The City of Alpharetta and the Islamic Center of North Fulton have reached a compromise in their three year battle. This story was first reported by WSB-TV’s Mike Petchenik but thus far has not been covered by local media.
The ICNF operates a small mosque on Rucker Road in Alpharetta. In the Spring of 2010 they petitioned the city to expand their facility. Local opposition was immense, overflowing public meetings. Neighbors claimed that ICNF broke a promise made years earlier to not expand. Alpharetta’s Council unanimously rejected the mosque’s request.
ICNF sued the city, going straight to federal district court. This court ruled in favor of the city in a summary judgement. The case was then appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Department of Justice took an interest in the case, as did the Jewish Anti-Defamation League who sided with the ICNF.
Arguments were heard in February and the two sides were sent to mediation this Spring. A compromise appears to have been reached from that mediation. The result comes in the form of a second request from the ICNF sent to Alpharetta’s Community Development Department. This proposal calls for a facility smaller than the one sought in 2010. It will measure in at 7,900 square feet (down from 15,000 square feet) and would contain their mosque and community hall. The buildings will feature brick construction rather than the more modern look of the 2010 plan.
Where do we go from here? Alpharetta’s Planning Commission will hold a rare executive session this week, presumably to discuss this matter. It will then be voted on by this group followed by City Council.
Will there again be local opposition? In his story Mike Petchenik interviewed a neighbor who seemed fine with the compromise. It’ll be interesting to see if others feel the same way. One would think that Alpharetta’s Council wouldn’t agree to this without a strong feeling that the community was behind it. Keep in mind that this case will hit the Council’s calendar at the same time election season begins. The last thing incumbent Councilmen want is a controversy to boil over at election time.
What’s this blogger’s take? I sided with the mosque back in 2010, something that put me in a huge minority here in Alpharetta. My personal feeling is that land use plans should bend over backwards to accommodate houses of worship. They’re vital to any community.
That being said, I’m excited to see both sides work together towards this compromise. It is a good plan that allows the mosque to serve their congregation while also minimizing impact to the surrounding area. I hope we can put this ugly controversy behind us.