'We Are Not Strangers to the Area,' Assures New Eagle Owner
Open house offered a preview of the Islamic Cultural Association to come at the site of the closed elementary as debate of controversial sale continues.
Although some issues remain to be seen concerning the controversial sale of Farmington Public Schools' Eagle Elementary School building, new neighbors were given a preview of proposed construction at the site by the Islamic Cultural Association (ICA) of Franklin on Wednesday night.
Plans for the Muslim Cultural Center of West Bloomfield go before the West Bloomfield Township Planning Commission on Aug. 14. The property is located in the northwest corner of 14 Mile and Middlebelt Roads.
Farmington school officials approved the building sale last June and have since been sued by two local residents who claim they would be negatively affected because they live near the property, and that stopping the sale would allow for a more-competitive bid process.
Representatives of the ICA will not seek variances from the township's zoning ordinance. However, their site plan must first be approved by the township board as the property is zoned in a residential area.
ICA board member Majeed Kadi, along with his management team working on the property, delivered an hourlong presentation in front of a peaceful audience of around 50 including congregants, neighbors, and police.
According to Kadi, the expensive renovation project which will add 9.4 percent of the elementary's square footage to the site is just a part of raising a family in town with a religious upbringing.
"We are not strangers to the area and we're proud that you'll see us," said the 17-year West Bloomfield resident. "We wanted to come to this building. We're basically a community, we want to raise our children, have a place to pray, congregate, and do our services, similar to many community services and places of worship you'll see."
Project manager Roger Young continued that the new building, which doubles as a mosque and a community center, could suit neighbors as well as members of the 150-member nonprofit organization. The size of the building will not differ dramatically from the elementary, nor would its elevation or building materials, comprised mostly of limestone and stucco of a similar color.
"We created a composition that has references to Islamic architecture but represents more of an American Muslim community," said Young, an architect. "We tried to create a sense of cohesion with what used to be there and what we'd like to put in there."
The site plan also includes improvements to the roads, landscaping, and water retention system, which Kadi said is being paid for by the ICA. Curbcuts, referring to areas of entrance and exit from the parking lot, will be reduced from six to three and the number of parking spaces will be increased to beyond what is required in the zoning ordinance.
Kadi continued that with hopes of appealing to neighbors, the traditional Islamic call to prayer will not be sounded in public.
Meanwhile, at Congregation B'nai Moshe, residents gathered to hear from Mt. Clemens attorney Robert Davis, who represents plaintiffs in a civil suit over the sale, and Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for Thomas More Law Center, which has asked Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate the transaction.
The Aug. 14 planning commission meeting, held at West Bloomfield Town Hall, starts at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
Patch local editor Joni Hubred-Golden contributed to this report.