The Edmond Sun

May 8, 2013

UPDATED: Planning Commission approves mosque expansion

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated May 9, 2013, to reflect additional information concerning five guilty convictions obtained in the second Holy Land Foundation trial prosecuted by the federal government. It also reflects new information about the public hearing planned at Edmond City Council regarding the site plan application. The Sun regrets the previous omission and apologizes to readers about any confusion.

An addition to a mosque was a recommended 4-1 by the Edmond Planning Commission this week. Commissioner Bill Moyer voted against the special use permit including a site plan.

Prayer is given in the existing 680-square-foot building at 525 N. University Drive. The 8,000-square-foot addition is needed for fellowship and recreation, said attorney Randel Shadid, representing the Islamic Society of Edmond.

“There are many examples in the city of larger facilities near the single family homes,” Shadid said. “Particularly a lot of them are churches. The Catholic church in particular has a lot of similar sized homes around it, and it is much larger than this facility.”

The main portion of the two-story, brick veneer building will be 49 1/8 feet at the highest point, said Bob Schiermeyer, city planner. The main portion of the building is 24 feet tall with the maximum roof line at 34 feet.

“What does extend the height is the dome on top and the feature on top of that,” Schiermeyer said. The upper portions of the clear dome will allow light to pass through it.

Single family zoning for the parcel limits building height to 35 feet. Church steeples are typically allowed to exceed their building height, Schiermeyer said.

“We generally have about six cars in our parking lot,” Shadid said.

There are 22 parking spaces onsite. The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, at 417 N. University, has agreed to share 14 parking spaces on church property with the mosque.

“What happens then if for some reason or other they’re not able to use the additional parking?” Moyer said.

Parking times are designated in a letter by the church. Worship times differ between the church and mosque, Shadid said. Most of the students walk to the prayer services.

Another parking location for the mosque would be necessary if a parking conflict would occur, Schiermeyer said.

“It does appear that you are allowed to go offsite to meet the parking as long as there is no conflict,” Schiermeyer explained.

A 30-day delay on the item by the Planning Commission was asked by businessman Paul Blair, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church.

“The Islamic Society of North America, which is one of the applicants, and North America Islamic Trust, also a owner of the property, were both listed and proven in United States Federal District Court in the Holy Land Foundation Trials to be proven affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood, and in particular, with Hamas,” Blair said.

These Islamic groups were named as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist trial. In 2007 the first U.S. prosecution of these Muslim groups ended in mistrial, according to The New York Times. In the second trial in 2008, federal prosecuters were successful in convicting five of the Muslim leaders, according to The New York Times.

“We’re here to talk about land use, not anything else,” said Barry Moore, Planning Commission chairman.

Blair asked if investigating the mosque ownership is not important.

“We’re here to talk about items listed on this piece of paper tonight — not about anything else,” Moore said. “We’re not going to get into what is and what’s not. All we’re dealing with is the items before the planning commission, not the Islamic Brotherhood ….”

Plans to build the mosque met opposition during the summer of 1990 when the Islamic Society of Edmond encouraged a worship site for Moslems living near the University of Central Oklahoma.

A mosque was needed near UCO when the university’s Y Chapel had become too small to accommodate growing numbers of Moslems on the UCO campus, Islamic leaders said.

As mayor, Shadid supported the construction of the Islamic Center in Edmond in 1992 at University and Wayne Street.

“It was unreal to me how many people came out and opposed that zoning and site plan basically on a religious basis,” Shadid told The Edmond Sun in 2007.

Previous plans for building a mosque in Edmond were withdrawn in 1985 because of restrictive covenants on the Chowning Street property. The application will be heard at the Edmond City Council's regular meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Council Chambers, 20 S. Littler. | 341-2121