The Edmond Sun

Local News

December 10, 2013

Council denies mosque expansion

EDMOND — Inadequate parking for a growing mosque led the City Council to deny a site plan request for an addition to be added to the existing structure. The vote was 4-0 with Councilwoman Elizabeth Waner abstaining.

Prayer is given in the existing 680-square-foot building at 525 N. University Drive. The 8,307-square-foot addition is needed for fellowship and recreation, said attorney Randel Shadid, representing the Islamic Society of Edmond.

“I did attend a dinner for the mosque about three weeks ago. There were 100 people who attended that to welcome home the people who go on the pilgrimage to Mecca,” Shadid said. “That’s one of their larger functions.”

The existing 689-square-foot prayer hall accommodates a maximum occupancy of 97 people.

“Parking has been one of the main issues,” City Planner Bob Schiermeyer said to a standing room only crowd. “They will have a total of 33 parking spaces and the code provides that you shall have one parking space for every three seats.”

Permanent seating is not used for worship in the mosque. Prayer mats are used.

“Parking was discussed on University with a drive out to Wayne,” Schiermeyer said. “And parking would be on the south side, some of which is already there.”

In December the Planning Commission approved the site plan at a time when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered to share parking on their property. However, the national organization representing the church has since revoked the church’s decision.

“All we are asking is to apply the standards that you apply to all other churches. I think we meet those standards in this case,” Shadid said.

Fairview Baptist Church Pastor Paul Blair said his church located at Sooner Road and Danforth came to the council in 2003 with an expansion request for the facility on the 5-acre site.

“Our existing facility at the time consisted of a 2,800-square-foot facility. About 800 square feet was our sanctuary,” Blair said.

The church proposed an 11,000-square-foot family life addition for classrooms, offices and restrooms in a multipurpose facility. Today, the space is used as the primary worship facility.

“In our communications with the City of Edmond, it was determined that parking needs would be based not on our worship center and existing facility, but upon the largest single-room space in the new complex.”

Fairview was required by the City of Edmond to install 128 hard-surfaced parking spaces to meet the city’s architectural standards.

“We just ask that the same standards be equitably applied,” Blair said. “If these standards no longer apply to religious facilities then we welcome that because we are about to bring to this council our own plans for expansion.”

Misty Buchanan lives nearby the mosque. She complained that the addition would be too close to her back yard. The building does not match the single family neighborhood, she said.

“Nobody is directly across the alley from a building this size,” she said of making comparisons to residents near church properties. The existing 1990 building blends in with the neighborhood, she said.

 “If they need to expand, they need to find property that is available to expand on,” Buchanan said. “This is too big …Can we have a little consideration here for the homeowners?”

Linda Newsome said the Muslim Call to Worship would disrupt the neighborhood three times a day from 3-5 minutes a session. The calls would increase during Ramadan, she said.

“There are many cities across America fighting these calls to worship at their local mosques,” Newsome said. Shadid promised there would be no calls of worship as part of the special use permit.

“There will be no calls to worship. There never have been and there will not be,” he said. “Nothing is going to change at this facility.”

Attorney Walter Jenny said parking, traffic safety and incompatibility with the neighborhood as reasons to deny the addition’s site plan.

Wayne Street is a narrow road with parking currently on both sides, he said. The proposal has traffic going into the parking lot from University and exiting on Wayne, Jenny added.

Parking on Wayne is already an issue for Real Estate Broker Mariana Lloyd, who owns property one block west of the mosque.

“At any given time of the day, you cannot get up and down Wayne,” Lloyd said. The street imposes a safety hazard for motorists and pedestrians, she said.

“Not a week ago, they were redoing the roads on Wayne,” she said. “…I had to have one of the city workers back me out onto University in order to get to my building. This is a serious situation. And, we’ve got a bigger problem here than adding another 8,000 square feet on that corner.”

It’s not unusual for a church or business to outgrow their space, said Nick Massey, city councilman.

I think I agree with a lot of the points about parking and the size of the building,” Massey said. “We’re trying to shoe-horn an 8,000-square-foot building into an area that barely justifies the size that it is right now.”

 

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