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Mosque Developers' Requests Tabled by West Bloomfield Zoning Board

Site plan scheduled to review issues from height of proposed minaret and spire at former Eagle Elementary School site.

The West Bloomfield Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday night scheduled a site visit to better understand concerns of residents surrounding the former Eagle Elementary School site.

Requests of the Islamic Cultural Association (ICA) for local zoning ordinance variances, which representatives see as necessary in order to build a mosque/community center at the site, were unanimously tabled by the board.

The board disregarded two variance requests that were proposed as alternatives to the developers' preferred requests.

Instead, the board approved, by a 3-2 vote, new construction of paved areas used for cars, and for the largest of two domes to be built at a height exceeding the maximum allowed in the township.

The dome was built with its midway point at the maximum allowed height of 35 feet, said attorney Richard Rattner, following an example set by other houses of worship in West Bloomfield including Covenant Baptist Church, St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church, and The Shul Chabad-Lubavitch, which well exceed the maximum height requirement allowable under the zoning ordinance.

Of the two requests that were tabled, perhaps the most controversial dealt with height requirements of the proposed spire and minaret on the mosque.

According to developers, the height of the minaret measures over 44 feet and the spire, located on the dome of the mosque, measures 48 feet.

More than 10 residents of neighborhoods surrounding the site, purchased from Farmington Public Schools, spoke of the proposed Islamic Cultural Center as out of place in the area.

Eugene Greenstein of Farmington Hills offered to the board a three-dimensional map of the proposed plans, which he said he created himself in the absence of developers creating a map.

"You can get an idea of how big this thing is," said Greenstein, one of two plantiffs in a suit filed last year to stop the sale to the ICA. "It's a very dominant structure that does not fit in our neighborhood."

The minaret is a redesign of an existing chimney, Rattner said, and no one person will be inside of it at any time. He added that a gentleman's agreement is in place to keep the ICA from broadcasting its traditional, daily call to prayer from the minaret.

The board also tabled the developers' request to construct a five-foot, opaque masonry wall around the area for cars to drive and park, near the subdivision on the north side of the property. According to Rattner, a six-foot wooden fence already exists at the general area in order to separate property owners from the site.

However, it was uncertain who owns the fence and who will be responsible for its upkeep.

The visit, scheduled for Oct. 16 at 5:15 p.m., is a continuation of the board meeting. 

The former Eagle Elementary School site is located at 29140 W. 14 Mile Rd., West Bloomfield Township, MI, 48322.

sylvia October 05, 2012 at 07:41 AM
" . . . a gentleman's agreement"? Puh-leeze! What happens if they (the ICA) decide differently somewhere down the road? The so-called gentleman's agreement will have no legal standing & they'll be able to broadcast their calls to prayer, not "daily," as the article states, but several times per day, in accordance with their tradition.
Jeffrey M. Leib October 05, 2012 at 02:00 PM
"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." Samuel Goldwyn

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