning maps were taken off the village's website late last week, Knapp said.

A look at the current map—copies of the zoning map are not available at this time, officials said—shows Bolingbrook Commons in an orange zone with no B-2 label in proximity to suggest it was B-2 zoned. 

Leinenweber ordered an emergency, temporary 10-day restraining order and told the village to promptly act upon a building inspection.

“The village of Bolingbrook learned in court today that you need to abide by your zoning code and not allow the leadership to pick who can and cannot worship God in their village,” said Liberty Temple attorney John Mauck.

Joe Phillips April 12, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Well, we hand wrote B-2 on a draft we are working on, so go with it... Besides, the mayor doesn't like this church, so they shouldn't be allowed on that count, and the landlord didn't clear the lease with the mayor either, so really, what is there to argue... I imagine they are going to fail that building inspection now, though... What a mess! I am glad the court wasn't up for reindeer games... As a side note, the zoning map that is currently linked is not working properly.
Jimmy J April 13, 2011 at 03:53 AM
Score a win for the church and a loss for da Mayor!
Pat Green April 13, 2011 at 12:50 PM
The judge made the right call. But John Mauck took his statement into douche land and played the sensationalism game there. This is not about ability to worship...this is about place to worship.
Alicia Taylor April 13, 2011 at 01:30 PM
BOLINGBROOK IS A VILLAGE THAT SUPPORTS ITS LOCAL CHURCHES! If you need any proof of that, simply visit the village's website (www.bolingbrook.com), where under "Village Info" and "Places to Worship" you'll find more than 40 churches listed along with contact info. And also, as demonstrated by the fact that Liberty Temple is not listed (although their services have been taken place at the Holiday Inn in Bolingbrook), there are numerous additional churches who worship within our schools every Sunday. So again, Mayor Claar and the Village Trustees not only support churches, but I've personally attended services where Mayor Claar, trustees and other elected officials have either spoken or participated in services in otherwise non-partisan and non-political manners. As a fellow Christian living and worshiping in Bolingbrook, I'm grieved. There are SO many ripe opportunities for ministry in the 30+ mile area radius between Bolingbrook and the southside of Chicago (where Liberty Temple was previously located). In a community this size, where there are 40+ churches (several that are full-gospel, serving very sizable, multicultural congregations), should there really be more churches opening, or more collaboration between the ones that are already here (such as through the Bolingbrook Clergy Association)? Time will tell, and we'll be able to judge the matter at hand by the fruit that's produced.
Vivian & Wayne Foster April 13, 2011 at 06:03 PM
I fully agree with the comment above. Having served in the Bolingbrook Community for more than 30 years alongside several clergymen and civic leaders, I personally have witnessed the mayor and village trustees take pride in the partnership of church and government working together to make Bolingbrook a " Place to Grow" for everyone. This is what has been the attraction to Bolingbrook for so many. I also personally have attended services at Liberty Temple in several locations and applaude the work that is being done through them. They are known for dynamic expansion . Perhaps the shift is now coming where the clergy can work together for the good of our communities - many members, one body. This has long been the cry of the Mayor that the churches would ban together and get a common property so that the churches could work together. Meanwhile, the city has provided various avenues that would support the religious endeavors that work for the good of the communities. Sometimes things have to "shift" in order for the better way to come.
Joe Phillips April 13, 2011 at 09:02 PM
It seems that the Village was trying to keep a church from growing into the space where a lease was signed. With a church right next door, and a bad map, it seems that the assumptions made by the new church are valid. I don't see why the village is spending tax money in court on this. I imagine that we, the residents of Bolingbrook, will be footing the legal bill on this one as well.
Sadie Burton-Goss April 14, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Citizens of Bolingbrook watch this carefully. You could be next. Hand written maps, confusion over zoning? Denial of legal rights? Be concerned about the subjective nature of this decision, and be prepared to support this church if it has any trouble with its inspection. Today Liberty Temple, tomorrow, you and yours? Set the tone that will let others all over the country that you are what you say you are, "a place to grow for everyone". Given it's history and amazing track record to date, Liberty Temple will bless Bolingbrook, as it has blessed every community in which it has planted churches, spiritually and financially.

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