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Northern Illinois Annual Conference logo, Photo number W03077, Accompanies UMNS#522
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CHICAGO (UMNS)- United Methodists in northern
Illinois are concerned that unfair treatment has halted the building of a
new church in Long Grove.
The denomination's Northern Illinois
Annual Conference filed a motion in October to join Vision United
Methodist Church, a congregation of predominantly Korean-Americans, in a
$5 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging the Village of Long
Grove has "maliciously" worked to stop development of a new church.
Witwer, counselor for the conference, filed with the U.S. District
Court in Chicago, requesting permission to intervene as an additional
co-plaintiff in the case. The court has taken the request under
"We're saying that we want to be involved in this
lawsuit because we are the basic unit of United Methodism operating in
northern Illinois," Witwer said.
"Vision United Methodist Church
is a member congregation. Any injury that is experienced by Vision
church as a result of the violation of their constitutional rights is
also, by necessity, experienced at the annual conference level because
we all have a common mission," he said.
"Any damage to Vision
church's real estate interest is also experienced at the conference
level because we have an interest in the local church's real estate,
through the trust clause."
In June 1999, Vision United Methodist
Church signed a contract to buy 28 acres of land in unincorporated Lake
County on the condition that the Village of Long Grove would agree to
annex the land and approve the church's plans to construct a worship
In September 2000, after receiving an informal
go-ahead from Long Grove's Plan Commission, the congregation purchased
the land at the corner of Gilmer (Rte. 83) and North Kruger roads for
But after more than a year of negotiations,
protests by residents, expensive revisions to architectural plans,
presentations and hearings, the Village of Long Grove rejected the
church's request for annexation and approval.
then applied to Lake County for a building permit. Just as Lake County
officials were finalizing approval of the church's development plans,
Long Grove began a forced annexation of the church property.
did all kinds of hurried steps that are needed to be done in order to
make possible an involuntary annexation," Witwer said, "including
cooperating with a developer on neighboring property to do a project so
they could say the church land was contiguous to the village limits."
added that Long Grove then took steps that made it impossible to build a
facility that would comply with their criteria, including amending
zoning codes to require any church owning more than 20 acres of land to
front a state highway. Vision 's property is on a county road.
lawsuit charges that Long Grove violated the First and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Religious Land Use
and Institutional Persons Act of 2000.
Vic Filippin, with the law
firm of Holland and Knight representing the Village of Long Grove,
claimed it is a matter of Vision United Methodist Church not following
the community's zoning ordinance.
"We have zoning regulations
that apply both to churches and others," he said. "We simply wanted to
make sure the zoning regulations are satisfied."
Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, Chicago area, called Long Grove's action
unconstitutional as well as "extremely hurtful to Vision Church both
financially and emotionally - financially, because of the thousands of
dollars they have had to waste in this process and emotionally in terms
of the energy that has been dissipated from ministry in order to pursue
"We simply cannot sit by and either allow a
congregation to be so mistreated or allow a precedent to be set that
will allow other congregations in other settings to be treated in this
way," Sprague said.