Oct 7, 2013 at 9:40 pm
ST. CLOUD (KNSI) - In a last-minute move which drew sighs from over 400 meeting-goers, the Islamic Center of St. Cloud moved to withdraw their application for a new building.
The move came on the heels of nearly three hours of discussion and public testimony, much of which came from people carrying small green signs in support of the new mosque and community building.
David Meyers, an attorney with Rinke Noonan who has represented the Islamic Center throughout the project, says, as the hearing drew to a close, and city council members began to express doubts about the design, he knew what they needed to do.
"I've been through a lot of zoning matters. I can count votes," Meyers tells KNSI. "You always have a contingency plan - listen to the governing body and make your decision."
The Islamic Center's proposed design is for two two-unit residential dwellings, a mosque, a school, community building and a gymnasium.
Supporters of the development, planned for 1850 Clearwater Road on the south side of the city, urged the council to amend and accept the Planned Use Development, or PUD, saying the nearly 10-acre plot offers appropriate space for the 34,000 square foot center, and that it would not tax streets and parking as much as residents have feared.
Opponents of the center say they're concerned the project has not been studied enough. They also fear that travel to and from the buildings would significantly increase traffic, take a toll on roads and diminish property values over time.
After nearly every member of the city council declared their intentions to deny the plan, Abdulrashid Salad, President of the Islamic Center of St. Cloud, knew they have no choice but to reevaluate.
"I believe we have compromised enough, but I realize, it may not be enough for some," Salad says. "We have an opportunity to modify. Let's see what we can do."
The original plan called for an office, a retail space and cafe, but Salad says they removed those elements voluntarily.
He says he was optimistic before Monday's meeting, but knew removing their proposal was a possibility.
"When you're dealing with situations like this, you'll never know where they'll go," Salad says. "We've been fortunate to have gotten partial approval from the Planning Commission in the past, but you cannot know for sure when the decision-makers are other groups. So it's just something we have to live with."
Salad and Meyers agree, they're now focused on creating a plan to gain more community support.
No word on a timeline for a new Islamic Center proposal, but the new proposal would take place on the same property.
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