Temecula City Council set to vote on proposed mosque after months of heated debate
The Temecula City Council is expected to vote on a proposed mosque Tuesday night after months of often caustic debate over the religious facility in the conservative southwest Riverside County town.
Plans by the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley to build a 24,943-square-foot mosque on a vacant 4-acre plot in northeast Temecula, next to a Baptist church, has been attacked by opponents who have said the mosque will attract Islamic extremists and overwhelm the neighborhood with traffic and noise.
The city’s Planning Commission, after five hours of heated public testimony, unanimously approved the project in early December. The ruling was appealed to the City Council, and Tuesday night’s hearing is expected to be equally contentious.
Throughout the process, letters and e-mails have poured into City Hall from both critics and supporters.
“Our country was built on Freedom of Religion, all religions, not just the one I hold to," Pastor Brian Bell of the Calvary Murrieta church wrote to the Temecula Planning Commission, urging the city to approve the mosque. “I believe there has been some in our community who assume all Muslims are extremists ... which is as foolish as all Christians believe in blowing up abortion clinics.’’
Opponents of the mosque were divided among those who contended it would be a magnet for radical Muslims and those who feared that the facility would have a detrimental effect on traffic and the environment.
“Should Temecula become a center of even minor terrorist activity it is most unlikely that you and your colleagues will be held blameless when the situation surrounding the new center is so blatantly suspicious," Carlos Martello said in a letter to the city’s mayor.
The design of the proposed 24,943-square-foot mosque and center reflects a Mediterranean design seen in many Temecula neighborhoods, though the building will have traditional domes topped with crescent moons. The facility will be built in two stages, with the first limited to a 4,100-square-foot mosque to serve about 150 Muslim families living in Temecula, Murrieta and surrounding communities, Imam Mahmoud Harmoush has said.
The Islamic Center, which has existed for years in a warehouse in one of Temecula’s industrial areas, bought the property for the proposed mosque 10 years ago and has been raising money to build the facility ever since.
The Planning Commission’s approval of the mosque was appealed to the City Council by Temecula resident George Rombach, president of a group called Concerned American Citizens.
In his appeal, Rombach accused city officials of giving the Islamic Center preferential treatment, and said the proposed mosque violated restrictions on parking, environmental impacts and traffic generation.
City planning officials dismissed all of those concerns, saying the city has acted properly and that the proposed mosque meets all legal requirements.
-- Phil Willon