Temecula Planning Commission OKs Mosque Plan

The mosque has been in the works for more than two years

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCSanDiego

    Final plans for a 25,000-square-foot mosque in Temecula  that's stirred debate over its size and symbolism were approved Wednesday night by the Temecula Planning Commission.

    Commission staff recommended last Wednesday that, as long as certain  conditions are met, the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley should be granted a  conditional use permit to construct the two-story building on a 4.3-acre lot at  Nicholas Road and Calle Colibri. That's adjacent to two churches.

    The project, which has been in the works for more than two years, would  be located in a lightly populated area, according to  documents.

    More than 30 people signed a petition during the summer expressing  opposition to the mosque. Residents have aired their concerns in  emails and letters to city council members, which were included in the planning  commission report.

    Among the opponents is Pastor Bill Rench, who ministers at Calvary  Baptist Church, which would abut the mosque property on a cul-de-sac. In a letter to the city, Rench complained that the teachings of Islam  pose a sharp philosophical contrast to the beliefs of his congregation.

    "We have members of our church who have come from predominately Muslim  countries and have lived under the repressions and persecutions put upon them  only because they were Christians," the pastor wrote.

    He also said any future expansion plans the church might have would be  dashed by the presence of the Islamic center.

    Residents Bill and Joanie Hanson voiced opposition to the mosque in an  email to Councilman Chuck Washington, acknowledging that some Muslims are  "peaceful people."

    "But the mosques are breeding grounds for the militant," the couple  said. "Please do not allow the building of a mosque in Temecula."

    Imam Mahmoud Harmoush told City News Service in August that his  congregation of 150-plus families needs a larger facility because it has  outgrown the 8,000-square-foot building now in use on Rio Nedo Avenue. Harmoush, who also supports building the Ground Zero mosque, argued that  the matter turns on the U.S. Constitution's first amendment guarantee of  religious liberty.

    "If somebody just doesn't like Islam or Muslims, we try to deal with it  through education," Harmoush said. "We should have tolerance and respect  for one another. If people have a certain conviction or belief, what can we do?  We can't force them to believe something. We can only teach about Islam: to  live respectfully and peacefully."

    About the Blueprints

    The mosque would be built in two phases over the next several years,  with the first phase encompassing a prayer hall, restrooms, a storage area and  a 90-space parking lot, utilizing around 4,000 square feet. The second phase would add another story to the building, using roughly  21,000 square feet -- making the structure about 40-feet high -- with  classrooms, offices and a recreational facility.

    The mosque would have two minarets and a traditional chrome-colored  dome, according to planning commission documents.

    City staffers said the Islamic center has agreed to make concessions on  the configuration of the property following a traffic mitigation study. One of the main necessities is a two-way left turn lane on the eastern  approach to the mosque, from Nicolas Road.

    Staffers said that, even though prayer services will start at 5:30 a.m.  and run intermittently throughout the day, there shouldn't be any major  inconvenience to nearby residents.