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Community meeting regarding mosque draws large crowd at Redmond City Hall
It was standing-room only in the Redmond City Council chambers Wednesday evening as residents from Overlake and members of the Anjuman-e-Burhani Mosque gathered for a community meeting regarding a mosque proposed for an empty plot of land near Microsoft.
The meeting was the result of neighbors’ concerns about the possibility of the religious group building its new mosque at 15252 N.E. 51st St. — putting it in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
As previously reported in the Redmond Reporter, one of the main concerns people have is related to the additional traffic and congestion a new 20,000-plus square-foot community facility could bring to the neighborhood. Residents are also worried that members of the mosque’s congregation will park in the neighborhood when the 36-stall onsite parking lot becomes full. Residents also had concerns regarding additional noise that could come from the proposed mosque.
To address these issues, City of Redmond planner Thara Johnson, who has been overseeing the project, first provided background information on the planning process. She told the community that because the mosque is a religious building, it is permissible under the neighborhood’s current zoning code. Johnson also explained that approving Anjuman-e-Burhani Mosque’s — or the applicant’s — permit is an administrative process, thus not requiring City Council approval.
Many of those who attended the meeting did not agree with the latter and some voiced the opinion that Redmond City Council should vote on the issue as the members are elected officials and representatives of the community. These sentiments were met with applause from many in the audience.
During discussions about traffic, Hozaifa Cassubhai, a representative speaking on behalf of Anjuman-e-Burhani Mosque, explained that they are Dawoodi Bohras Muslims — a very small denomination of the Islamic faith with about one million members worldwide, compared to the 1.6 billion total of all Muslims worldwide — with a local congregation of about 155. As a result, the traffic impact from the proposed mosque would be limited, especially as they estimate their daily attendance for evening prayers to be 5-10 people.
In addition, Ali Aamer Habib, another representative speaking on behalf of the mosque, said when they hold community gatherings — which occur about twice a month — they are usually after sunset.
Kurt Seemann, a senior engineer for the City of Redmond’s transportation division, said based on this information, as well as a traffic study, they estimate about 12-21 additional vehicle trips in the area during the peak hours of 4-6 p.m.
In response to residents’ concerns about parking, Seemann said, “The parking can be accommodated onsite.”
Habib also told the community that their 36 proposed parking stalls would be sufficient, and during bigger events, they would utilize valet parking to double park cars and increase parking capacity to 65 spots. And if this is not enough, he said Anjuman-e-Burhani Mosque would utilize off-site parking at VFW Post 2995, which is less than a mile southwest of the proposed site, and provide a shuttle service to the mosque.
In terms of noise, Habib told the audience that they never have broadcast calls to prayer like other mosques may do. In addition, all of the Anjuman-e-Burhani Mosque’s activities take place indoors so neighbors don’t have to worry about things getting loud, he said.
Following the city’s and Anjuman-e-Burhani Mosque’s presentations, members of the audience had the opportunity to comment and ask questions.
In addition to the desire to see the issue put in front of City Council, residents also shared their grievances about not being notified earlier in the planning process. A few people who spoke also pointed out inconsistencies in the plan regarding the numbers used for the building’s capacity and the community’s congregation size. One man added that he is also concerned about the future and how Anjuman-e-Burhani Mosque would accommodate growth within its congregation. Many people also expressed that they are not satisfied with the traffic and parking studies.
After about two hours, it became clear to city planners that the issues concerning the proposed mosque would not be resolved in one night, so an additional community meeting will be held May 14. Details for the meeting’s time and place have not been finalized yet. After that, the issue will go before the city’s Design Review Board on May 15. This meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Redmond City Council chambers, at 15670 N.E. 85th St. and is open to the public.