Carmel mosque proposal draws overflow crowd at zoning meeting

A proposal to build an Islamic life center with a mosque in Carmel drew an overflow crowd to a zoning meeting at Carmel's Monon Community Center on Jan. 22, 2018. (WISH Photo)

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — A proposal to build a mosque in Carmel was a hot topic at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Monday night.

The Al Salam Foundation wants to build an Islamic life center near 141st Street and Shelbourne Road, but not everyone is on board with the idea.

Around 300 people attended the meeting at the Monon Community Center. So many people showed up that the board didn’t have enough room for everyone and had to turn people away at the door.

The board did decide whether to approve or deny the special use variance Monday night. The board decided it would continue with public comment in its next meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 26.

Board members described the turnout as tremendous. Every seat was taken in the room. One person took to the podium to speak in favor of the proposal.

“I think in lieu of any better site we should proceed with the special variance,” said one person who supports the idea. “The Al Salam Foundation has done tremendous diligence to find an alternative site.”

Others spoke out against the special-use variance to build an Islamic life center in the middle of their neighborhood.

“I spend a lot of money, my value and property value are in great jeopardy,” said one person who opposes the idea.

Another person said, “I don’t know where they’re coming and saying that traffic isn’t going to be an issue when Shelbourne Road is such a narrow road.”

“I have been studying this issue since this topic come up,” said Simon Pan, who lives nearby.

Pan said he’s concerned with the noise and increased traffic the mosque could bring and believes the property is too small.

“I just wish everybody will find a solution for this project,” he said. “Find a better way to solve this problem and understand all sides.”

The foundation submitted paperwork for the proposal last September and since then has made changes to the proposal, including the lowering of the top structure of the dome from 70 feet to below 35 feet. But, they said, they still have a lot of work to do after the meeting.

“Traffic has always been a recurring concern from everybody, so we’re taking a hard look on that and will do the traffic operations analyst,” said Ashhar Madni, who is the vice president of the foundation.

Madni said he’s not surprised by the opposition but remains hopeful.

“We are very optimistic that we will have a successful outcome next time,” he said.

The president of the Carmel Interfaith Alliance said it supports the foundation’s plans.

The next board of zoning appeals meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 will be at the Monon Community Center.¬†People who didn’t get a chance to speak at Monday’s night meeting will get a chance to do so at that meeting.