EDMOND — Planning commissioners turned down an Edmond pastor who asked them to delay voting on an Islamic activity center permit and investigate ties between the Islamic Society of Edmond and national Islamic groups.
A request by the Rev. Paul Blair, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church, was interrupted by planning Chairman Barry Moore shortly after Blair began speaking during the Tuesday's meeting.
“We are here to talk about land uses, not anything else,” Moore said. “We are not going to get into what is and what isn't.”
Blair claimed the Islamic Society of Northern American, which he identified as the applicant for the specific-use permit, and the North American Islamic Trust, owners of the land, were proven in federal court to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
County assessor records show the North American Islamic Trust owns the land where Edmond's mosque now sits and the lots to the west where the activity center would be built. The Islamic Society of Edmond, which is the applicant for the project, owns the lot to the south of the mosque at Thatcher Street and University Drive.
After the meeting, Moore called the discussion inappropriate.
“It was not on the agenda to discuss,” Moore said. “We were here to discuss a specific use permit, a land use.”
Planning commissioners recommended issuance of a permit to allow the two-story, 34-foot-tall building with a 14-foot dome to be built near the southwest corner of Wayne Avenue and University, next to the mosque that has been in the city since 1990. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Bill Moyer voting against the request.
Moyer questioned the amount of available parking on the property at 525 N University Drive.
City council members are to make a final decision on the permit during their Monday meeting.
Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, spoke after the meeting and called Blair a friend with different theological beliefs.
“God bless him,” Enchassi said.
Property owners in the 300 block of Thatcher Street sent a three-page letter to the planning commission opposing the activity center. They claim the building would be too large for a single-family residential neighborhood.
The proposed building is one foot shorter than what city code allows for a single family structure. The new building would cover 8,307 square feet. The existing mosque is 680 square feet in size.
“The proposed structure is a very modern style that will be haughty and dominate the skyline and not fit into the style of the existing neighborhood,” the letter stated. It was signed by Marsha and Jim Honomichl, 311 E Thatcher, and listed the addresses of two other homes whose owners are opposed.
Neighbors also are concerned about parking and traffic flow because University of Central Oklahoma students park on the street.
The site will have 22 parking spaces. The Islamic Society also has written permission to use 14 parking spaces owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a half-block to the south.
Moyer said he was concerned because someone else owns the off-site parking.
“This is the first case where the parking is under a different ownership,” City Planner Bob Schiermeyer said. “We would have to revisit this if they would lose those 14 spaces.”