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Board approves east Montgomery mosque proposal

Published: Aug. 18, 2016 at 11:33 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2016 at 3:44 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Board of Adjustment has approved the East Montgomery Islamic Society's proposal to build a mosque in east Montgomery.

Thursday night's board meeting at Montgomery City Hall was packed. Representatives from some area churches came to show support for the proposed mosque, which has been the subject of heated debate all summer.

After an over two hour hearing, the Montgomery City Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to approve the building of the new Mosque.

"To have this unfold this way, it's a historic day for Montgomery," said Elizabeth O'Neill, Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

Speaking on behalf of her new neighbors in the faith community, ONeill had some sobering words for the Board of Adjustment.

"If this proposal is denied, we are sending a message to our children and to our future," said O'Neill.

This is the second time the board has met to decide the fate of the proposed mosque. Last month, the board delayed their decision to give the Deer Creek Homeowner's Association and the East Montgomery Islamic Society a chance to sit down and get on the same page.

Some Deer Creek residents voiced concerns that a mosque in the community would decrease the value of their homes and cause traffic and noise problems.

The East Montgomery Islamic Society promised to work with the community.

"I promise to be a good neighbor. I know what God plans to happen, happened; if it was not approved, I would have accepted it from God. We're going to be a good neighbor and we promise," said Dr. Mahmood Zaied with the East Montgomery Islamic Society.

Zaied has been beyond accommodating, telling the city he'll do whatever they want in order to have a safe place to worship. After meeting with Deer Creek and making some compromises, the former opponents changed their tune.

"Being 30 feet away from these houses, just having a lot of light and a lot of rebound; but all of those concerns being agreed to... we are satisfied, Deer Creek is," said Brett Garrett, Deer Creek HOA.

Proponents far outweighed opponents, with lighting, parking and design issues taking a backburner to religious tolerance.

"I don't think it's right to come into a neighborhood of 1,600 homes and build something in a location that is just kind of jammed in there," said a Deer Creek opponent.

"Never been so embarrassed to live in Montgomery as I have been. I'm Jewish and I want this mosque," said Lynda Wool, a Montgomery proponent.

Dr. Zaied's daughter says this is an uphill battle, but they've made progress.

"Our new job now is to make sure Montgomery is united in everything and not just the Muslim's or non-Muslims; in everything. So we're hoping this is a big step," said Aya Zaied, East Montgomery Islamic Society.

The Islamic Society agreed to barrier landscaping and assured Deer Creek that parking lot lights would point inward.

There will also be no flood lighting on the dome of the Mosque, which will not exceed 32 feet and falls in line with Montgomery City Code.

Attorneys representing the Islamic Society estimate the membership at the new mosque to be around 60 people, with 20-40 of those members coming from the Deer Creek community alone.

Barring any other complications, initial hopes were to complete construction within the next year.

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