Despite a host of concerns from neighbors, the Wilmington Planning Commission is recommending that city leaders approve a rezoning request to allow a new religious institution in the city.
The applicant, Design Solutions, wants to transform the building at the intersection of North 17th Street and Rankin Street into an Islamic Mosque for worship.
Based on conditions of the deal, the existing 4,080 square-foot building at the proposed location will remain in place with no building expansions. The existing parking lot will also remain with 43 spaces and no trees are proposed to be removed.
The proposed uses of the facility are anticipated to generate less traffic than the previous professional office establishment currently permitted, according to city staff.
Another condition is that a maximum of 100 attendees will be allowed at the mosque at any given time.
Several neighbors spoke out on Wednesday night's Planning Commission meeting with concerns about the project including traffic, parking, and noise.
"I don't want a church or any other religious organization or anything else that's going to have 1,000 people - that turns me off," said Angie Tsingelis, who lives in the area. "You know how many cars that means? We don't need it."
Developers say they were surprised that several people spoke out against the plan. However, Khalil Moya said he's pleased with the board's decision and the support from the rest of the community.
"Human nature is that a lot of times people are afraid of the unknown. Frankly, this is the message that we are trying to get out to neighbors," said Moya. "Come and talk to a Muslim, find out what Islam is really about. Don't just go by what you see on TV. Take the time to hear from the horses mouth."
If approved, the use and development of the property must fall in line with all regulations and requirements of the city's Land Development Code and Future Land Use Plan.
Ultimately, city council will be faced with making the final decision on the rezoning request.
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