Mosque rises above opposition in Brookfield
Council approves plan for Pheasant Drive facility
The Brookfield Common Council didn't hear the same kind of vigorous support for the mosque project as the Plan Commission, but in the end it didn't matter.
The council on Monday unanimously approved the controversial plans, setting aside concerns over Islam and Sharia Law that finally were voiced to city officials after weeks of conversations previously confined only to town hall meetings, online forums and personal conversations.
Some speakers who had spoken solely about traffic and environmental concerns at the public hearing a week ago this time addressed religion specifically.
Mosque officials expressed relief that the council was not swayed by such comments from a small group of residents.
"I'm glad (city officials) saw past some of the smoke-screen issues that were raised in the last several months, so the unanimous vote from the Common Council was very gratifying," said Islamic Society of Milwaukee President Ahmed Quereshi, who acknowledged he and the organizers knew there would be some opposition from the start.
"We saw it two years ago in this state when a Muslim community tried to build a mosque in Sheboygan," he said. "We knew that we would see it here too, but we also knew we have been part of this community in Brookfield and Waukesha County for decades."
In fact, ISM bought the plot on Pheasant Drive and Calhoun Road two years ago, but Quereshi said the search for a plot on the west side of town has been going on for more than 10 years. Of the roughly 1,000 dues-paying ISM members, about 100 families are in the Waukesha area, all of whom have to travel at least 25 minutes to 13th Street and Layton Avenue to worship.
Scaling back the plan
Original plans for the mosque were significantly larger, to accommodate a congregation of more than 200. The city's concerns about traffic actually rejected the project initially, but ISM worked with the city to come back with a proposal to meet Brookfield's requirements.
What was eventually brought forward was a 13,000-square-foot building and prayer spaces for just over 100 members. Mushir Hassan, a Brookfield doctor and leader of the project, said the group plans to have between 60 and 75 regular congregants for a Friday service, which will run from 1:30 to 2 p.m.
Such a service will not run at peak hours and although the city admits no significant changes can be made to the road ways to mitigate mosque-specific traffic, a right hand turn lane will be built to ease the burden on Calhoun Road during peak hours.
Final engineering plans and a development agreement will have to be put in place with the city, but no further votes on the issue will be taken.
Meeting every concern
Numerous concerns were raised about the vetting process for this project, particularly about traffic.
Issues tied to the growth of the mosque's population were the center of such concerns, although a number of city officials have repeatedly explained the government has the right to hold any entity accountable when it comes to conditional use permits. In other words, if there are issues with traffic, or more people wind up coming to the mosque than originally planned, the city can act using established procedures.
Furthermore, project backers noted that the prayer services currently being held at Waukesha Memorial have held steady the last four years at between 40 and 50. One supporter, Lateef Khan, added the group has been paid attention to details in planning to avoid problems.
"I believe we have done absolute complete diligence on this project," Khan said. "The only reason it's taken this long is because of the diligence we've done.
"I've been in this community now for 12 years and we've had no place of worship."
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