St. Cloud planning panel delays decision on mosque plan

Published 9:20 am Friday, August 23, 2013

ST. CLOUD — St. Cloud’s Planning Commission has delayed a decision on a local Islamic Center’s request to build a new mosque and related buildings amid opposition from some neighbors.

The Islamic Center of St. Cloud wants to build a mosque, religious school, offices and retail and restaurant space in a residential-zoned neighborhood. That requires a variance from the city.

Nearby residents said their concerns are about traffic congestion in the area, not religion. The center’s president said he’s willing to scale back some of the plans for the site to compromise with neighbors, but that his group should be held to the same standard as other religious institutions.

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“If you look around the city of St. Cloud, almost all places of worship are located in residential areas,” said Abdulrashid Salad, the center’s president. “We are not asking anything other than what the city already has.”

Patrick Jude, who lives adjacent to the site near Schmidt Park and Clearwater Road, said he bought his property because of its rural character. With the nearby St. Cloud Children’s Home also undergoing a significant expansion, Judge said he’s worried the neighborhood is changing too much and too quickly.

“It just seems like we’re being encroached upon by so many different elements,” Jude said. Elizabeth Dahl, who has two young sons, said her concern is more about the traffic on residential streets that connect to busy Clearwater Road.

The Islamic Center of St. Cloud has been active in the city since 1996, and is currently housed in a former Congregational church downtown. Mohamoud Mohamed of the St. Cloud Area Somali Salvation Organization told the commission the growing Muslim community needs the services proposed for the new facility.

“I’m requesting for St. Cloud city to let this project go forward, otherwise it will tell us that St. Cloud is rejecting this new community moving into this St. Cloud area,” Mohamed said.

The Planning Commission tabled the decision Tuesday night to give the Islamic Center time to scale back some aspects of its plans, as Salad offered. The St. Cloud City Council has final say on whether the proposal goes forward.