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Prince William Planning Commission Defers SUP for ADAMS Nokesville Mosque

| November 3, 2016 | 0 Comments | News
The Prince William Planning Commission deliberates about the ADAMS SUP, Nov. 2, 2016.

The Prince William Planning Commission deliberates about the ADAMS SUP at its Nov. 2, 2016 meeting.

The Prince William County Planning Commission voted to defer their recommendation on the ADAMS (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) of Greater Gainesville’s Special Use Permit (SUP) until the applicant amends the application.

This decision by the appointed advisory board to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors followed a long public hearing Wednesday night.

The commission will review the revised application on Dec. 7; however, the public meeting has been closed.

The SUP, which dates back to 2014, concerns the right to build a mosque/community center at the intersection of Vint Hill Road and Schaeffer Lane in Nokesville.

The SUP has become controversial with rural residential neighbors due to the amount of traffic congestion generated from public schools in the immediate area.

Should the SUP be approved by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, the religious institution would be able to hold services, events, religious classes youth groups, outreach groups, sporting events and practices. They could also rent or loan the community center to other groups, and the applicant offered to schedule service times around school traffic.

The property plans include 300 parking spaces, a 500 person capacity in the mosque and a right and left turn entrance/exit onto Vint Hill Road. Peak traffic time for the mosque would be early Friday afternoon.

The Prince William Planning staff previously granted their approval of the SUP. The Board of County Supervisors is the final arbiter to approve or deny the mosque.

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Screen shot shows that the property is located across Vint Hill Road from Cedar Point Elementary School.

Use of Sewer and the SUP Deferral

Brentsville Planning Commissioner Patti McKay recommended the deferral of the vote until the applicant adds many of the commission’s recommendations to the application.

McKay said she would like to see plans for septic rather than sewer, which is consistent for churches and residents within the Rural Crescent: a designated portion of the county protected from development.

Sewer is not allowed in the Rural Crescent except for public facilities and exemptions based upon extenuating circumstances. McKay said allowing ADAMS sewer access would set a dangerous precedent for future development.

The commission also specified they wanted the SUP to specify that a parochial school or adult day care was not permitted.

McKay had a list of items she wanted the applicant to clarify in their revised SUP. Some included the applicant’s intentions for outdoor lighting, storage space, trash removal and times for field usage.

Director of Planning Chris Price said that many of the items might fall under zoning policy; however, he said his staff would advise the applicant.

Citizens sitting in the overflow room watch the meeting live on television sets.

Citizens sitting in the overflow room watch the meeting live on television sets right outside the Board’s Chamber.

Concerns of Residents and Parishioners

At the beginning of the meeting, both the Board Chambers and the adjoining lobby of the McCoart Administration Building were full as nearly 200 residents attended the hearing, approximately half had signed up to speak.

Speakers were about evenly split between supporters of the ADAMS Greater Gainesville Mosque and residents of the Schaeffer Lane area/Kettle Run area who opposed the SUP

ADAMS proponents framed the controversy as spurred by racist or anti-Islamic sentiment while rural residents said it was simply about land use, sewer and vehicle traffic.

ADAMS parishioners were mainly residents of Gainesville and Bristow. Many were longtime residents of the Washington Area and had a long history of serving their community as physicians, in the military. Through ADAMS they often donated to local food kitchens.

Approximately 200 people attended the SUP meeting.

Approximately 200 people attended the SUP meeting.

The congregation had met for nearly a decade in hotels and community centers. Members said they were simply requesting a house of worship to call their own.

Citizens noted that they pass multiple churches in the western Prince William. To deny their mosque, some claimed, would send the message that Prince William is not welcoming and that residents are bigoted.

However, residents did not address race or religion except to say it did not matter to them. Instead, they chronicled how traffic congestion has disrupted their lives and eroded the rural quality of the neighborhood.

They described Schaeffer Lane as a thinly paved road without sidewalks never meant to accommodate such a high traffic flow. Nonetheless, it is often used as an alternate route to local schools.

VDOT and staff reports said the traffic the mosque would bring would be low impact and would not overburden the existing infrastructure, which led residents to chuckled.

The applicant’s attorney clarified that mosque is not scheduled to open until after the widening of Vint Hill Road, which should provide some traffic relief.

Aerial image of the proposed ADAMS site via Prince William County Planning Office Staff report for SUP.

Aerial image of the proposed ADAMS site via Prince William County Planning Office Staff report for SUP.

Regardless of traffic, some felt the religious facility at 22,400* square feet was too big and wrong for the neighborhood. They ask the commissioners to do their job by voting “no” thus affirming the rural area.

However, the denial of the SUP is not that simple. Churches have traditionally been permitted within the rural area, and new schools were listed on the staff report as evidence that the mosque is compatible with surrounding land use.

Near the end of the meeting, residents and parishioners seemed to have come to an understanding of one another’s concerns. One supporter said he wrote a speech about bigotry, but disregarded it as he felt the residents were not discriminating against Muslims.

Deciding the Issue

During discussion time, McKay told the crowd that they seemed like wonderful people. However, she said she will evaluate the SUP based on land use and that sewer access was the major sticking point since it would set a precedence.

The Planning Commission discusses whether or not to defer their vote until December.

The Planning Commission discusses whether or not to defer their vote until December.

Woodbridge Planning Commissioner Russel Bryant said he supports sewer usage since it is more environmentally friendly and there was already sewer nearby to serve the schools.

Gainesville Planning Commissioner Richard Berry said he would not be supporting the SUP and asked if the revised application would change the minds of other commissioners.

McKay said it made a difference to her.

The vote for deferral passed 6-2 with William Milne (Occoquan) and Alex Vanegas (Coles) opposing.

 

*This article has been updated to reflect the correct square footage of the building.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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