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.